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Thread: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

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    Default Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    I want to record some mandolin tunes at home. However, I'm a total beginner with music recording, and I'm not sure where to start. What is some good equipment to look into, and what audio software would you recommend using? Any other advice for a newbie?

    Here are my ideal specifications:

    - I have an acoustic mandolin and a Windows laptop (Surface Book 2), so it should work with both.
    - Decent but affordable-- I'm not looking to sell CDs or anything. My ideal sound should be clear, pleasant and free of background noise. I'm OK with buying pre-used equipment.
    - Straightforward / easy to use.
    - It would be also really nice if the setup was decent at capturing voices- singing and talking.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    You'll need an audio interface, a microphone, and a DAW at the bare minimum. I would also suggest studio monitors if you can afford them.

    Can't go wrong with a Scarlett 2i2 for an audio interface I'm looking at a brand new one on Amazon right now for $159. Reaper is a DAW you can use for free. As far as microphones go, you get what you pay for. Do your research and shop around. If you also decide to get some monitors, don't go too cheap. Yamaha makes awesome monitors for a great price.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    You can use Reaper for 30 days for free. After that, buy a license. It's a fraction of the cost of the major DAWs but it does about everything those high cost DAWs will do. There's no copy protection or any crap with it because the developers trust you to do the right thing and pay for it. So do the right thing and pay for it so you don't screw it up for all the honest people. You get a ton of updates with your $50-60 license too. So far I've bought 2 licenses from version 2 to version 5. Will need to buy another to upgrade to 6. Well worth the $. If you want free, get Audacity.

    Most Zoom recorders (H1, H2, H4, H6, F4, etc.) will function as USB mics as well as stand-alone recorders. If you want to multitrack, you can plug them in and record as many tracks as you want.
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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Zoom H2's are really cheap now used...and work great.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Take a look at Spire Studio. It’s a small unit with a great mic and quiet preamps. It will record 8 tracks and works with your phone. Effects are good. Mixing is visual and easy as well. I have a full blown 24 track setup but use the spire for simpler stuff that I want to sound great! I highly recommend it.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Let me suggest a completely different route, and the one I actually use when I need to bang out a quick recording with no vocals.

    For reference I am an amateur sound engineer, own a 2i2, multiple mics, and use cubase (a Daw that came free with my Yamaha keyboards), and I prefer Midas mixers for live onstage use.

    I am also primarily a live player, and prefer pickups for a mobile and trouble-free stage experience. And own a bunch of digital pedals that let me EQ and process my sound just like I would if I am on the board working for the band (I do both, perform on stage, and work the board depending on the week).

    But when I need to bang something out quick, to post an NMD demo on the internet, or send to relatives, I never fire up the fancy stuff.


    I use a Bose looper pedal, and plugin my pickup. I have a tiny desktop full-frequency amp (Yamaha THR-10), both the laptop and the pedal plugs into it and it is always there so no setup or tear-down.

    Once I have a take I like, I upload it to the computer with a simple cable that wires the 1/4" mono looper pedal output to the 1/8" stereo input on the laptop. Press play on the pedal, and record on the built-in voice recorder on windows.

    So despite owning a lot of fancy stuff, when I need to bang something out, that is the dead-simple way to go. No setup or tear-down, no creating a new project in the DAW, just play, upload, and post.

    I do have a sound editting program that converts from the voice recorders .wav format to .mp3 and lets me trim dead-space from the beginning and end of tracks. Much easier to use than a DAW.
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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Your phone.
    Bren

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    I agree with Honeybucket on the Focusrite Scarlet 2xi or 4xi, these accept XLR or 1/4 inch inputs and will power mics and act as a basic preamp, this feeds into your PC via USB and can plug into any mixing/ recording software.

    Pro tools is subscription based and while useable may be a bit much for a first time user, I think Audacity is a good mixing software and it is free ( open source works on Windows ) and somewhat easier to use, I will say I don't think it has quite the "sound tools" the Pro tools has, but since I just mix raw audio anyway never really found a use for a lot of the standard features in Pro-Tools.

