It all started back in 1999 when I started investing my extra cash into recording gear. I got started using a friend’s computer back in the days where you had to go into bios and optimize your PC for recording. I spent much of my time researching how to build the perfect recording machine. After a few artists, I decided to sink some cash into a faster and more specked out machine. So I drove to Atlanta and found a really cool computer shop. I got an Asus Tech motherboard with 512 Kingston and a 1.74 p4 processor. Remember this was about 6 years ago and that is a slow computer now. Let me tell you. I have been nothing but happy with the performance of the Asus machine!
For the most part, I really never had any problems until one day it just shut down right in the middle of a session. Come to find I smoked the power supply and had to update it. So I moved from that smoked 250 to a constant power 500-watt power supply. I will tell you what; it has run like a dream through 25 artists with 4 full CDs.
For many years I ran my buddy Josh’s Gadget Labs Pres with windows 98 and optimized it. I loved the output features, and it sounded great! But a few years after Gadget labs went under, XP came out, and they didn’t have drivers for it. I hear that someone wrote the drivers for XP. I am sure it will be used for years to come. So I had to get a new sound card and decided to get a Tascam 1804.
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I was a little hesitant about the size of 1804, and things don’t always perform by their looks. I went out and bought XP and installed it. Then I loaded the Tascam drivers, tweaked a few settings, opened up Cubase, and hit record! Oh yeah, I forget to mention that the Tascam is a Firewire device. Then I decided to move from 8 presto 16. So I ordered the Focusrite 8, and I connected them via optical. The Tascam is the main card with the Focusrite set up in the Tascam on the Adat channels 9-16. I have recorded several full bands, and it has proved to be a workhorse DAW.
A few years ago, I read an article about Ray Charles recording with Sonar. Well, I had to check it out! So I grabbed myself a copy of Sonar 7, and I totally loved the features and workflow. The verbs and effects were way more adjustable than Cubase. Then I noticed that Cubase was a lot faster and easier for tracking, so I went back to it. Then I decided to change my whole game plan.
I ordered a Mac Duo 2ghz with a 1000 ram running logic Express 7. This is where it is. The days of windows are over for me! Well, for audio recording, I do like the Mac book a great deal. You can really add some crazy tripped effects as well as lay some really groovy loops. It is a win-win.
I have been thinking about updating my ram and put windows on here for some web work, maybe one day. IT really only takes me about 10 minutes to set-up the project folder, set the tempo, and then find the right loop.
Once I find a cool loop, I will loop it out and record my tracks to it. Then I will go back and start adding and tweaking tracks. It really is a cool program! I am waiting to get some more apple loops to build a nice library in good time.
I have owned many mics throughout the years and have found a liking to AKG c-2000’s as well 57’s. I have owned a Re-20, several XML”S, Beyer Dynamics (killer mics, by the way), AKG c-1000’s, 58’s, and Marshall’s. The proper mic really depends on the style and the voicing and dynamic of what you want to record. For example, if you have a wispy voice, you would want a condenser, and if you have a more aggressive loud voice, you may want to use a 57 or 58 or even a larger diaphragm mic like a 421.
Here are some great tips I have thrown together that will get you started on the right path! Just remember that recording is a craft, and it takes many years to tweak out your style! It does take a while to learn, so be patient! I have been mixing live for 12 years and had worked for some of the greats! I really do believe that you can use the live technique in the studio vice versa!
1. Be prepared! Pre-production can be very powerful in the whole process! I like to lay my drum tracks and then rehearse with them for a few days! It is a perfect way to tweak and work out all the tweaks!
2. Once you have found the sound and feel that you are looking for it, it is time to lay some tracks! What I do in Logic! I set up 16 tracks, and I will keep the first 8 for drum tracks, and I will arm 9 and 10! I usually will put my vocal on 9 and acoustic on 10! Be sure to set you’re in and out points! If you are recording many tracks, you will want to increase the amount of ram that your program uses! This really comes in handy later if you add loops and instruments to the mix! IF you don’t have enough ram to run your program, then it may crash while recording!
3. How to find that perfect sound! I love to mic my acoustic and run directly also! This is where I used to mess up all the time! I would always get strange pops on my acoustic track and realized what was causing it! Every time the acoustic and plug would lose a little connection, it is recorded! Guess what I found that works great! Use some WD-40 on your tips! All I can figure is that the corrosion causes a break in connected! Smoke will cause a film on electronics also!
4. Check your batteries and make sure they are good! Please don’t use those cheap they really don’t work well! I love the Pro cells for the reliability, and they last forever!
5. Make sure your power source is grounded properly! I recommend a battery back up also! I would also make sure you have a good quiet power supply on your pc!
6. Always restart your pc or Mac before you do any recording. It reboots your system and frees up the resources that are needed to process all the information. It is always a good idea to not run any other programs while you record. Never, I repeat, never have another audio program running unless you are using it for your recording purposes. I use the word to read lyrics and haven’t had any problems! It is not as big of an issue as it used to be, though. Back in earlier windows, it was a big issue! Just remember, many computers (or macs) don’t like to share audio drivers with different programs at the same time.
7. Updating isn’t as important as you think. I ran the same 98 and Cubase happily together for 4 years. That is a success! I attribute it to not ever putting it on-line; I bought a laptop just for that purpose.
8. File Handling. I have found that moved files could give you a headache. I have found out the hard way! Always save your audio folder in the file folder as your project. Always make a folder per new project. That way, when you move your files, they will all be nice in tidy, all in one place. Otherwise, you may waste a few days of your life trying to figure out where those new audio tracks went, plus it makes you look like a chump.
9. Always!! Save Save Save your song. Be sure before you checking out that new verb plug-in that you save your track. I have had a Logic crash while mixing before a save. Logic is a cool back-up feature that will save your butt in this situation. But be aware that if you delete a track, it is gone! I wish they had a step-back feature like a lot of other programs.
10. Mac or Pc? It really depends on what you want to do. I love them both and have had great success with each one, using all the tips listed above. I do think Mac has caught me for now. I do think the learning curve is tougher with a Mac. After you get the hang of it, you will be recording like a Pro Engineer.
11. Keep your levels clean! If you peg into the red, you are just square waving the recording. Use a compressor to catch vocal peaks. Always use a pop filter on a vocal! Unless you are using a dynamic or the mic has a built-in Pop filter. The Filter will catch the air before it hits the diaphragm. Sometimes causing a popping sound.
12. I like to set my recording at 44 and 24bit. I do dither down to 16 bit for CD. It always sounds great. Find what works for you! It really depends on how much disk space that you want to use.
13. Monitors? Use what sounds great to you! For a few years, I used some decent passive near fields that were hot that year. Gear changes so fast, and there really are some great sounding speakers out there. I have used all kinds of monitors! I love headphones, cause you can use them anywhere and have your privacy. I suggest the Sony MDR-7506. They have an awesome response and a nice full range. There are many powered monitors out there, and do some research and find out what you need for your purpose! Don’t forget that Shielded ones are the way to go!