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The Trombone ForumHorns, Gear, and EquipmentTechnology(Moderator: john sandhagen) Home Recording Studio Discussion
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harrison.t.reed
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« on: Sep 20, 2017, 07:17AM »

Hey all. I have the opportunity to set up a small recording studio when I move in a few months, setting it up in a spare bedroom. I was thinking of joining a home recording forum, but I figured there might be some savvy cats on here (Mike Lake comes to mind) who might have some ideas and answers.

I am sure I am not the only one who has dreamed of laying down some tracks at home, so I was hoping this thread could act as a general discussion of home recording.

First off, what my goals are for my studio -- I hope to start recording some music for trombone and piano, both classic pieces that we all know and love as well as original pieces I've composed. I also want a space that's set up and ready to go so I can create instructional videos using the same audio setup. I've already partially achieved this at work, but set up and tear down makes it too time consuming and nearly impossible to get a consistent sound (since the equipment is sensitive to how it's set up).

The gear I'm using is a two input Focusrite audio interface, a middle of the road large condenser mic, FL Studio's DAW, Piano in Blue v2 piano sound library controlled by midi, and Altverb as the main reverb plugin, which puts the mono source trombone recording at a specified place in a digital hall, and outputs beautiful stereo sound with reverb. Also, I use Sennheiser open back monitors while recording so that I can play normally. Closed back and in ear monitors make it impossible to play. Bleed isn't too much of an issue when revording brass.

This setup is actually pretty fantastic. A high end piano sound library like Piano in Blue, when played  by a friend on a midi keyboard, sounds better than any real life piano that I have access to, and since you can try out different mic placements and levels after the actual performance, it also is recorded better than anything I could do. What's more, the midi file that controls the library can be edited after the fact as well, so you can create a recording of a performance that never really happened. I could even remove the pianist altogether by exporting the midi from sibelius and humanizing it in FL Studio. Then it's just a matter of recording with a click track to the piano file.

Some things that I've been wondering about though:

1. Pianos are machines. They are comparatively easy to make a sound library out of than, say, a brass instrument. The day I can make an entire orchestra out of sound libraries is not here yet. However, I've looked into libraries like Vienna Instruments Solo Strings I, and I'll be damned if those strings don't sound like people are playing them. It's obvious that you need a lot of midi controllers to make a line sound real, but apparently lots of movie and TV music is "recorded" by just using these sound libraries. Does anyone on the forum have any insight to how to best use these libraries in music production? What else is out there besides Vienna Instruments  (it's prohibitively expensive!)?

2. If I lay down a couple of tracks that I like and it's worth pursuing further, and decide to put together an album for fun, what should I record? I was thinking of doing something similar to the audition CD Carl Lenthe did, with pieces that are commonly played by trombonists in school but just are not recorded anywhere. Barat's Andante & Allegro and the Nesterov Concerto come to mind.

3. Are there any big things I'm missing for equipment? The tapes I made with this setup for auditions in the past all sounded professional, but I bet I'm missing something big
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« Reply #1 on: Sep 20, 2017, 08:10AM »

Zac should definitely jump in and contribute!

I've got a simple setup, maybe too simple, but I don't dabble with sound libraries, so I can't be of much help.

I've got a Korg SP-100 stage piano, a Heil PR-40 dynamic mic, and a Sony music video camera plugged into a Yamaha mixer, that is patched into the computer through the line input. Like I said, very simple.

I look forward though to learning a lot on this thread. Thanks for starting it.
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« Reply #2 on: Sep 20, 2017, 08:33AM »

I look forward though to learning a lot on this thread. Thanks for starting it.

Me too!

Jerry Walker
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« Reply #3 on: Sep 20, 2017, 10:38AM »

If you haven't already, check out Mike's various youtube videos. He covers mic technique and basic signal processing for the stuff he does. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4eBkBctTQ9MNOIr8lkU44A
It's important to know what sound you want to achieve before you start, and keep the fiddling to a minimum.

I'm not exactly a professional, but I do have my own home studio, and have worked with numerous ska bands, jazz combos, and audition recordings in a local studio that deals mainly with music students in the area. I've done live sound and recording for a couple venues, and church bands.

For recording, mic placement is the single most important thing in determining the sound that you get. If you like the articulation and detail of the sound with the mic close up, then you won't really have too much effect from the room, but if you have the mic further back, and you're going to be adding digital reverb after the fact, you don't want to throw the listener off with a mismatch between the recorded room sound and the reverb room sound. Good bass traps and broadband absorbers will help. This is my preferred budget source. http://www.foambymail.com/acoustical-foam-products.html Though you can get away with couch cushions in the corners and moviing blankets draped over doors if you want a real dead space for the mic. Very narrow band EQ cuts can get rid of room resonances, as well as keeping the mic away from reflective surfaces.

