Need advice: Home recording - guitar/keyboard + singing

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Sgt_G, Nov 6, 2017.

  1. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    We have a friend with twin 14-year-old daughters. We consider them our god-daughters. Several years ago, I bought them a keyboard (electric piano), and then a few years later I bought them each an electric guitar. They have since acquired another keyboard (used but bigger/better) and an acoustic guitar. Typical of girls their age, they have started writing their own songs and have tried to record themselves (separately, not as a duet) on their Droid smart-phones.

    I know the best option would be to get them a mixer or an audio interface, but their dad doesn't want to go that route. Too complicated, he says. He suggests that I buy them each a USB mic for Christmas. I'm thinking of also getting a MIDI->USB cable and guitar->USB cable (I have one of those). Here's the thing: I went to Guitar Center to ask if that's all they'll need, and the sales-droids couldn't give me a straight answer. They acted like no parent has ever come in to ask "what do I need to buy for my kid so he can record himself playing/singing?"

    As far as computers, their mom has a Windows-7 laptop she's not using (she carries her iPad everywhere she goes), and their dad runs a Mac computer. The girls do have tablets, but I think those are droid, not Apple or Windows, so I doubt they can be used for recording. I don't know if they only want to record audio, or if they would also want to do video (a good web-cam should take care of that, no?) .

    So, given the above data, what do I need to buy them? Am I on the right track, or should I go with the (more expensive) option of an audio interface or mixer??
     
  2. psCargile

    psCargile Captain Captain

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    Oh boy, the answer is everything, lol. Music is one of the more expensive hobbies, and there are a lot of choices for recording, as you are finding out. I use a Zoom Handy Recorder for recording, and Cubase for editing and mixing down (putting all the tracks into one audio file), but there are many other brands to choose from that do the same thing.

    Musicians Friend is an online store where you can find a lot of good, affordable products.

    Thing to consider is how you are getting the recorded music to the computer and editing software. It will be either USB, or SD card. My recorder uses SD cards, to I only have to insert the card into my laptop and import into the software, though I do have the option of connecting the recorder to the laptop with a USB cable and recording directly into the software. A computer with a card reader makes things easier. Now, my recorder does have a four track mixer mode, and does mixdown, without needing the Cubase audio software, but the software let's you tweak the tracks, like adding fade ins and fade outs.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  3. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There are too many choices really. Recording apps do exist for Android but I can't speak for their adequacy - a lot depends on the quality of the hardware, mikes etc.
     
  4. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    I'm not too worried about software at this point. I believe their dad's Mac has Garage Band on it, or he can d/l it easily enough. Ditto for the old laptop their mom said they can have for this. But if there's no software that can import audio from multiple USB ports, then I'd be forced to get them an audio interface. I don't mind spending the money, but it does get expensive to buy for twins. Not sure I could get away with getting them just one audio interface and microphone to share.......
     
  5. psCargile

    psCargile Captain Captain

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    Garage Band is really good.

    Keyboards usually have USB, guitars usually don't, and they usually need some form of amplification. My brother has used Garaged Band, and had a box he plugged the guitar into, that had USB outputs to the MacBook, but I don't know what that box was called or who made it. So there are devices for that purpose.
     
  6. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    The guitar->USB cables aren't terribly expensive. I've priced them at $20 / $35 and $99, depending on brand and store. I also found one that has two Line-in plugs on the one end for plugging into a keyboard's Line-out. I have a guitar cable, but I don't have a USB mic to test them together. I've seen conflicting information on YouTube as to whether or not you can plug two USB mics into a computer at the same time.
     
  7. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

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    You can definitely do so, but to record them onto separate tracks you'll need ASIO4ALL and to use two different kinds of USB mics.
     
  8. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    I'm going to have a sit-down with their mom this weekend. I know she wants for the girls to each have their own mic set, but after more research I think the best way to go is the audio interface. We love these kids like they were our own, but I don't think I can justify shelling out the money for two audio interfaces. They'll just have to share one.

    It appears that Focusrite has an arm-lock on the market. I've also read a few very negative reviews, how the thing dies after just a couple month's use. I've also read opinion reviews saying to not buy the "Solo Studio" set that comes with a mic and headphones, but rather to buy just the unit and then buy a better mic/headset separately.

    Thoughts and opinions???
     
  9. psCargile

    psCargile Captain Captain

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    I reread the OP. Do I have this straight, their dad suggests buying a mic to record the instruments live using the computer? If the goal is good quality recordings they can put together and edit in Garage Band, I'd go with an audio interface or portable recorder. Jacking straight into the computer—if the computer audio setting allow input from an USB source—doesn't give you control over recording levels and such. I used to run my mic through a 1/4 to 1/8 adapter straight into my computer's mic input jack and record on free DAW software, and it sounded like crap, unless you like noise and hum. Which I don't.

    It's question of quality.
     
  10. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    Yep, that's about right, he doesn't want it to be "too complicated", and that's also what others have told me about the sound quality.
     
  11. General_Phoenix

    General_Phoenix Commander Red Shirt

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    Only insight I can give is from my own experience, I have used ProTools, Apple Logic, and Garage Band. Logic, and Garage Band are extremely user friendly. Audacity is another, but have limited experience with it.

    I used to set up mics either in front, or behind my amp, but I have gone amp direct into the software, and have even done guitar direct and just used the software for effects (flang, chorus, distortion, etc.)

    Not much help I know, but the beauty of it is we are in a time where it is extremely easy to record now, there are lots of options out there.
     
  12. tharpdevenport

    tharpdevenport Admiral Admiral

    If they're just playing around this isn't intended to be professional quality, go low. Get a decent USB mic, download Audacity to record, and make sure you have a good sound card where you can mute lines that might cause static noise during recording.
     
  13. psCargile

    psCargile Captain Captain

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    Rent a studio and hire an engineer. Expensive, but the least complicated for dad. :biggrin:
     
  14. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah ... NO!

    As to going the USB mic route ... well, anything is better than what they have now (smart phone's mic).
     
  15. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    Okay, so I was looking up prices for USB mics and guitar/keyboard-to-USB cables and found a great price on a package deal with the Focusrite 2i4 with two mics, mic stands, headphones, and software. It was too good to pass up. I just hope it wasn't "too good to be true". Should be here next week, if not this weekend.
     
  16. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Seems to have good reviews online. I believe it also comes with Pro Tools | First and Ableton Live Lite software usually.

    ETA: The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 G2 rack unit looks very tempting. Thankfully, I don't have a need for it.

     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  17. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

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    What happens if you turn on Phantom Power on a mic that doesn't need it? Say you have a condenser mic and a dynamic mic plugged into the same mixer / audio interface. You turn on the phantom power for the condenser mic, but it's one master switch for all ports and not a separate button for each port. Can that damage the dynamic mic??
     
  18. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Vice Admiral Admiral

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    As the same DC voltage appears on both signal lines connected to the output transformer and modern balanced dynamic microphones work on the voltage difference, I don't think there should be a problem. I would check the documentation for any compatibility issues. Also found this useful advice:

    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/phantom-power-dynamic-mics-again/

    I think an unbalanced dynamic mike might well be damaged though:

    https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-phantom-power-on-dynamics

    Generally, it seems it is safe to use any modern balanced mike that has an XLR connector with Phantom Power.

    Must control wallet after browsing, grrr:

    https://www.gear4music.com/PA-DJ-and-Lighting/Studiomaster-Digilive-16RS-Digital-Rack-Mixer/26KP
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2017