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BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO HOME RECORDING


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#1 Skol303

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 06:15 PM

We've long been promising a 'Beginner's Guide' to home recording and here it is! Unsurprisingly entitled…

The Beginner's Guide to Home Recording

The purpose of this thread is to provide a simple introduction to making music at home. It aims to demystify the bewildering array of hardware and software that confronts all newcomers, so that rather than feeling like this…

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…you'll hopefully start to feel more like this:

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We'll be adding to the thread over time and if you want to contribute something to it yourself, then please do :)

Before we start, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
  • Buy only what you need to begin with. Don't go splurging loads of ca$h on high end gear until you know exactly what you need… and you won't know that until you've been making music for some time (I'd say about a year). High end hardware/software can make your music sound better. But learning to properly use lower end hard/software can make your music sound even better. So keep your wallet in your pocket for the time being. Or spend your money on basses, as per usual ;)
  • Be patient. Don't expect instant results just because you're using a computer - it's you who'll be doing all the work. As with any new skill: keep it simple, start by grasping the basics (one step at a time) and don't stop learning. Speaking of which…
  • Practice, practice, practice. Music production can be compared to speaking a new language. You'll start off frustrated by not being able to express the sounds in your head; over time you'll become more fluent and the balance will shift from battling with technology to getting the most out of it, once the basics become second nature. All of which takes time and regular practice. Follow tutorials on YouTube. Read books and magazine articles. Hire a tutor. Ask questions on forums (like this one!). Hoover-up knowledge wherever and however you can.
  • Have fun! I know that's a corny thing to say, but it's true. Whey else would you want to make music at home, if not for enjoyment? If you're not having fun, then in the wise words of BBC's now vintage children's classic, Why Don't You: "go do something less boring instead". Music production has the potential to reward you with huge amounts of creative freedom and satisfaction, enabling you to produce the music you always wanted to make (and without needing to rely on other band members!). It also has potential to frustrate the bejesus out of you and cause your swear-box to runneth over. So don't sweat it if you're struggling. There's nowt wrong with dipping your toe in the water and deciding it's not for you.

Right, enough of the babble. Let's go to work….

Edited by Skol303, 06 November 2014 - 12:00 PM.


#2 Skol303

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 06:16 PM

THE BASICS

You’re going to need some ‘stuff’ in order to make music at home. The amount of stuff you need to get started is actually very minimal. You may even own most of it already.

The amount of stuff you think you need increases in proportion to 1) the amount of time you’ve spent making music and 2) the size of your wallet. We’ll discuss that another time. For now just ignore the pangs of GAS, stick to the basics and you won’t go far wrong.

In a nutshell, you want your set up to look like this:

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Now let’s have a look at each of these things in turn.

Edited by Skol303, 02 November 2014 - 06:17 PM.


#3 Skol303

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 06:22 PM

HARDWARE

Instrument
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I’m assuming you own at least one bass guitar, right? Ok, so we’ve got that covered. Move along now please, move along…

Computer
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Laptops are useful if you spend a lot of time away from home, or have ambitions to take your ‘home studio’ onto the stage and gig. Desktops typically offer the same amount of bang (or more) for less buck$. PC or Mac? That’s a debate in itself. You’ll need a Mac if you want to run Apple Logic software (more on that later), but in real terms it doesn’t make a huge difference which you choose. Most ‘pro’ studios I’ve ever stuck my head into run Macs, but that might just be because people think they look nice. PCs are certainly cheaper and easier to customise, should you wish to do so. As with most things, shop around and buy the best you can afford. The faster the processor and the more RAM it has, the better.

You’ll also need some software - but we’ll come to that in a moment.

Audio interface
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This is the 'box' that allows you to connect your instruments to your computer for the purpose of recording. Audio interfaces typically offer the following inputs and outputs:
  • Inputs: sockets for plugging in guitars/basses (1/4” jack), microphones (XLR) and synthesisers (MIDI). Nearly all interfaces also feature a separate input for plugging in headphones (1/4” jack).
  • Outputs: line out (red/white RCA) and/or balanced speaker output (1/4”) for connecting to monitors and other loudspeakers.
The interface itself connects to your computer using a USB cable.

Before you choose which interface to buy, make sure it features all of the input/output sockets you need to connect up your available instruments, mics and speakers (or those you’re planning on buying). For reference - here’s a handy list of the most common types of cable connectors, courtesy of Dawsons.

Like all things, everyone has their own preference when it comes to choice of audio interface. I’ve personally had good experiences with both TASCAM and Focusrite products and would recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or 2i4 as being ideal for most starter set ups (such as my own!).

Monitor speakers and/or headphones
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It goes without saying that you need to be able to hear the music you’re making - and your computer’s built-in speakers will assist that task with all the practicality of a chocolate teapot. Yes, I know they might sound ok for most things… but trust me. Computer speakers SUCK when it comes to music production, largely because they are very poor at handling bass. And you want bass.

So what are the options?

It's always a good idea to use a set of dedicated monitor speakers - and this is one area where you certainly get what you pay for. Lots of options available and as with everything, people tend to recommend what they use themselves. Here's a thread with a bunch of suggestions for monitors.

