How do you record yourself playing?

Discussion in 'TM Lounge' started by fatcat, Jul 22, 2004.

  1. fatcat

    fatcat New Friend

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    Jun 28, 2004
    Portland, Oregon
    I've become curious as to what I sound like on the other side of the bell, but I've never attempted to record myself playing before.

    Should I use a tape recorder?
    Some set up with a mic?

    If anyone could help, I'd appreciate it a lot, because I really have no idea what I'd have to do. My teacher suggested picking up a cheap tape recorder, but I was wondering if there was a better solution.

    Basically, how do you all record yourselfs, and what equipment would I need to do the same.
     
  2. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    4,529
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    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    Just my opinion and all that rot... but a good minidisc portable unit with a mic input does a fantastic job for me. I use a Sharp and can "upload" the resultant files into my computer and burn them onto CD if i wish. I also use the minidisc to capture sound clips outdoors, record concerts & ensembles etc. or to temporarily store music files from my stereo that I wish to take on holiday or trips with me... the md unit is much more compact than even a discman.

    The recordings are darn near DDD CD-quality which is important for picking out tonal characteristics in your playing.
     
  3. fatpauly

    fatpauly Pianissimo User

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    Nov 11, 2003
    Ellicott City, Maryland
    Your budget really determines how deep into recording you go. The simplest setup involves just a small recorder (cassette, minidisc, computer, etc) and a microphone. Expect to spend $100-500 for this depending on the combination of gear.

    Above this, you are really breaking down the recording chain (mic -> preamp -> recorder) into higher quality pieces. For example, my typical setup is to record into my computer running Ensoniq Paris recording hardware/software. My preferred mic for trumpets is a Wes Dooley AEA R-84 and that is going into either a Crane Song Flamingo or Great River mic preamp. $1000 mic feeding into a $2-3000 preamp into a $1000 computer/recorder. Maybe a little more than you would want to spend, but in recording, plan to add a digit to the price of the gear to go up one step in quality!

    If you don't want to go this extreme, I recommend using your computer coupled with a Shure SM57 mic ($80), Behringer preamp/mixer ($70), and software like Fasoft's N-Tracks (shareware at www.fasoft.com). Get comfortable using that, and then we can talk about upgrades! :wink:

    Hope this helps. Drop me a line for more information.

    - Paul Artola
    Ellicott City, Maryland
     
  4. slimshady

    slimshady Pianissimo User

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    Nov 24, 2003
    howdy,

    if u are looking to record live performances or just wanting something for practice playback. go with the minidisc.

    if u are looking to record, edit, and create demos or just have fun making crazy songs. i recommend the tascam us-122. it is a usb based audio interface for your computer. pretty nice preamps, accepts the xlr mic cables and is also a midi interface. i use this device along with a mca sp1 to do all my recordings. best thing your looking at an investment of around $200 bucks.....just a tad more than your cheapest minidisc.
     
  5. fatcat

    fatcat New Friend

    25
    0
    Jun 28, 2004
    Portland, Oregon
    Alright, you all lost me.

    Sorry for my ignorance on the topic, but what are these pre-amps/mixers you all talk about?

    Ok.. so far I have the computer, and I can get a hold of a mic, but I'm not seeing where these other parts come into play. I have a few music programs and I'm not sure if I can use any of these to help with the recording but after reading through the help sections of my limited selection, Cakewalk Home Studio seems like it might be able to help.

    If I went into an electronics store and told them I was looking for a way to record my playing, would they be able to explain it to me as well?

    From what I understand so far, I get some electronic gismo that plugs into my usb port, get a mic that plugs into that, I play into the mic and through the use of software on my computer I am able to record myself.

    OR

    I get a minidisc player and plug a mic into it and record myself that way.

    Is that close to correct?

    Sorry and thanks at the same time.
     
  6. slimshady

    slimshady Pianissimo User

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    Nov 24, 2003
    a computer and a mic is a good start. but u need a pretty descent sound card to make anything good. the us-122 is basically an external soundcard with various inputs for mics...as well as line level ins for direct bass and guitar inputs. and is a midi interface ....so you can hook a keyboard up to and record. it also comes with cubasis software for multitrack recording.

    if u want a cheap in...to the computer recording arena...check out the us-122. its an all in one package for 200 or less. i had the more expensive m-box and it was no better....i promise u that.

    hope that helps!
     
  7. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    488
    4
    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    Fatcat,
    Like you, I'm working on learning how to record and set up backing tracks for solos.

    What I'm finding is that there are literally dozens of ways to set up a recording system. But, I'm working with another musician who has a nice, simple system that works well. It is:

    1. A Sony mini disc recorder/player. You can connect a mic directly to this recorder and the sound quality is really good. You can sometimes get lucky and find these for $100 or so on E-Bay.

    2. The Mic---this is the expensive part because you have to have one that is designed to record an instrument. No specific recommend here, just don't skimp on this item.

    3. Mixer. The fellow I'm working with is using a 'Boss'---I think it's a 3500. The mixer is really small, can record up to sixteen tracks, it can also search a track for an 'oops' so that you can correct it. The mixer costs $500 or less depending on where you get it from.

