Making a Home Demo


hdoran
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hdoran
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01/07/2014 5:38 pm
All

I have a 5 piece band (two guitars, bass, drums, and vocals) and we are trying to make a demo using equipment we have at home.

I own a Tascam 1800 and plug this into a Mac with Garageband. We have captured our live sound and done some basic mixing, but there is some bleed and we want to experiment and see if we can make a better demo by laying down tracks individually.

I have 0 experience in doing this and am seeking some advice from those who have done this before. Here is a rough draft of how I was thinking of doing this.

Can you correct me where I might be wrong or suggest other ideas?

1) First make a scratch track of the whole band playing the song

2) Second, have the drummer play by himself and record him only while listening to the scratch track using headphones

3) Third, now add in the rhythm section. I was thinking of doing both the bass and rhythm guitar at the same time. This is where I get a little confused. Should the two guitars also listen to the scratch or should we play along to the new drum track somehow

4) Now, mix these parts together and then have the lead guitar lay down a track

5) Last, mix them all and then lay down the vocal track

Does this make any sense?
# 1
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/07/2014 7:45 pm
Yes, it makes sense. The hardest thing about recording with live instruments, especially drums, in a home environment is isolation (as you've already discovered) the sound of the room, and the quality of the recording gear. In a true studio environment, pretty much every drum would be individually miked, and have its own dedicated channel. Cymbals might share a mike, but kick, snare, toms & hi-hat would all be separate. They would also record in a room designed to record drums, so any room ambience would be complementary, though normally the rooms will be acoustically "dead" so that a very clean, neutral recording is made, which can then be treated in post-production. Finally, probably a few thousand dollars worth of mikes will be used, each one specific to its task. So that gives you an idea of how they get drums sounding good on albums. There are exceptions of course... if think there was an album recorded by the "Cowboy Junkies" where they reputedly used one mic for the whole band. Not sure if that's true though.

If at all possible, I'd have the drummer play to a click track, with the band, recording just the drums... that may not be possible with your setup. If not, then the scratch track idea should work.

After that, you'll want to record the bass and then rhythm guitars and any other rhythm instruments. From that point on, keep in mind that you're multi-tracking. There's no need to mix at this point... just keep recording additional tracks. You can pick and choose what you want to be able to hear... for instance, a vocalist may not need to hear a second guitar part, but just the bass, drums, and rhythm guitar.

Once you have everything recorded, you can do a final mix. Its still not a bad idea though that you have of doing mixes along the way so that way you can hear how things are fitting together. Sometimes when you record a whole bunch of tracks that you think will sound great, they actually don't mix well.

Do all this stuff just for fun, but before you put too much effort into a serious recording, consider perhaps booking time at a studio. A "semi-professional" studio can be really affordable, and having a set amount of time will force you to focus and get it done. Its also a really great experience to go and record with your band mates in a studio environment.
# 2
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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01/08/2014 12:46 pm
Originally Posted by: hdoranAll

I have a 5 piece band (two guitars, bass, drums, and vocals) and we are trying to make a demo using equipment we have at home.

I own a Tascam 1800 and plug this into a Mac with Garageband. We have captured our live sound and done some basic mixing, but there is some bleed and we want to experiment and see if we can make a better demo by laying down tracks individually.

I have 0 experience in doing this and am seeking some advice from those who have done this before. Here is a rough draft of how I was thinking of doing this.

Can you correct me where I might be wrong or suggest other ideas?

1) First make a scratch track of the whole band playing the song

2) Second, have the drummer play by himself and record him only while listening to the scratch track using headphones

3) Third, now add in the rhythm section. I was thinking of doing both the bass and rhythm guitar at the same time. This is where I get a little confused. Should the two guitars also listen to the scratch or should we play along to the new drum track somehow

4) Now, mix these parts together and then have the lead guitar lay down a track

5) Last, mix them all and then lay down the vocal track

Does this make any sense?


First, go here to get the best advice on home recording. It is awesome.