If you're not setting out to produce studio-quality mixes, you could hook up a pair of HiFi speakers to your computer. This isn’t ideal… Why? because HiFi speakers are designed to make music sound ‘nice’, rather than expose all the nasty stuff in a mix that you might want to fix. But as a starting point, HiFi speaker are ok and certainly better than no speakers at all.

As well as (or perhaps instead of) monitors, you’ll also want a good pair of headphones. These are very useful for fine tuning your music, especially late at night when cranking up your monitors is likely to raise hell with other human beings. Spend around £100 and you’ll have a quality pair that will last for years. ’Open back’ headphones (that don’t completely cover your ears) are usually better suited to mixing. ‘Closed back’ headphones (like a big pair of ear muffs) are useful if you're doing a lot of vocal recording and don’t want the backing track to be picked up by (i.e. ‘bleed’ into) the vocal mic. Here’s a thread with a bunch of suggestions for headphones. And here’s a useful introduction to mixing on headphones, courtesy of Basschat’s own pantherairsoft (aka Shep).

Edited by Skol303, 16 November 2014 - 08:41 PM.


#4 Skol303

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 06:29 PM

SOFTWARE: CHOOSING YOUR DAW

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You’ll need what’s called a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) installed on your computer to begin making music. A DAW is a piece of software that enables you to record, arrange, mix and produce music. It’s your ‘studio in a box’ and the focal point of your home set up.

There are a number of DAW softwares to choose from. They all do essentially the same thing - but they do it in different ways - so it’s important to choose whichever product feels right for you.

Here’s a quick list of the most popular DAW softwares. They all offer free demo versions, so you can try before you buy:

Ableton Live: Arguably the best DAW for live performance and DJing, but can equally be used for regular composition and production. Compact interface helps beginners to get started.

Cubase: One of the oldest DAWs on the market (dating back to the Atari ST in 1989!) and for a long time the industry standard software for music production. Cubase is still going strong and comes bundled with a superb package of built-in FX. Perhaps not the easiest software to begin with, but holds deep potential for anyone willing to learn.

GarageBand (Mac only): A great place to start if you own a Mac, as it comes bundled for free! GarageBand is very easy to use and designed with beginners in mind. A good way to learn the basics of using a DAW.

Logic Pro (Mac only): Apple’s flagship DAW product and one of the industry standards. Very well priced and comes packaged with high quality FX and audio samples.

Pro Tools: Perhaps the current industry standard - this is the DAW that you’ll find running in most professional studios. Powerful and modular, meaning it can be easily adapted to any purpose - from home projects to mixing the main stage at Glastonbury.
One thing to note: using MIDI can be quite difficult in ProTools, as it’s primarily an audio editor (thanks to Kiwi for this tip). So it might not be the best choice of DAW of you’re wanting to compose in MIDI, as most home users do.

REAPER: The best-priced DAW by far (just $60 for a starter license) and powerful/flexible enough to compete with any of the major brand names. The demo version is available as an unlimited and uncrippled free trial - meaning you can try the full version of the software for as long as you like, before buying it. Can’t argue with that.

Reason: Offers a unique interface that mimics a ‘real world’ studio, complete with virtual hardware and cables - allowing instruments and FX to be connected in highly creative ways. Reason has its roots in electronic music, but has evolved to include all the functionality of any standard DAW. It features a proprietary plug-in format (Rack Extensions): the upside being that it’s very stable and has low CPU usage; the downside being it’s not compatible with standard VSTs. My own weapon of choice ;)

Other DAWs you might like to have a look at include ACID Pro, Adobe Audition, Cakewalk SONAR, FruityLoops Studio, PreSonus Studio One and Renoise.


Oh… and download a copy of Audacity. It’s a great piece of free software - not a DAW like those listed above (you can’t really use it to compose music), but it’s a very useful tool for processing any audio you’ve recorded.

Learning how to use your DAW

Whichever DAW you choose, my advice is NOT to begin learning by reading the manual… that’s a surefire way to kill your enthusiasm for making music stone dead. Instead, search on YouTube for tutorials and let other people guide you through the basics, which is a much more natural way of learning. Search for topics such as ‘How to record a guitar using Reaper’, or ‘How to write a drum beat in Reason’, or whatever. Then start digesting the manual once you’re more familiar with your DAW software and want to start honing your skills further.

Face-to-face tuition is also a fast way to learn (just like it is with practising an instrument). Look for people offering tuition in your local area, or enrol on a training course specific to your DAW software of choice. There are plenty to choose from and most music colleges run regular courses. Thanks to DanR and gicut58 for this tip!

If you get stuck, ask for help here in the Recording forum. There’s bound to be another Basschatter who is familiar with whatever DAW you’re using and able to lend a hand :)

NOTATION SOFTWARE

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If you’re savvy when it comes to reading and writing music, then you might prefer to pen your compositions using notation software. This enables you to write scores on-screen and then output the results as MIDI files, which can be used to trigger virtual instruments in any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). So you can compose your music using notation software and then let the virtual orchestra in your DAW bring it to life.