Finding a good mic placement by yourself is more trial and error, but usually we have the performer play from a corner of the room, and then we'll walk the mic around the room with someone listening until we hear what we want.

For monitoring while playing, I usually end up using a set of wireless IEMs with only the right ear in.

I'm not familiar with the Vienna libraries, but with reasonable keys skills and a bit of time, you can create very passable section performances by yourself with just a basic set of string sounds. As long as you have a good string tone and know how a string section would approach the parts, you can get great results.

You record multiple takes of each orchestra part so you can get individual performances by "multiple" players in the section, and then duplicate and layer them with slightly different EQ. It creates a more genuine chorus/section effect, and really adds weight and depth to the sounds. You can touch up with some automation and fast compression/expansion to adjust the articulations. Altiverb should allow you to place these "different performers" practically in different seats in the hall to build the orchestra section.

This is the same technique that engineers use for horn sections, group vocals, and drum and guitar sounds that need to be larger.

You should record whatever you're passionate about. Don't record something just because it's a standard when you could be recording something that's never been done before.

The Focusrite interface and preamps are really good for the money, and if you're happy with your mic, or you've worked out an EQ to compensate for its qualities, then you should be set. It's not necessary, but when you have an itch to upgrade something, I recommend adding a proper tube preamp with impedance matching as a worthwhile investment, not the cheap starved plate pocket boxes, an actual rack mount high voltage job. Don't use cheap XLR cables, or the mic will be lifeless before it even gets to the preamp.

Gear isn't nearly as important as skills. A good engineer would have no problem getting a fantastic recording in your home studio, and a $12,000 signal chain in your bedroom won't make your recordings sound great if you don't know what you're doing.
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« Reply #4 on: Sep 20, 2017, 10:49AM »

Yes, I agree about mic placement, and I've found that mic type greatly effects where you need to place the mic.

Also, you nailed it with Altverb. Being able to physically place the instrument and recorded audio within the digital space is crazy!

For my purposes, since I'm using a digital room (small chapel really) in post production, I don't want too much of the real world room in the audio. I've found that the mic sounds best if it's parallel  with the floor (for a condenser, that means straight up and down) placed on a boom stand facing towards the bell, and two meters in front and half a meter above the bell.

I think that the room itself matters almost more than mic placement. For example, an isolation Wenger module sounds good for this kind of placement until you start playing on the bottom line of the bass clef. No amount of EQ can save that. I'll be putting up some bass traps and deflectors on the corners and walls of my room for sure.

For what to record, I do want to record pieces that I'm passionate about, but I also think it's a shame that many of the pieces that high schoolers play for district or all state auditions, and then use on college entrance auditions after they do well in all state, have either not been recorded or only have one recording by Carl Lenthe. No, it's not a macho thing to record this music, and some of the pieces on high school district/all state lists aren't worth recording, but a lot of them are perfectly fine. Plus it'd be a great first project while I arrange other tunes.
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88HTCL - Griego 1C
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« Reply #5 on: Sep 20, 2017, 11:03AM »

If you haven't already, check out Mike's various youtube videos. He covers mic technique and basic signal processing for the stuff he does. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4eBkBctTQ9MNOIr8lkU44A
It's important to know what sound you want to achieve before you start, and keep the fiddling to a minimum.

I'm not exactly a professional, but I do have my own home studio, and have worked with numerous ska bands, jazz combos, and audition recordings in a local studio that deals mainly with music students in the area. I've done live sound and recording for a couple venues, and church bands.

For recording, mic placement is the single most important thing in determining the sound that you get. If you like the articulation and detail of the sound with the mic close up, then you won't really have too much effect from the room, but if you have the mic further back, and you're going to be adding digital reverb after the fact, you don't want to throw the listener off with a mismatch between the recorded room sound and the reverb room sound. Good bass traps and broadband absorbers will help. This is my preferred budget source. http://www.foambymail.com/acoustical-foam-products.html Though you can get away with couch cushions in the corners and moviing blankets draped over doors if you want a real dead space for the mic. Very narrow band EQ cuts can get rid of room resonances, as well as keeping the mic away from reflective surfaces.

Finding a good mic placement by yourself is more trial and error, but usually we have the performer play from a corner of the room, and then we'll walk the mic around the room with someone listening until we hear what we want.

For monitoring while playing, I usually end up using a set of wireless IEMs with only the right ear in.