But it depends on how much bleed you have. If its a a little ambient bleed, in a way, it is somewhat desirable. If it is too present when you move the fader up on that channel, then you should look at doing distinct tracks.

Some of your questions are hard to answer without hearing the track itself. For ultimate ability to mix, recording everyone separate from a scratch track is ideal.

As for mixing, you should not spend much time mixing while recording tracks and that includes the vocals. When a track is laid down, just give it a very quick rough mix and then record the next. Including vocals.

A very key thought on recording: Frequencies you record want to compete with each other. Mixing is the art of removing the frequency overlap. That is the different in a clear, clean mix and a muddy mix. Because of that, before you mix in ernest, have everything recorded.

Go to the Recording Revolution and learn about Gain Staging, Mic Placement, Mixing Balance, Subtractive Mixing and about anything else you think applies. It is a great resource and he focuses on people like us that are not able to have $1000 microphones and the perfect room to record.
# 3
maggior
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maggior
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01/08/2014 1:57 pm
Originally Posted by: JeffS65A very key thought on recording: Frequencies you record want to compete with each other. Mixing is the art of removing the frequency overlap. That is the different in a clear, clean mix and a muddy mix. Because of that, before you mix in ernest, have everything recorded.


I had never heard that - it makes sense! I'll have to check out the website since I've always found this stuff interesting and I'm now starting to record guitar over backing tracks.
# 4
hdoran
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hdoran
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01/10/2014 8:33 pm
These responses are extremely helpful and I have learned a lot through the resources you posted and my own experimentation.

As a follow up, can anyone help me with the "magic frequencies" I am learning about. Does anyone have a good resource for how they tend to use them for the different instruments and, if possible, how you tend to use Garageband to achieve them and separate out competing sounds
# 5
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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01/10/2014 9:16 pm
Originally Posted by: hdoranThese responses are extremely helpful and I have learned a lot through the resources you posted and my own experimentation.

As a follow up, can anyone help me with the "magic frequencies" I am learning about. Does anyone have a good resource for how they tend to use them for the different instruments and, if possible, how you tend to use Garageband to achieve them and separate out competing sounds


EQ is probably the most powerful tool you have.

Along that line, learning how to use the Low-Pass Filter, High Pass Filter and simple EQing. The loaded EQ in Garageband AUGraphicEQ is pretty powerful so you don't need anything special.

After that, learning how to use Compression with finesse and a tiny amount reverb. These are your most powerful tools...

Oh, one last thing...Understanding how much the bass guitar supports the guitars in a mix. Many guitar players chronically under-mix the bass.
# 6
fretsmith
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fretsmith
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01/12/2014 6:18 pm
Hi hdoran- I don't have anything to contribute except to say I've heard (what I thot were) really nice live recordings made from an old Marantz Field Recorder, onto cassette tape, with a total of two knobs ... and I've heard recordings that were multi-tracked / layered / mixed / eq'd / etc. etc. that were kind of painful to listen to. Lucky for you there are a ton of resources out there on this subject.

Any way you could put your results up here? I'd be interested in hearing the difference between your all-in/one take recording and the one you multi-track and digitally construct.

Good Luck
# 7
hdoran
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hdoran
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01/14/2014 3:45 pm
Thanks again to all the help. As an experiment, I have placed two samples at the link below.

This is my first time mixing and I tried to work on three things, and clearly am not very good yet. I tried to work on the following:

1) "presence": I am thinking about stage presence where the vocalist is front and center and the drum kit in the back, etc. To achieve this is adjusted various volume levels in the mix
2) "Spread" and by this I mean how I try to capture a stereo sound through the pan pots
3) "frequency" I tried to adjust frequency some to avoid all pieces in the same competing space. I have found this to be extremely challenging.

http://www.reverbnation.com/redstar124

I am genuinely interested in your honest feedback and if possible any specific advice that would help me learn more about mixing.

I have found that listening to these on different speakers makes a huge difference as well. It sounds worst on computers and best at home through multiple speakers.
# 8
fretsmith
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fretsmith
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01/14/2014 8:38 pm
Damn. If this is your first shot at recording I would say you have a very bright future. I liked it, think you did a very good job, and think your band is real solid.