Leading products such as Sibelius and Finale function as stripped-down DAWs in their own right and are worth the investment if you want to work with notation.

Also worth checking out is Notion by PreSonus, which comes in both a desktop and iPad-friendly version (so you can quite literally write your next symphony whilst on the move).

Thanks to lowdown for all this great info on notation software!

Edited by Skol303, 16 November 2014 - 08:34 PM.


#5 Skol303

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 06:34 PM

SOFTWARE: PLUG-INS AND SOUND LIBRARIES

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All DAW softwares comes bundled with built-in effects (FX) and sound files (samples), so you can begin making music ‘straight out of the box’. But it doesn’t end there… you can expand your library of FX and samples at any time by importing new ones.

Plug-ins

Plug-ins include virtual instruments (drum kits, synthesisers, samplers), dynamic effects (compressors, limiters, noise gates), distortion effects, guitar/bass amp simulators, EQ and filters, etc. Plug-ins come in a variety of formats, not all of which may be compatible with your DAW of choice, so it’s a good idea to check beforehand. The most common format for plug-ins is VST/VSTi. Other formats include Audio Units/AU (Mac only), AAX (exclusive to Pro Tools DAW) and Rack Extension/Re (exclusive to Reason DAW).

Commercial plug-ins can cost hundreds of pounds, so it’s important to know what you’re buying - and importantly, what you need - before spending anywhere near that kind of money. The best advice is to: Useful plug-ins for beginners:
  • AAMS (Auto Audio Mastering System): A free plug-in that automatically ‘masters’ your finished tracks by applying EQ, multi-band compression and maximising (‘loudness’ boosting). Select a ‘style’ appropriate to your track, sit back and wait… AAMS will create a mastered copy (on WAV format), along with a Word document listing the changes that have been made. It’ll never be a substitute for a professional mastering engineer… but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper! Big thanks to Dad3353 for this tip.
  • Native Instruments offer a range of free instruments, players and effects that are compatible with most plug-in formats (VST/AAX/AU).

A word to the wise… it’s worth heeding this advice from Basschat’s Dad3353 when it comes to downloading free plug-ins: “Calm down. Don't get excited. A cold bath may help. One is tempted to haul in a whole load of 'em (after all, they're free, aren't they? And they may come in handy one day...). True. I have well over a thousand. I've tried and tested about a hundred or so... but I actually use about a dozen and fall back mostly on the standard ones that came with the DAW, Reaper. Be selective, that's what I'd say. Just my tuppence-worth."

Sounds and Samples

Sample libraries containing sounds for use in your compositions are also available in abundance - both commercially and free of charge.

Loop Masters are one of the best-known sources of commercial libraries.

For free stuff, check out Freesound and other websites that offers sounds under Creative Commons license. Or search Google to your heart’s content.

Edited by Skol303, 16 November 2014 - 09:14 PM.


#6 Skol303

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 06:37 PM

EXTRA STUFF

The world of home studios is littered with gear, much of which you don't really need but that won’t stop you from wanting it! Here are a few additions to your home set up that you might like to consider - but which aren’t really essential to begin with…

MIDI Keyboard
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Useful if you want to play around with software synths and tinkle on the virtual ivories. A MIDI keyboard can improve your workflow, helping you to make music more efficiently. It’s also worth considering if you like real keys, knobs and faders to play with.

MIDI keyboards can vary hugely in price. I personally use a basic M-Audio Oxygen 25, but I’d recommend a larger 49 key ‘board if budget/space allows (as playing across multiple octaves on a shorter keyboard is a pain in the butt).

Condenser Microphone
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A trusty condenser mic can be used to record vocals, 'found sounds' around the house (pots and pans percussion!), or placed in front of your bass cab to record that low end rumble. I use a Behringer C-1. Cheap and very cheerful.

Controller Pad
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Useful if you want to unleash your 'inner drummer', work with samples, record original beats and/or produce music using a pattern sequencer. Native Instruments’ Maschine range has cornered much of the market when it comes to controller pads and for good reason - they're great products (if a little expensive). The Maschine Mikro is the most affordable of the NI gadgets, but it’s still no giveaway at around £300. Worth considering if you’re wanting a more ‘hands on’ approach to making music.

Here’s a clip of the famous ‘controllerism’ maestro Jeremy Ellis, to whet your appetite:


Edited by Skol303, 07 November 2014 - 11:34 PM.


#7 Skol303

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 06:45 PM

OTHER METHODS OF MAKING MUSIC

There are of course other ways of making music at home that don’t involve using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). For example…

Handheld Digital Recorder
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Handheld digital recorders, such as those manufactured by Zoom, can be used to record sounds ‘in the moment’ and are a good way of capturing acoustic sessions. They are relatively cheap, very portable and super-easy to use - you just press record (like you would on an ‘old skool’ tape recorder) and away you go.

Most digital recorders include a built-in speaker and/or headphone socket, so you can play back and listen to what you’ve recorded. They also include the necessary cable(s) for connecting the device to a computer and copying over any recordings you’ve made.

