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Thread Yet another newbie on ground zero...

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1 Yet another newbie on ground zero...

Band: Lead Guitar, Bass, Synth, Drums, Vocal
Type of Music: Rock
Location: unfurnished basement
Recording-related Gear: PIII-800 with 512MB, Audigy Platinum, CoolEdit, Premiere; mixer with 5 pre-amp; 2 dynamic mics (low-end audiotechnica); SONY MDRV600 headphone and some Aiwa mini-system as monitor.

Purpose: Recording for fun, demo to get gigs - to have sound good enough to avoid comments like "you did it in someone's basement with a camcorder, didn't you?". Or sounds like "did you recorded from a studio?" to a casual listener. Also - go for the cheap! And buy only when making a big difference.

We can get reasonable sound from guitars and synth because signals are directly transmitted via wire. However the two main obstacles are:

1. Vocal - what is the major factor here? A good condenser mic??? Man, these are so expensive... and they have not much other application than just vocal recording. And after mixing, the vocal always sounds so 'home-made', 'camcorder-like'. After-the-fact reverb doesn't help too much - making it sounds too fake/unnatural. BTW, what are the 'Chinese' condenser that people keep talking about? What brand are they referring to?

2. Drums - what is the major factor to get good sound here? Currently we place one dynamic inside kick 2 inchs away from inner membrane, the other dynamic overhead capturing everything else. We also followed a lot of advices from various places on web about how to place mic and stuff, but still getting results like these:
- snare/kicks either being too muddy/mushy, and/or sounding from a distance
- toms are clean but too loud
- cymbals not crisp, too quiet, and/or from a distance

The major problem is "sounding from a distance", or "not studio-like" or just plain bad. I dunno how to describe it. Is buying a set of drum mic a good long-term investment for gig/recording? Or buy some good dynamic like SM57 for generic use? A lot of drum mic kits are definitely cheaper than buying four SM57s plus a kick mic. Another thing is that the drum set is backing against a wall - shall it be in the middle of the room?

3. Mixing technique - we choose to record one track at a time and mix afterwards for easier management (volume control and panning can change afterwards) and don't have to shoot for a perfect hit on all things all at once. We use CoolEdit to record one track at a time and save as .wav with 16-bit and 48 (I don't find 16vs24bits and 44.1 vs 48 worth arguing here coz I'm using such sucky gears anyway). You guys gonna nail me for this but I'm using Adobe Premiere to mix all audio tracks (I do a lot of video editing). What is the major difference between this and others like Sonar/Protools? Premiere has tools like compress/expand/reverb/EQ too. Would better software gives better mix? Or would Premiere ruin my mix?

What I'm thinking is to buy a couple of good dynamic mics as starter. Think about a condenser for vocal later... maybe a drum mic kit. Major thing is to solve the drum problem. Then it's to improve the vocal by buying a condenser.

Keep in mind, the mic is where your signal chain begins, and is therefore very important. You should have a kick mic and some SM57s around when possible, as well as a good condenser mic when possible. Try building a temporary drum riser platform, if may help your kick sound. The condenser mic is far more useful than you may think... in addition to vocals, it can make a great room mic, which may help add some depth to your recording. It's also a good mic for guitars, some drums, and many other instruments. I have a Neumann U87 and it is always being used on something during recording. Keep in mind however, your signal chain is only as strong as your weakest link. A $2000 mic will still sound miserable with a $30 preamp. Hope I've helped out a bit.