From a critical ear (hopefully this is what you mean when soliciting "honest opinions") I would say that the things you listed as - items you are working on- are exactly right. But you got a good handle on them already.

Drums. Tough one. I don't know whether it's a miking issue or a room issue but (to me ) they just aren't recording well. ( no dig on the drummer ). It's kind of like the drums are the first thing you hear in the mix. But it's not just a simple "level" matter. It's just something about how they are being recorded. I wish I could tell you exactly WHAT to do but all I can say is maybe resource some info directly related to drum recording and experiment a little bit?

To qualify my participation I admit I have limited experience with recording. However my son-in-law is a working musician and finishing up his degree in sound engineering and we talk about recording (which he is VERY passionate about) a lot and I've spent some time at the studio. He has the luxury of schooling at what is touted as the 2nd best recording studio in North America. He graduates in April and already has studio work waiting in Nashville. Pretenses aside, he's a really good guy and if you would really like advice from someone who is well qualified to critique a recording and offer very specific advice - I could get him to do that. Just let me know.

Great band. Great recording. I think you could definitely have a career in music.
# 9


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01/16/2014 9:43 am
Great job,really like fretsmith said very tight.but IMO drums way to loud. Great job just lower the sound on the drums the high hat especially .
# 10
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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01/19/2014 2:13 pm
It sounds very 'live'...as if it was recorded at a club. Not this would be abd thing but, you are going for a studio recording. I am focusing on 'Rockin' in a Free World.'..So, a few thing below:

1) Vocals, way too present in the mix. Vocals do need to have a solid presence in the mix, no doubt. However, the remainder of the mix is lost behind it.
2) The guitars, while audible, are not very alive in the mix. I hear the guitar but I don't feel them.
3) Drums, like another said, are pretty loud in the mix. Moreover, the hi-hat is very splashy. Drums that are recorded as, perhaps, one channel are very challenging. I mean, it would be good to have a little noise gating on the hi-hat but suspect that may be harder to do.

With that said, it is a good live mix.

One thing I would say is if you used a good bit of reverb, back off from that. It sound very echo-y. Reverb is like salt on a steak; it can make something good that much better but too much and it's then a bad thing. I think particularly for this set up, you may want to still work with the EQ quite a bit. Also, because it is a very loose mix, trying to strategically add compression (check out here and here ).

The mix isn't bad so much as the way it was recorded needs some finessing with the tools you have available.
# 11
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/20/2014 8:42 am
Originally Posted by: JeffS65It sounds very 'live'...as if it was recorded at a club.


Agree with everything that Jeff said... I didn't want to sound negative, so while I did listen to both songs not long after you posted, when I saw that people were really taken with the recording, I didn't want to come across as too much of a downer. But what Jeff wrote is pretty much identical to my thoughts.

Hdoran, you were looking for honest feedback... to me, the recording sounds like you're fighting with issues that may be beyond your control. In other words, you're not getting a great result, but it sure isn't for lack of trying!

I've been through it myself... many years ago when I was in a band, we tried to record our rehearsals, but the results were similar.. boxy, muddy sounding... its tough. We tried different miking and eq techniques, nothing worked well. Then one day we weren't setup to record, so I recorded on a cassette with a cheap Radio Shack ghetto blaster that had two built in mics. For what it was, it sounded amazing...all the instruments were well defined, and it was actually pretty listenable... go figure!

It might be worth trying just a simple hand-held recorder that has stereo mics just to see if you get close enough with minimal effort. After that, I think you have to get serious about isolation and controlling room noise. I've done a number of studio recordings in my day, and it seems like there's just a point where you have to step up big time to get things sounding noticeably better.

I did notice that the hi-hat was really splashy too. I don't how it sounds in the room, but its good to have a drummer be attentive to how much their cymbal hits are filling up the mix.
# 12
hdoran
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hdoran
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01/20/2014 1:08 pm
This is great feedback! I really appreciate this. I see no way to improve without learning what sounds right and what does not.
# 13

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