If all you want to do is record yourself playing/singing solo, or capture rough copies of your band’s practice sessions, then a handheld digital recorder is worth looking into. They’re also great for field recording. Just don’t expect to base your home recording set up around a handheld recorder if you’re wanting to compose and arrange music in any real sense - they’re simply not geared up for that kind of thing.

Mobile/Tablet Apps
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Using Apps can be a fun way of making music and there’s an ever-increasing range of products to choose from, both free and commercial. They’re great for tinkering around with ideas whilst on the move and away from a desktop computer - on the bus, the beach, a lunch break at work, sat on the loo, or wherever. They also tend to be very tactile (‘hands on’) and can offer new ways of playing with sound that can’t be achieved using a standard computer keyboard and mouse.

However… whilst individual Apps can be quick and easy to use, don’t be fooled into thinking that making music with Apps is easier than using a standard DAW-based computer set up. It’s not. You can do simple things very easily using Apps, but anything beyond that tends to get horribly complicated very quickly.

For that reason I personally wouldn’t recommend basing your home recording set up around Apps alone - but you can use Apps to add some fun and creativity to how you make music.

Here’s a handful of Apps that I’ve had experience of using myself:
  • Amplitude: A great App that functions like an amp simulator and features a built-in tuner, metronome, drum kit (with a selection of beat loops) and a four-track recorder/mixer. It also links with your iTunes library, so you can import and jam along to songs. It does all of these things very well - it’s nice and simple to use - but it’s also quite limited in terms of what you can achieve with it. Don’t expect to produce demo-quality tracks with this App. But it can be a handy little practice tool if you want to noodle on your bass/guitar without being sat near to your computer or amp. Note that along with the App itself you’ll also need an iRig adaptor, which enables you to connect your instrument to your phone/tablet device using a standard 1/4” jack lead.
  • NanoStudio: This is about as close as you’re going to get in terms of having a full Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) on your phone or tablet. It features multiple tracks, a standard piano roll editor (for writing MIDI), a huge library of instruments and patches, good quality synths, FX, a mixing console and master bus. I was hugely impressed by this App when I bought it several years ago and it’s still the best ‘handheld DAW’ on the market, in my opinion. You can use it to compose and mix complete tracks to a surprisingly high standard - and you can do so sat on the beach, if you wish (as I have done :)). In a word: brilliant.
  • Cubasis: Another top quality App that puts all the functionality of a desktop DAW in your pocket. Features unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, a huge library of sounds and loops, a virtual keyboard and drum pads, plus a high quality 32-bit/96 kHz audio engine. Import and export projects to its big sister product, Cubase. Thanks to lowdown for this recommendation!
  • iMaschine: A useful ‘sketchpad’ for capturing ideas in the moment, before those fleeting sparks of inspiration get forgotten. Based on its big sister hardware product, iMaschine allows you to write beats, melodies and even record vocals using a very quick and easy to use interface. It’s not well suited to composing full tracks - but it’s great for slinging together loops that can be exported as audio (or Maschine format files) and loaded into to your DAW of choice.
  • Figure, Take and ReBirth: A trio of great little Apps from Propellerhead Software (the people behind the Reason DAW). Similar in purpose to iMaschine (above), Figure is intended for capturing ideas ‘on the fly’ using a very innovative and easy-to-use interface, designed for people with little or no prior experience of making music. Choose a key to compose in, then proceed to write a drum pattern and a duo of synth loops quite literally in matter of seconds. Very immediate and loads of fun. Take is an equally slick and satisfying App, this time dedicated to recording vocals whilst on the move. Lastly, ReBirth is an exact miniature replica of the legendary 1990s emulator, comprising two TB-303 synths and 808/909 drum machines. All the acid techno you could ever want, in your pocket.
  • Jasuto: A crazy and highly inventive modular synth. Frustratingly complicated and geared more towards maths geeks than lowly laypeople like myself… but yet I still find it compelling to play with. You create the ‘modules’ of your synth as shapes, then automate how they interact by animating how the shapes move on the screen. There’s a lot of fun to be had here - and one day I intend on having it. If modular synthesis is your thing, then this could the Holy Grail you’ve been seeking…
  • Bebot: Another highly inventive pocket synth… and the antithesis of Jasuto (above). Bebop is a superb little synthesiser, which you control by dragging your finger across the touchscreen, causing an animated robot (wearing a tuxedo, no less) to ‘sing’ the relevant note/pitch. And it sounds immense! You can also play chords by touching the screen with multiple fingers. Very easy to use and surprisingly powerful in terms of the sounds it can produce. Plus, it features a singing robot. As all synthesisers should, in an ideal world.
  • GarageBand: I haven’t used this App myself, but I’ve heard great things about it so thought it should have a mention here. It includes a variety of virtual instruments and read-to-use loops that can be ‘played’ and arranged to compose complete tracks. It’s not as ‘deep’ as NanoStudio (above), but I hear it excels at getting down ideas quickly and is great for people who are new to making music. You can also export files from the App and continue working on them in the desktop version of GarageBand.
  • Audiobus: An essential purchase for anyone serious about working with Apps. Audiobus allows live App-to-App audio routing, enabling you to chain together different Apps as part of your workflow. Very clever indeed. Big thanks to lowdown for this tip!
…and that list is just scratching the surface of what’s available. If you know of other music-making Apps that are especially useful or just fun to use, then let us know!