I'm not familiar with the Vienna libraries, but with reasonable keys skills and a bit of time, you can create very passable section performances by yourself with just a basic set of string sounds. As long as you have a good string tone and know how a string section would approach the parts, you can get great results.

You record multiple takes of each orchestra part so you can get individual performances by "multiple" players in the section, and then duplicate and layer them with slightly different EQ. It creates a more genuine chorus/section effect, and really adds weight and depth to the sounds. You can touch up with some automation and fast compression/expansion to adjust the articulations. Altiverb should allow you to place these "different performers" practically in different seats in the hall to build the orchestra section.

This is the same technique that engineers use for horn sections, group vocals, and drum and guitar sounds that need to be larger.

You should record whatever you're passionate about. Don't record something just because it's a standard when you could be recording something that's never been done before.

The Focusrite interface and preamps are really good for the money, and if you're happy with your mic, or you've worked out an EQ to compensate for its qualities, then you should be set. It's not necessary, but when you have an itch to upgrade something, I recommend adding a proper tube preamp with impedance matching as a worthwhile investment, not the cheap starved plate pocket boxes, an actual rack mount high voltage job. Don't use cheap XLR cables, or the mic will be lifeless before it even gets to the preamp.

Gear isn't nearly as important as skills. A good engineer would have no problem getting a fantastic recording in your home studio, and a $12,000 signal chain in your bedroom won't make your recordings sound great if you don't know what you're doing.

You mentioned using better quality cables. Why? Isn't wire, wire and all they are supposed to do is act as conductors? Is there some wire that is better than others as far as getting a more "lively" sound to the preamp?   Don't know

You aren't advocating platinum wire with silver connectors are you? $8-16K for a home recording studio?

...Geezer
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harrison.t.reed
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« Reply #6 on: Sep 20, 2017, 11:17AM »

Probably the quality and coating of the connection points is what matters most. The gold plated stuff gives you higher fidelity.
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88HTCL - Griego 1C
36H - DE XT105, C+, D Alto Shank
3B/F Silversonic - Griego 1A ss
pBone (with Yellow bell for bright tone)
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« Reply #7 on: Sep 20, 2017, 11:23AM »

Probably the quality and coating of the connection points is what matters most. The gold plated stuff gives you higher fidelity.

Have you bought into that "Monster Wire" meme the salesmen want us to buy for our home entertainment centers? That's probably just to boost their commissions. I have heard a set-up wired both ways; cheap vs "Monster Wire". I can't hear a difference. Sorry, but I must question that. I mean, if we are talking nth degree and money is no object...

That rant made, yeah - gold connectors - why not. Affordable for most.

...Geezer
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« Reply #8 on: Sep 20, 2017, 11:45AM »

Have you bought into that "Monster Wire" meme the salesmen want us to buy for our home entertainment centers? That's probably just to boost their commissions. I have heard a set-up wired both ways; cheap vs "Monster Wire". I can't hear a difference. Sorry, but I must question that. I mean, if we are talking nth degree and money is no object...

That rant made, yeah - gold connectors - why not. Affordable for most.

...Geezer

Audio signals are low voltage signals to begin with. So, it doesn't take too much noise to become noticeable.



So, cheap XLRs can suffer from:
Cheap materials like thin copper wire, not efficient shielding, cheap XLR connectors, bad soldering joints(if it is even soldered), and bad connections in the mating of the XLR connectors.

You mentioned Monster Cables, which are usually used for HDMI cables for HD video. Signals can be affected if the bandwidth of the cable isn't sufficient for the bandwidth required for HD video.




 
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« Reply #9 on: Sep 20, 2017, 12:05PM »

Audio signals are low voltage signals to begin with. So, it doesn't take too much noise to become noticeable.

~snip~

Signals can be affected if the bandwidth of the cable isn't sufficient for the bandwidth required for HD video.

Yup, a good analogy is current vs wire gauge. Too small of a wire gauge means you can't pass enough current (or, it'll work but heat up and you risk fires). Too large of a wire gauge, and you're throwing money away, but not too many other detriments IME.

I've bought a large amount of wire and cabling that looks like it is large diameter but it really is just a ton of insulation on a dinky little wire. Cheap wire from amazon is notorious for being many gauges smaller than the measured OD would normally indicate.

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« Reply #10 on: Sep 20, 2017, 12:44PM »

What is recommended and what is a good source for a better grade XLR cable?

...Geezer
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« Reply #11 on: Sep 20, 2017, 02:20PM »

What is recommended and what is a good source for a better grade XLR cable?

