Just the bare minimum please.

Posted on

Member Since: May 06, 2010

Hello, I'm new to the site. In fact, this is the first public website I've ever felt the need to join!


I am hoping all of you professionals can take a moment to help out a novice. I know it a bore for most of you!

My question: I just want to do a little home recording with my 10 year-old daughter. who is in love with music and I want to encourage her.

I do (did) play the guitar, piano and sing and I get the whole mixing "idea", but until a month ago, I didn't even know how to make my 20+ year-old acoustic guitar plug in! Now I've been reading for a month and I've hit on this site.

I'm very confused!! But I know I'll do well if I could just get pointed in the right direction and I feel like yall are it!

Here's who I am: intermediate musician. Would want to mix! I have already decided on what I'm buying for my guitar: Contact Pickup (Undersaddle) (either Fishman or Baggs but I was going to get an amplifier that already had all the added things (preamp, buffer, etc.) Would I need all those extras separate for recording? If I'm going wrong here, any advice is helpful.

Do I have to get a keyboard? I have a piano. It has a disc player (player piano) so it's hooked up to something.

So what is the BARE that I can get away with? Software seems to be the way I want to go - right? I tried reading through the site but it's very big, and I just can't seem to find that simple answer. The bare!!! Frills can come later if needed.

We want to learn and have fun - and sound decent - Especially vocals!

Do I go ahead with a good mic so she'll sound her best? If it's worth it, I will. I see there are reasonable ones, but do I NEED it? Let's hear it! I can't wait to get something and start.

FYI - I need a new laptop so what are your thoughts of Apple vs the rest? Thanks in advance!

Future notes will be shorter!

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Prince CZAR-ming
Since: Apr 08, 2004

May 07, 2010 01:53 am

Hey Toni, welcome to the HRC.

While no professional, i've been on here for a bit, and can throw some ideas your way.

I'm thinking you're along an acoustic / singer type of direction, so I'll start with those two.

I don't know what guitar you have, but I'll just assume it's nice =). You probably would be happier using a MIC on that guitar, as most plugin acoustic pickups aren't nearly as nice as recording with a MIC (or two). But, for your benefit, and seg-waying into the vocals, you can get a mic that can be used for both: guitar and vocals. But not at the same time. Actually, you could, but I don't recommend that.

I also don't think you'll need to purchase an amp, unless you're playing an electric. Even then you don't really need it, as amp sims are very usable now-a-days. (but real is usually better).

Now, I think one of the best low-budget mics for both would be an Audio Technica AT2020. Many people have gotten one, and like it much. It will do a nice job on guitar, and a very nice job on vocals. For a little more $$$, the Rode NT1a is very well liked, but that's over 2 bills, so I'd think maybe too much for now.

These both need phantom power, so an interface or preamp that supplies phantom power is required. Dynamic MICs do not need phantom, but would still need a preamp of some sort, either in an interface (mentioned later) or a standalone preamp.

I would suggest a software solution, because you can always add to it, and upgrade, and put in new programs for new sounds, if you wish.

I would suggest the line6 UX2 for an interface, instead of using onboard sound. There's a few threads regarding this, but I'll summarize by saying the components, and added software in the UX2 improve your sound a lot, and make life easier for home recordingists. (ha, nice word). Also, the UX2 has 2 phantom powered preamps, so you can plug your MIC into it, and all works well.

A bare minimum solution would be the onboard sound, but latency may make tracking almost unbearable, and the converters may be very cheap (probably are) so the audio may not be too good. But it might, as many have done very nice recordings with onboard sound. It's kind of a trade-off. But i'd really suggest an audio interface if you can swing it.

Keyboard? this is good for you to play MIDI sounds in the PC, or VSTi instruments in the PC. For instance, you can load a Piano soundfont, or sample program and 'play' the keyboard, but have the 'sound' come from the PC. Or, you can 'play' a drum beat on the keys, and have the PC record the drum sounds created by software.

Also, you can just play the sounds built into a keyboard. I have a Juno-D from roland, and it's got some nice stuff in it, a lot of synths, but the 'real' instruments are so-so. So i add programs on PC to play back nicer stuff. There's a lot out there for free, so it's a scavenger's world.

A nice solution, i just thought of, is the line6 KB37, which is an audio interface and keyboard all in one. I think the owner of this site has one, and likes it much. That would kinda kill two birds with one stone, but the price may be prohibitive.

RE: apple vs others; I think apples are a great direction, if you have the $$$. and, are used to them. I think a decent mac will be 1200 - 1500, whereas a decent PC laptop will be 600 - 800. So you can see the difference may be the KB37 mentioned above. I have 2 laptops, one of which I do some light audio on, and they're both windows. I have a iMac (older) but don't do much with it. I won't go towards Linux on laptop, as it doesn't sound like you want to get that involved in learning new technology ideology (although they are coming along nicely).