Wax Cylinder Phonograph
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Strictly ‘old skool’ and the preserve of people for whom DAWs, digi-recorders and Apps and just a newfangled flash in the pan. The Wax Cylinder Phonograph is the world’s first method of recording and reproducing sound, still in use amongst some of the more obscure underground scenes (e.g. genres such as Candle Grime). Wax cylinders require specialist equipment, such as ludicrously long trumpet horns for capturing sub bass wobbles, and are generally regarded as something of an eccentricity amongst producers. If you’re lucky enough to find one that’s USB compatible then it could well become your ‘go to’ device. Just be sure to avoid the ‘scented candle’ copies, which typically colour the sound and tend to reek of Christmas out of season.

Edited by Skol303, 07 November 2014 - 11:31 PM.


#8 Drax

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Posted 02 November 2014 - 08:19 PM

Great thread. Wish I'd had this when I started out.

Can I also add the benefits - for some people at least - of 'in person' training to help demystify the computer element. Coming at it completely green, the DAW seemed daunting, and YouTube tutorials a mixed bag.

I found it hugely beneficial attending a crash course (a weekend at PointBlank in London, but these exist across the country). Having someone there to ask questions of in the very early stages, and working through live examples, got me up to pace quickly and confidently, and most importantly, helped me understand what questions I needed to ask.

Edited by DanR, 02 November 2014 - 08:28 PM.


#9 gicut58

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Posted 03 November 2014 - 12:24 PM

Yep, great thread, great start,

couldn't agree more with what's been said so far especially about both in person assistance and video (youtube) tutorials.
I've used both of these methods extensively(!) myself along with DAW - specific forums which are out there and where you can ask questions and get a multitude of answers back usually fairly quickly.

There is no doubt that learning to make music at home can, at times, be an incredibly annoying and frustrating process, but there ain't much out there that gives more pleasure than saying 'it's finished', (it's never finished, but you have to stop somewhere) and having a piece of work, to hand, forever......

And then you start all over again with the next one.....
http://www.lemonrock.com/gicut58 http://www.bandmix.co.uk/gicut58/ https://soundcloud.com/gicut58

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Cubase 7.5 & stuff

#10 Skol303

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 08:00 PM

LEARNING THE CRAFT

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So… you’ve got the gear, everything is set up, switched on and ready to go. Now what?

The biggest stumbling block for any beginner is always learning how to use the software needed to record, arrange and mix music. That and getting your head around the process of music production - and all of the various gizmos and FX that entails. Make no mistake: it’s a lot to take in!

What we can’t do in this guide is provide step-by-step instructions on how to use every DAW software on the market. Your best option is to search on YouTube for tutorials and use DAW-specific forums to ask questions and seek advice from other users. You’ll feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark for at least a day or two, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel! (…even if it turns out to be some smartass with a torch, bringing you more problems to solve ;)).

What we can do here is point you in the direction of some useful resources that apply no matter what DAW software you’re using. These include:

Websites
  • MusicRadar’s free beginner’s guides: a big list of useful ‘how to’ guides and factsheets on a wide range of topics relating to music production, originally published in Computer Music magazine (available for downloading in Adobe PDF format).
  • SoundOnSound: one of the more discerning and useful websites for news, advice and window shopping around all things studio-related. Especially useful for honest product reviews and the user forum is a good place to get advice on hardware and software from people in the know.
  • Recording Revolution: a collection of useful advice and resources made available by studio engineer Graham Cochrane. Includes numerous free articles on a range of mixing and production topics, with an emphasis on achieving "more with less". Also offers a range of reasonably-priced commercial tutorials. Thanks to Mornats for this recommendation!
  • Submixaudio: a commercial studio run by Basschat’s own pantherairsoft (aka Shep). Sign up here for a free mixing and mastering guide, offering easy-to-follow advice on filtering, gain staging, reverb, EQ, spatial placement, compression and more. Cheers Shep!

Books
  • Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio: the bible of making music at home, written by mixing engineer Mike Senior (who, incidentally, is a member of Basschat!). A clearly written, step-by-step guide that covers everything from choosing the right equipment, to getting the most out of your available software and FX. If you buy any one book about music production, then buy this one. I’ve read it cover-to-cover twice myself and I’m due a third read-through very soon… it’s that useful.
  • Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices and Tools by Roey Izhaki. Similar to ‘Mixing Secrets…’ (above), although perhaps a little more dry and technical, Izhaki’s book provides a useful guide to mixing that includes case studies of different practical applications. Not ideally suited to beginners, but a worthwhile read once you’ve got the hang of the basics and are looking for something ‘meaty’ to sink your teeth into.
  • Zen and the Art of Mixing: not so much a book about how to produce music, but how to nurture the right mindset for making music. Full of useful and often hilarious insights into the workings of professional recording studios. A great toilet book - and I mean that in the most flattering way!