...Geezer

If you don't hear any problems with your current setup, I wouldn't sweat it.
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« Reply #12 on: Sep 20, 2017, 02:37PM »

Lol. I am never completely happy with the quality of my home recordings. I am always looking for a better way. I just started recording my solo track in stereo and that has helped. Of course, I learned a long time ago that the best & fastest way to improve a home recording is to play better!  ;-)

So you guys got me to thinking that perhaps all cables are not created equal. But getting "better" cables to the interface is only half of it. What good would that do if the cable going to my processor sucks. So I guess it would also effect sound quality?

...Geezer
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« Reply #13 on: Sep 20, 2017, 02:50PM »

the most important thing for you is going to be room treatment.
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« Reply #14 on: Sep 20, 2017, 02:54PM »

You mentioned using better quality cables. Why? Isn't wire, wire and all they are supposed to do is act as conductors? Is there some wire that is better than others as far as getting a more "lively" sound to the preamp?   Don't know

You aren't advocating platinum wire with silver connectors are you? $8-16K for a home recording studio?

...Geezer

No actually platinum wire and silver connectors would be a terrible idea. Gold plating is used for corrosion resistance, and the softness ensures a stable ground connection. Silver wire and gold plated platinum connectors might not be too bad though...

I was speaking about how the capacitance mostly, but also the reactance, and therefore the impedance of the cabling can affect the signal even in the short 10 meter runs. These are things that the cheaper cable manufacturers don't care about because their consumers also don't care. But there is a difference in high end detail at the end of the cable with cheap ones compared to the trusted stuff and I've heard it myself. We're dealing with very small voltages in the waveform that you're carrying. Just adding more shielding to keep ambient EMI out ends up affecting the frequency response, and when you're talking about condenser mics, you've essentially created a powered antenna. It's really important that the capsule bias voltage remains rock steady despite the outside noise so the mic can work as intended. Mono XLR, and TRS is used as a balanced connector, meaning it's a differential pair and ideally any noise picked up by the cable will be cancelled out at the preamp, but the voltage supply to the mic will still be affected by the noise. Unless your microphone cost less than your cable, Amazed there's usually enough filtering in the circuit board of the mic itself to deal with that. Some cabling rated for AES and digital mics has to be able to preserve proper limits on fall and rise times of the signal down to tens of nanoseconds, as well as phase shift issues.

There's a reason why the Mogami cables cost more than the amazon stuff, and it's not just the name. There's the lifetime warranty, and there's all the engineering that went into it. You'll see high end mic companies like Neumann actually list distances in cabling that the tube mic power supply, and the transformerless mics can drive, without significant loss or distortion of the signal.

Quad cables aren't necessary, but they do halve the chance of getting a loose connection. I don't recommend Monster Cable the brand just due to what I've heard about their business practices, but most of their products are quite good quality.
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« Reply #15 on: Sep 20, 2017, 03:10PM »

So you guys got me to thinking that perhaps all cables are not created equal. But getting "better" cables to the interface is only half of it. What good would that do if the cable going to my processor sucks. So I guess it would also effect sound quality?

USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt and most digital connections are all made such that there's no possible way the signal can be affected, if the connection is working. It'll just send the data again if it gets garbled, though this could mean increased latency or the connection cutting in and out if you're near the max bandwidth. You can get either active repeaters to extend the cabling or ethernet/optical converters if you're having issues.
http://www.yourcablestore.com/USB-Cable-Length-Limitations-And-How-To-Break-Them_ep_42-1.html


The only issue might be getting enough power to the interface if you bought a 30 ft USB cable for $.99. And maybe picking up noise on the power conductor, but again there should be sufficient filtering and regulation in the interface that this shouldn't be any issue.
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« Reply #16 on: Sep 20, 2017, 03:21PM »

Very, very cool guys!

 Good!

I know what my Christmas present is going to be; better cables! Bookmarked! Lol

...Geezer
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« Reply #17 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:58PM »

What is recommended and what is a good source for a better grade XLR cable?

...Geezer

Mogami is one possibility: http://www.mogamicable.com
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« Reply #18 on: Sep 20, 2017, 06:11PM »

Yep. That's what I'm looking at and I should rearrange to keep the cables as short as possible. If it's a weak point in my home recording studio, it is easily correctable for a little bit of money, instead of a lot of money.

...Geezer
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« Reply #19 on: Sep 20, 2017, 07:40PM »

What is recommended and what is a good source for a better grade XLR cable?

...Geezer

Audiopile sells some fairly high quality mic cable for not much money.  http://www.audiopile.net/pro-quad-microphone-cables

They sell three different "levels" of mic cable, and I have all three in my recording and sound reinforcement rigs. 

Want Starquad cable with some high end XLRs?  Redco can custom make them for a fair price.  https://www.redco.com/

Doug
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