    add a decent Mic - I prefer the Sure SM-81 but that might be pricy to start.
    There are a lot of decent priced "starter packages" that provide the focus rite- the mic and stand and headphones and all your cables, check Sweetwater - also I hear Guitar Center recently filed for Chapter 11 so they might be having clearance events.
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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    All you need to get good audio results is a USB condenser microphone. They are not cheap but are easy to use; just plug it into your laptop, adjust the sound settings so the USB mike is being used instead of the internal microphone, turn on the laptop camera and away you go. Will pick up instrument and voice.
    If you want to make multitrack recordings you can download Audacity for free and invest in ear or headphones. When you have recorded the first track you listen to it through headphones when recording the second track.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Quote Originally Posted by maudlin mandolin View Post
    All you need to get good audio results is a USB condenser microphone. They are not cheap but are easy to use; just plug it into your laptop, adjust the sound settings so the USB mike is being used instead of the internal microphone, turn on the laptop camera and away you go. Will pick up instrument and voice.
    If you want to make multitrack recordings you can download Audacity for free and invest in ear or headphones. When you have recorded the first track you listen to it through headphones when recording the second track.
    +1 for the above. We use a Tonor Q9 microphone that goes for $50 on Amazon and get recordings that are better than a "Total Beginner" needs. Going more complicated than that is setting yourself up for a multitude of variables which will muddy your mental waters and make it impossible to figure out how to improve quality. I've been recording a long time and know that the most essential elements are;
    1) Get good sounds in your room
    2) Capture them accurately


    Use a regular mic and regular software to get started and work on producing good sounds more than anything. If you get good sounds and the Q9 doesn't capture them properly, move on to something better.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    I agree with MitchStein and maudlin mandolin. And with the mention of Audacity software, which is free and quite good.
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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    When folks ask me what acoustic guitar to buy their young son or daughter starting in on the instrument I always say "DON"T BUY ANYTHING !!!!..rent one for a month or two . Most kids don't stick with an instrument . Buying can be an unneccessary expense . Wait and see ""

    Getting into home recording with your computer can be a similar waste of time and money . It can be a learning curve many are not prepared to commit to and can't really afford . There are only about a million options when it comes to software , hardware ( speakers, mics, interfaces , cabling , etc etc etc...) incompatibilities with manufacturers, versions of a software , interfaces , midi controllers ...and oh yeah ....did I mention that learning curve ??

    Someone suggested buying a zoom handheld recorder ( they start around 100 bucks ) . Do that . You will always use it even if you decide that jumping into the deep end of recording isn't for you .

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    For recording software for a beginner, I would suggest Audacity.
    Audacity is an easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder
    for Windows, macOS, GNU/Linux and other operating systems.
    The software is free. though donations are appreciated.
    It is easier to learn than Reaper. Though Reaper is very good,
    I use both. They overlap in function to a degree.

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  22. #14

    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    All of the above suggestions have obvious merits. I’m a Mac guy and thusly inclined with hardware/software so I won’t further opine. Except to say, if you are like many people, you are about to embark on a journey that will end up being a lot more involved in terms of hardware and software than you suspect at the outset. Have fun.
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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Romkey View Post
    All of the above suggestions have obvious merits. Iím a Mac guy and thusly inclined with hardware/software so I wonít further opine. Except to say, if you are like many people, you are about to embark on a journey that will end up being a lot more involved in terms of hardware and software than you suspect at the outset. Have fun.
    Wait. Are you suggesting that buying recording equipment can be as addicting as buying instruments?

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    As Michael said - all of these suggestions have their merits.
    -> Important point: If you want to do multi-tracking you must have headphones or at least some type of earbuds, to listen to and play along with the tracks you've already recorded. I use earbuds with the phone, and closed-back over-the-ear headphones with a Scarlett.

    It doesn't get much simpler than using your phone. Check out this nice recording Mark did on his:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ike-A-Crawfish

    If you also have interest in video, you might want to check out this thread:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...video-software

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    I second the vote for either a Zoom hand held recorder or the Spire. I have used both. Currently I have a Zoom H6 that I picked up for a great price second hand and the sound quality is great from the mics provided with it, plus it has phantom power capabilities so you can also use outboard mics (I have two Rode NT3's that I use with it). For simple multi-track recording it could be just what you're looking for, with the added benefit of it coming in handy in other realms, such as recording workshops or lessons etc. to be able to refer back to later.

    I had the Spire when I was living in the States and really liked it - very easy to use and I really liked the sound quality. It can also be used with outboard mics or the internal mic. The only reason I sold it was that I moved back home to Ireland and needed to lighten the load.
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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    I think most phones will record with reasonable quality, you can just get a good microphone.
    I bought a Boya MM1 at about 35 dollars plus a 5 metre (about 16 foot) extension cable for 4 dollars.
    Check my vids at the link bellow to get an idea of the quality -it’s not bad at all. The extension cable drops quality a bit...
    I take the vids, edit them (beginning and end) on the phone and then simply upload them to YouTube. Thats it.