Edited by Skol303, 16 November 2014 - 08:50 PM.


#11 Mornats

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 08:36 PM

Fantastic work Paul, this is already a great guide. Can't wait to see it evolve in the comments.

I'd like to add http://therecordingrevolution.com/ to the list of music creation resources. Graham gives you some very good down-to-earth tips. I watched his videos that advised you to get the volume levels of all your tracks spot on as the first stage of mixing and then use only EQ and compression to help the mix fit together. I tried it on one of my band's old tracks and it sounds so much better now. No messing around with fancy plugins, just balancing the mix nicely.
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#12 Skol303

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 09:06 PM

View PostDanR, on 02 November 2014 - 08:19 PM, said:

Great thread. Wish I'd had this when I started out. Can I also add the benefits - for some people at least - of 'in person' training to help demystify the computer element.

View Postgicut58, on 03 November 2014 - 12:24 PM, said:

Yep, great thread, great start, couldn't agree more with what's been said so far especially about both in person assistance and video (youtube) tutorials.

Cheers guys. I’ve added a note about face-to-face training, as well as using YouTube tutorials. Thanks for the input!

View PostMornats, on 07 November 2014 - 08:36 PM, said:

I'd like to add http://therecordingrevolution.com/ to the list of music creation resources. Graham gives you some very good down-to-earth tips.

Thanks Paul! I've just had a browse... it looks like a very useful resource and not something I've come across before. I've added it to the list above under 'Websites'.

Cheers mate :)

Edited by Skol303, 07 November 2014 - 09:10 PM.


#13 Kiwi

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 10:07 AM

Great thread - I started out on Cubase and found it easy to use. Then when I got back into recording, I switched to Pro Tools as I thought it was an industry standard and struggled with its MIDI functionality. It's just not set up for ease of MIDI use. So I tend to think of it as an audio editor primarily (which is what it is) with some MIDI functionality...but basically get the MIDI into audio ASAP if you want to have an easy life.

I've also struggled with Ableton for some reason although maybe I just don't know it very well yet.
Bass: Self built 5-string semi hollow headless, '79 Alembic Series 1 graphite, '78 Musicman Stingray, '86 Pangborn Warlord graphite, '93 Pedulla Pentabuzz, '09 Shuker Headless 6 MIDI (signed by Lee Sklar, Doug Wimbish and Billy Sheehan),'00 Spector NS5CR, '90 Status Series 1 5 string.
Backline: EBS Microbass, Future Impact, Zoom B3 into two Genz Benz Shuttle 6's and two fEARful F112 cabs, two Burman Pro4000HD 140w valve heads, Trace Elliot Hexavalve
Guitar: Alan Knight 'Hitmaker' tribute, Chandler Custom HSS Strat (signed by Nile Rodgers), Klein replica with sustainer, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 1, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 2
Backline: Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14 American Sound, Burman GX3 preamp, Zoom G3X, Lexicon MPXG2 + R1 foot controller, Ibanez TSA5 x2 and Burman Pro 501 50w combo.
Studio: Yamaha CS6R synth module, Axon AX100 pitch to MIDI, Lexicon MPXG2 and MIDIman 16ch mixer, Ableton Live

#14 pantherairsoft

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 11:39 AM

Pretty cool thread dude. I hope you don't mind me adding to it...

I recently got asked a question on another forum about mixing on headphones (which many many people do!) and thought the answer would be of interest here...

Mixing on headphones... Should I do it?

I've also recently put together a free guide to creation better mixes and mastering your own audio at home, with just your laptop and DAW, avoiding the need for expensive plugins or outboard gear. If anyone is interested you can grab that HERE, or by following the link on the SubMix Audio home page.

If I write any other relevant blog posts soon I'll share them on here if that's cool. Makes sense to keep it all in one place on Basschat.

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#15 Dad3353

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 01:24 PM

Nice work, Skol, very useful topic.

As we've been invited to add our own tips, here's my 'secret weapon'...

AAMS (Auto Audio Mastering System...) ...

It's as described 'on the tin' : a system which can automatically 'master' a WAV file, using one of many 'presets' depending on the style required. Free to download and use, the author accepts donations; these are voluntary, but the product is fully functional without. It's worth a contribution though, imo.
It couldn't be easier to use in its simplest manner. Indicate a WAV file, select a 'style'; sit back and wait. Speed depends on your processing power (mine is feeble...), but a few minutes are all that's required. A 'master' WAV is created, along with a Word doc listing all that's been done. One may, optionally, use the graphs and spectros to visualise the enhancements, and most can be 'tweaked' if required. As a lazy sod, I let it do its stuff and admire, but it's interesting to see what has been done, too.
My recommendation; I use it for everything, once I've finished messing about. It's as close as I can get to being able to polish a .... No, I'll stop there; it won't improve the composition itself, either..!
Just my tuppence-worth.

Edited by Dad3353, 14 November 2014 - 01:24 PM.