So, for a decent, good quality potential;
Line6 KB37
( reaper is my choice for audio software, as it's cheap, and decent )
600$ laptop, of which I don't know where to steer you.

Another thing you'll have to address, is monitoring solution. This will cover 1) headphones 2) speakers. Headphones for the singer to listen to while tracking, so he/she can hear the music, to sing to. Speakers, so you can hear the whole mix while you're mixing it. Headphones can be used in place of speakers, but it's usually frowned upon. I think there are samson resolve, and maudio speakers for monitor speakers for kinda cheap. I think the owner has a pair of one of those, and he likes them as well. Berhinger truth monitors have good press well. Passive monitors need a power amp of some sort, whereas powered monitors do not, they supply their own power do drive the speakers.

also, mic stand(s), cables, maybe a pop filter, maybe some dense room treatment (though I use packing blankets for this).

For cheaper, you can use onboard sound for the audio interface, but you may need a preamp if the soundcard doesn't have MIC in (i hate to mention the MIC in, as that's the most important spot, to use the cheapest components, but at least you know about it). You can probably get an MXL mic for 60-70$, and use that for both AC guit & vocals. You can get 30$ headphones, to track and mix with, and use reaper (trial is free, uncrippled shareware) for your software. You can probably do this on an older PC / laptop, as Reaper is very forgiving of older hardware.

That route may get you going for < $200 but I fear you won't be happy with the results.

whew, that's a lot of stuff, hopefully it makes sense, and gives you some ideas of where to look / research / read up.

Ask again with more specifics, if you're inclined.

Since: May 06, 2010

May 08, 2010 10:51 am

Thanks so much for taking the time to give me all this great info! I've learned one thing for sure. There is no "bare minimum" when it comes to this endeaver.

You've convinced me of what I really must have to get started.
You seem to be a logical thinker on the subject so I may come back with a couple a question or two, if you don't mind...:)

I need to think through my next steps. Shocked how complicated this is.

I can get used AT4031 and I'm bidding on a used KB37. I went ahead and got a MAC yesterday!

Again, I really am appreciative of your help!


Since: Apr 03, 2002

May 09, 2010 08:34 am

You won't regret the KB37...great little device to be sure.

There is a bare minimum...really, all your need is recording media...tape, hard drive, whatever...a recording device...tape machine, computer, DAW...and a microphone.

With that bare minimum you will encounter issues...without a compressor, depending on your voice, you will encounter clipping and stuff...

You are fortunate to go the software route, as that will help you get a lot of stuff already...as they all come bundled with EQ's, compressors, reverbs, delays, MIDI sequencers and such...so the only real outboard gear you'll need is what needs to be done before the signal is recorded to prevent clipping or such...for that I would recommend an outboard, hardware compressor and preamp.

Czar of Cheese
Since: Jun 09, 2004

May 09, 2010 09:22 am

You won't regret the Mac either. It comes with GarageBand, which is a simple, yet powerful recording and mixing application that is a blast to use.

Have fun!

Since: Nov 19, 2008

May 09, 2010 11:04 am

I am not a pro but I wanted to share how I started, maybe it can help you out. The way I started; I had a keyboard that was around the $100 range, a guitar with a digitech RP7 pedal (you can get them really cheap these days), and I was recording using a free software (audacity) with my built in sound card... so nothing fancy, it got me more and more interested in music recording and also gave me an idea on what I wanted.

So what you can do is, depending on your music taste, get an acoustic guitar and a mic (a dynamic mic could do it for you) and use your existing (or new) computer's onboard sound card with a freeware recording software... or you can go with a mic and a keyboard and you'll have a larger veriety of sounds you can choose from (drums loops, piano, strings, bass etc.)... Then if all is well you can expand to buying a computer interface and so on...

And about the new computer; I am not a fan of Apple computers much. My personal opinion is that they are overpriced. If you have a good understanding of computers you will be able to purchase a better performing PC at a much lower price.

I hope this helps.

Prince CZAR-ming
Since: Apr 08, 2004

May 09, 2010 08:43 pm

Good on ya, Toni. Sounds like you're already side stepping one of the most dangerous pitfalls: buying without researching.

I know a lot of (most) people on here are PC users, but I'd have to guess that most computer based music is done on MACs. Not to say that it's better, or worse, but I think it's a pretty big margin. But, that's just my .02$us =).

I agree with Jim, Garage band seems quite full featured, and capable.

I also think you're going to like the AT mic, and the KB37. You'll need to turn on phantom power for that AT mic, so you know. But it should do a nice job of recording your AC guitar (if you go that route), and recording vocals.

I've said before, and it usually seems apt: welcome to the money pit =).

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