10 Invaluable Home Recording Tips - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Here are a few simple and effective tricks that you can use to improve the quality of your home recordings. You find ways to increase the overall feel of your performances.

Use an analog tape deck

If you have a digital recorder and yearn for that analog sound, you can run the tracks out of your recorder, into an analog tape deck, and back into the digital recorder.

This procedure is really simple. Just bus the outputs of your recorder to the inputs of your analog tape deck, and run cords from the outputs of your tape deck back into two empty tracks in your digital recorder. You can then mix these two new tracks with your originals.

A slight time delay occurs between the original tracks and the returned ones. If you have a graphical editor, you can eliminate this time delay by following these steps:

  1. Choose a single snare drum or bass drum stroke on both sets of tracks.

  2. Enter the waveform graphical mode and compare the two waveforms to see where they differ; you can use your cursor to determine the distance between the two beats.

  3. Cut that distance from the front of the tape-returned tracks.

  4. Double-check your work by listening to both sets of tracks.

Layer your drum beats

If you use a drum machine or an electronic drum set to play your drum rhythms, you can make these rhythms much fatter by layering one sound on top of another. Likewise, you can use this technique to add sampled drum sounds to your acoustic drum tracks to fatten them.

If you recorded your drums using MIDI, just duplicate the drum tracks that you want to add to, select the drum that you want to duplicate, and change its patch number to match a sound that you want to add.

If your original tracks are from an acoustic drum set, you have to trigger the sound from the drum machine by hand or, if your audio software has the capabilities, you can create a MIDI file from the audio track. Then just choose the instruments that you want to have triggered from the new MIDI track.

Decorate your room

When you set up your studio, think about the types of materials you use for furniture, floor, and wall treatments. You can improve the sound of your room simply by using materials and furniture to absorb or reflect sound. Carpet on the floor or curtains over your windows absorb sound. In contrast, wood floors and bare walls give your room a more live sound.

Set a tempo map

Before you start to record, set a tempo map of the song within your system. You do this by entering the number of measures, the time signature, and the tempo for each section of the song in the Tempo Map or Metronome dialog box of your system.

When it’s time to do your editing, just choose the section(s) of your song that you want to edit by cueing the measure and beat that you want to work with. This enables you to choose edit points much faster and more accurately.

Listen to your mix in mono

Listening to the song in mono enables you to see your mix differently and to hear whether any of your instruments are crowding out the others. Even if you like to have stuff moving in the mix, listening to your song in mono can help you to find problems in the arrangement.

Double and triple your tracks

If a track sounds thin to you in the mix, just make a copy of it onto an empty track and use both of them in the mix. This is especially useful for vocals, particularly backup vocals.

If you don’t have the tracks to spare, make a copy of the track you want to mult onto a separate virtual track and then combine those two tracks by using a bounce procedure. You can do this as many times as you want. Don’t overdo it, though — lots of thick tracks added together can create a muddy mix.

Tap the input of your mixer

Tapping the input of your mixer means eliminating the mixer’s circuitry from the signal. Depending on your mixer, this may provide you with a better sound going to disc. If you have an analog mixer, you may be able to tap the inputs when you record.

Tapping the inputs involves using a Y cable. The TRS plug of the Y cable connects to the mixer’s input jack, one of the TS plugs goes to your preamp, and the other TS plug goes to your recorder.

The downside to tapping the Inserts on your mixer is that your EQ or fader doesn’t affect the signal, so make sure that you get the best sound you can from your instrument and get the levels going into the mixer exactly how you want them going to tape.

Overdub live drums

You may find your drum machine or electronic drum set thin-sounding or a bit stiff. A good remedy for both the thinness and the stiffness can be overdubbing some real drums or cymbals to add to the electronic ones.

Press record, even during a rehearsal

Get your instruments, mics, and levels set before you start to rehearse your part. Then when you start to practice, press the Record button. You may be surprised when you catch the perfect performance before you plan to record a serious take.

Leave the humanity in your tracks

Don’t be so hooked on getting every note just right that you miss the feel of a performance. Listen to some of the greatest records, and you can hear little mistakes. In fact, it’s those little mistakes that often make records so great. So before you go editing the life out of your music, give it a good listen and see whether that “wrong” note gives the music character.