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#16 Billy Apple

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 01:31 PM

Cool. I'm in. I was just thinking about this the other day and reckon I've got a few songs in me. Total beginner here, no idea what so ever!
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#17 Skol303

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 02:09 PM

Kiwi, Shep, Doug... thanks chaps! :) Very useful links and advice. I'll incorporate your info into the main body of this thread over the weekend, so it's easy for people to find.

Billy Apple... go for it! And don't hesitate to ask questions in the Rec forum if you need any help.

#18 Mornats

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 11:42 PM

Also, Native Instruments have some free players with some nice sounds/instruments/effects available in them: http://www.native-in.../products/free/

Plus, if you subscribe to Computer Music mag (even the 30 day trial over on Google Play: https://play.google....c?id=CAow4b-IAg) then you get access to their suite of free plugins, some of which are very nice.
  • Main bass: Squier modified VM Jazz: KiOgon wiring loom and Entwistle JBXN pickups
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#19 Dad3353

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Posted 15 November 2014 - 12:50 AM

A word to the wise (or, put differently: don't do as I did..! :blush: )...
If you go down the Vst route, you'll find that there is an amazing array of plug-ins, many are free, and easy to obtain. Calm down. Don't get excited. A cold bath may help. One is tempted to haul in a whole load of 'em (after all, they're free, aren't they, and they may come in handy one day...). True. I have well over a thousand. I've tried and tested about a hundred or so (please bear in mind that I am now retired, and can do this all day and all night if I so wish, and often do...). I actually use about a dozen or so, and fall back mostly on the standard ones that came with the DAW, Reaper. Not that the available ones are not good; indeed, that's a bit of the problem. They're mostly very good to excellent. I've rejected (so far...) a handful as being 'flaky', or frigging up my clunky old system, but the huge majority work very well. In the years left to me (I'm touching wood here...), it's unlikely that I'll get to exploit even half of my current 'collection'. There may be gems in those that I've obtained, but I'll probably never know. Be selective, that's what I'd say. Go easy on the bulk buying, especially of the free ones. Calm down. Don't get excited. A cold bath may help.
Just my tuppence-worth.

Edited by Dad3353, 15 November 2014 - 12:50 AM.

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#20 funkle

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Posted 25 December 2014 - 03:34 PM

Great thread. Thanks chaps.
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#21 timmo

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Posted 01 January 2015 - 01:23 PM

I am looking to buy a laptop for recording the noise i make on my bass. Now the article says get as much ram. There is always going to be a ceiling as to how much ram is good, and overkill. For example, gaming requires no more than 8GB. Anything extra is overkill, as games wont go faster with more than 8GB. So does recording music need more than 8 GB. Would 12 or 16 GB be sufficient? Or should i be looking at 32? I have read loads of stuff on the net, but it seems to be old info, or so biased to Apple. I am probably looking at a PC based with an i7 processor.
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#22 Mornats

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Posted 01 January 2015 - 01:47 PM

8 or 16GB should be sufficient for home recording. I recently upgraded my PC and went for an i7 4790K (overclocked to 4600mhz) and 16GB ram. I have a few song with 16 or so tracks stuffed full of virtual instruments and it plays it in real time without any effort at all.
  • Main bass: Squier modified VM Jazz: KiOgon wiring loom and Entwistle JBXN pickups
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#23 Skol303

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Posted 02 January 2015 - 10:33 PM

View Posttimmo, on 01 January 2015 - 01:23 PM, said:

I am looking to buy a laptop for recording the noise i make on my bass. Now the article says get as much ram. There is always going to be a ceiling as to how much ram is good, and overkill... does recording music need more than 8 GB. Would 12 or 16 GB be sufficient? Or should i be looking at 32?

Like anything computer-related, it's always a case of spending whatever you can afford in order to buy yourself as much 'future-proofing' as possible.

In answer to your quandary, 8Gb would be absolutely fine for the vast majority of home recording. Maybe look at 16Gb if you're wanting to run lots of CPU-hungry FX and virtual instruments simultaneously.

I use an 'old' iMac from 2010 with 4Gb RAM and it works fine for me. It does mean I have to render some tracks to audio when my CPU starts groaning under the strain of things on busier songs. But it's never been an issue that's significantly disrupted my workflow :)

#24 Kiwi

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Posted 02 January 2015 - 10:37 PM

Or you could consider going down the hardware route and avoid redundancy from windows updates - check out the classifieds perhaps for synth modules? *cough*
Bass: Self built 5-string semi hollow headless, '79 Alembic Series 1 graphite, '78 Musicman Stingray, '86 Pangborn Warlord graphite, '93 Pedulla Pentabuzz, '09 Shuker Headless 6 MIDI (signed by Lee Sklar, Doug Wimbish and Billy Sheehan),'00 Spector NS5CR, '90 Status Series 1 5 string.
Backline: EBS Microbass, Future Impact, Zoom B3 into two Genz Benz Shuttle 6's and two fEARful F112 cabs, two Burman Pro4000HD 140w valve heads, Trace Elliot Hexavalve
Guitar: Alan Knight 'Hitmaker' tribute, Chandler Custom HSS Strat (signed by Nile Rodgers), Klein replica with sustainer, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 1, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 2
Backline: Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14 American Sound, Burman GX3 preamp, Zoom G3X, Lexicon MPXG2 + R1 foot controller, Ibanez TSA5 x2 and Burman Pro 501 50w combo.
Studio: Yamaha CS6R synth module, Axon AX100 pitch to MIDI, Lexicon MPXG2 and MIDIman 16ch mixer, Ableton Live