    Microphone placement is really important. Hard floor or carpet? etc.

    Now that my playing has improved I’m thinking of upgrading I did use a 400 dollar hand held recorder one time and they have a lot of things going for them. Naming each mp3 is one important factor I think. - though if you’re recording a lot of tunes, you can just put your hand up at the end of each good take and say the name of the tune while playing the clicktrack (if you’using one) out loud. Easy to edit them out later.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Have a look at the Audient EVO 4. Simple to use and they sound great.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    I think all of the above recommendations will work. I would like to make the OP aware of a factor that is frequently ignored, the space you record in. It doesn't have to be an expensive studio but consider the room. Try not to have to many hard surfaces near each other. Try not to be perpendicular to her surfaces. Fans, heaters, humidifiers, and espeially dimmers can add a lot of noise. Sometimes just moving in a room can make a big difference.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    For super quick recordings to get the idea down etc, I just use my phone.

    For songs that I'm working on and need multi-track, I use Logic X (~$300) with a Focusrite Scarlette 18i8 (~$500). I use a late 2013 iMac as my computer as well.

    If it's just me recording, I only need two inputs (one for the mando, one for a mic) generally. However, having the ability to have 4 at once (which is why I chose the 18i8) is great since I frequently will use both the piezo pickup and a microphone pickup at the same time for the mandolin. Mixing those two types of sounds is a great way to balance tone IMO. That's why I opted for the 4 input 18i8 at ~$500 vs the 2 input 2i2 model at ~$100. Also, fairly sure the 2i2 doesn't support MIDI which is a nice capability for an input.

    I use a Shure PG42 mic generally. I got it a while ago, but they are ~$199 and great for home recording. I have that mounted on my desk with a clip-on mic stand - I cannot express how awesome it is to not deal with setting up the mic stand and etc. Plus, since I use a electronic standing desk, the mic moves with the desk - which is awesome.
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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Stein View Post
    +1 for the above. We use a Tonor Q9 microphone that goes for $50 on Amazon and get recordings that are better than a "Total Beginner" needs.
    I just want to say thanks to Mitch for his suggestion. I play in a slow fiddle jam that met in library meeting rooms to play. After Covid shut down that option, the jam leader and I flipped for it and I got to be the online Zoom jam leader. My fancy-schmancy, less than 4 month old laptop proved to have a truly lousy mike and camera. Sound was horrible. I tweaked Zoom but the sound was still lousy. I started using a basic USB webcam, and the picture improved very much, but the audio only slightly. I started looking at microphone options. I know nothing about professional or studio mikes, so I tried reading all the articles like "10 Best USB mikes", "Best Microphones to Record at Home", etc, etc. My brain turned to mush. Nowhere could I find something described in terms that my mind could translate into the likes of "Best Mike to Play Slow Jam Tunes on Fiddle on Zoom", admittedly a rather small niche. Then I saw Mitch's post, and just like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, little cartoon clouds parted and shining cartoon trumpets played ringing fanfares. Aha, I said, this is exactly what I need. I ordered one, set it up, and used on the next jam. Everyone said that they immediately noted a big improvement in the sound quality. I ran the video recording back on VLC and the audio on Audacity, and it is markedly better. Mission accomplished, and cheaply, to boot. This is one of the many reasons I spend way too much time on this forum.
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  38. #23

    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    A loaded question on a slippery slope. I had the same question over 20 years ago. I found 2 answers. 1st, a "alls-ya-needs-a" which quickly turns into 2nd, a "now-ya-gotta-get-a". Indeed though, things are way different and there are tons, if not too many, cheap ways to get the job done. And for me personally, technology has way surpassed my digital studio set up and I haven't chased new versions of anything for years now. I did get back then some very good mics, very good mic pres and A/D conversion, and have very good instruments. Anything after that is just different ways to manage 1's and 0's. Good luck.

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    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    This hobby can be a bottomless rabbit hole.
    I am often reminded of the sentiment "Perfect is the enemy of good enough"

  40. #25

    Default Re: Home Recording Setup for Total Beginner?

    I have a Fostex MR8, with nice mikes, etc. Really haven't used it for years. The modern smartphone has enough quality for me. No, it's not press-ready recordings. But anything good comes through regardless. Just like all the equipment in the world can't shine up poor playing and/or singing.

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