    That's about it! For around $1,000 you can have a system that records and sounds very good.
     
  8. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    4,529
    8
    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    CAUTION CAUTION, Guys. :!: :!: :!:

    MANY of the Sony minidiscs models DO NOT have mic inputs. They are advertised and sold as "MD Players" and are intended for direct downloading from your computer into the md (using a special cord) so that you can carry your toons with you when you go blading or jogging or whatever. ALWAYS ensure that there actually IS a "mic" or "mic input" on the unit you are contemplating purchasing. You will also probably find that the units with the mic in will be advertised as "md recorders".

    Second, Sony is not necessarily the "be all and end all" of minidiscs. Our community band tried two different Sony units and found that the motor noise (from driving the disc and moving the head unit) could be picked up by the mic when the mic was directly plugged into the md without using a patch cord. I have a Sharp MD 99 and it has virtually NO NOISE at all.

    You have to ask yourself "why am I buying this thing?" and then make your selection based on the answer to that question. I know that Sharp units are relatively hard to find these days: but watch out when you go to buy the Sony... it's a good idea to try recording and playing back at all different record levels BEFORE you purchase to make certain that the sound quality is what you want.

    This also goes for what type of recording do you want the unit? High portability? Simply recording yourself as a teaching/practice aid? Recording and archiving concerts & etc.? The answers will dictate the degree of quality, size and portability and (ultimately) price.

    For dumping back "up" to your computer you can use a simple patch cord that you can buy from Radio Shack/Tandy. It will plug into either a "line out" or the headphone output jack on the side of the md and the other end will go into the "line in" on your sound card. Generally speaking, the "optical" line or "USB" cord is used to download FROM the computer into the minidisc. The Sony units are advantaged here since they can accept a download at 8X (or more?) realtime. But again, to UPLOAD to the computer goes at real time.

    If you have Roxio Platinum CD burner in your computer you've got all you need to take an upload from a md, save it as a .wav file, and then do whatever SIMPLE editing you want and burn onto CD.

    For a microphone, well that depends again on what your intentions are. If you are just recording yourself then obviously you don't NEED a stereo mic. But I'll bet it isn't long before you want to take that thing and record some live performances. Sony makes and sells a GREAT little stereo microphone (you won't believe how small these things are until you see one and you won't believe the sound quality until you hear it!) ECM-DS70P. I've used mine for a live recording of a symphony orchestra as well as a 50 member wind band and it captures everything from the lowest bass to the piccolos; and does it a "so close to" CD quality that you can't hear the difference. The Sony mic can be used with any md recorder.

    And if it's the first time you've tried listening to a recording of your own playing?.......... be prepared for a shock. :lol:
     
  9. fatpauly

    fatpauly Pianissimo User

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    Nov 11, 2003
    Ellicott City, Maryland
    No apologies necessary. Unless you start working with this gear, it is unlikely you will come across it in the usual electronics stores, except in its cheapest incarnations.

    To understand what is going on, think of the recording process as a chain going from the source of the sound to the reproduction of the sound. In other words, from a microphone (source) to a loudspeaker (reproducer).

    The mic is actually a teeny tiny speaker, but it directs signal from the ether down into a wire. It also puts out a very low level electrical signal, so it needs a preamp (actually just a small amp) to boost it from mic level to line level, which is what most audio gear likes to have as an input. Same idea as the turntable which also needs a preamp to boost the signal from the needle to the receiver's main circuitry.

    Once the recorded signal comes out of the preamp, it is either in analog form (i.e. an electrical signal) or digital (i.e. something roughly represented by zeros and ones). If it is digital, then it has passed thru a digitizer circuit, which converts the analog signal to the digital one. Lotsa theory and engineering at this step.

    Next, the signal gets sent to a recorder of some sort - minidisc (digital), computer (digital), cassette (analog), dat (digital), reel tape (analog), etc. Each of these media have their advantages and disadvantages, so picking the media before understanding your requirements is not always wise.

    Finally, you have the reproducing chain. Usually this is a small amp + headphones or a bigger amp + speakers. If you are Metallica on tour, then this is a semi full of amps and speakers. But I digress.

    One useful piece of gear to help with all the routing (necessary because yoiu have signals both coming into and going out of the recorder) is a mixer. This is usually represented by its Input/Output capability. So a 16 input channels / 8 output channels mixer allows 16 independent signals (i.e. microphone outputs) to blend together in up to 8 different output signals. This allows blends of several mic into one output signal. More useful is the blending of several sources into a stereo pair of outputs.

    One nice feature of many mixers is that they have mic preamps built into the channels, so you can feed mics directly thru the mixer and out to the recorder.

    Well, that is a basic primer in recording technology. As you do more research in what is out there, you will find that this basic guide really covers a lot of what is happening, but the quality (and hence, price) of the individual components starts to rise dramatically as you approach a professional level of performance.

    Good luck with your research.

    - Paul Artola
    Ellicott City, Maryland


     
  10. orchtrpt

    orchtrpt Pianissimo User

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    Mar 4, 2004
    Listen to Tootsall. What he says is true!
     

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