#25 Mornats

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 12:00 AM

Nah Kiwi, that wouldn't help with and of his gaming needs :P
  • Main bass: Squier modified VM Jazz: KiOgon wiring loom and Entwistle JBXN pickups
  • Main bass: Fender Standard Precision (MIM)
  • Other basses: SGC Nanyo Bass Collection SB320, Yamaha TRBX 504
  • MarkBass CMD 121P
  • Must... let... go: Ashdown 220 Touring 1x12 Combo with VS112 extension cab
Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/mornats.
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#26 lowdown

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 07:51 AM

i7 Processor with at least 8 Gig Ram, will do for most home recording (with ease).
Ram won't make your PC faster, but will help with using a lot of Audio
or the big Sample libraries, then you should be looking at 16-32 Gigs.
The i7 CPU's (Quadcore) will handle an awful lot of VST's/VSTI's without
the need for freezing or bouncing tracks. It will also help with running at very low latency,
providing your ASIO drivers on your Audio interface are up to it.

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#27 Kiwi

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 08:01 AM

Those ASIO drivers always seem to be the weakest link in my experience. If it's not latency, it's instability.
Bass: Self built 5-string semi hollow headless, '79 Alembic Series 1 graphite, '78 Musicman Stingray, '86 Pangborn Warlord graphite, '93 Pedulla Pentabuzz, '09 Shuker Headless 6 MIDI (signed by Lee Sklar, Doug Wimbish and Billy Sheehan),'00 Spector NS5CR, '90 Status Series 1 5 string.
Backline: EBS Microbass, Future Impact, Zoom B3 into two Genz Benz Shuttle 6's and two fEARful F112 cabs, two Burman Pro4000HD 140w valve heads, Trace Elliot Hexavalve
Guitar: Alan Knight 'Hitmaker' tribute, Chandler Custom HSS Strat (signed by Nile Rodgers), Klein replica with sustainer, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 1, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 2
Backline: Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14 American Sound, Burman GX3 preamp, Zoom G3X, Lexicon MPXG2 + R1 foot controller, Ibanez TSA5 x2 and Burman Pro 501 50w combo.
Studio: Yamaha CS6R synth module, Axon AX100 pitch to MIDI, Lexicon MPXG2 and MIDIman 16ch mixer, Ableton Live

#28 Mornats

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 12:13 PM

It's worth checking out the ASIO4ALL drivers if your interface's own aren't up to the job. http://www.asio4all.com/

I tried them with my Focusrite Forte and noticed lower latency. Not a huge amount, but even small amounts count in this situation.
  • Main bass: Squier modified VM Jazz: KiOgon wiring loom and Entwistle JBXN pickups
  • Main bass: Fender Standard Precision (MIM)
  • Other basses: SGC Nanyo Bass Collection SB320, Yamaha TRBX 504
  • MarkBass CMD 121P
  • Must... let... go: Ashdown 220 Touring 1x12 Combo with VS112 extension cab
Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/mornats.
Feedback: http://basschat.co.u...ck-for-mornats/

#29 Kiwi

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 01:36 PM

View PostMornats, on 03 January 2015 - 12:13 PM, said:

It's worth checking out the ASIO4ALL drivers if your interface's own aren't up to the job. http://www.asio4all.com/
These kinds of nuggets are why I keep coming back here...:P
Bass: Self built 5-string semi hollow headless, '79 Alembic Series 1 graphite, '78 Musicman Stingray, '86 Pangborn Warlord graphite, '93 Pedulla Pentabuzz, '09 Shuker Headless 6 MIDI (signed by Lee Sklar, Doug Wimbish and Billy Sheehan),'00 Spector NS5CR, '90 Status Series 1 5 string.
Backline: EBS Microbass, Future Impact, Zoom B3 into two Genz Benz Shuttle 6's and two fEARful F112 cabs, two Burman Pro4000HD 140w valve heads, Trace Elliot Hexavalve
Guitar: Alan Knight 'Hitmaker' tribute, Chandler Custom HSS Strat (signed by Nile Rodgers), Klein replica with sustainer, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 1, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 2
Backline: Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14 American Sound, Burman GX3 preamp, Zoom G3X, Lexicon MPXG2 + R1 foot controller, Ibanez TSA5 x2 and Burman Pro 501 50w combo.
Studio: Yamaha CS6R synth module, Axon AX100 pitch to MIDI, Lexicon MPXG2 and MIDIman 16ch mixer, Ableton Live

#30 timmo

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 09:37 PM

Ok thank you for the replies. I am looking at something like this, so hopefully something like this will be a good start

http://www.box.co.uk...UK_1657636.html
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