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Recording vocals/guitar/keybord via computer?
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Joined: 06 Apr 2008
Posts: 2
Location: In the Lap of the Gods

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 3:03 am    Post subject: Recording vocals/guitar/keybord via computer? Reply with quote

Hey guys!

I've been writing songs for a while now, and thought it was about time I'd set out to record them. I have access to a Dell Dimension 2400, and I've already downloaded the music recording/editing freeware Kristal Audio. It looks promising, but I haven't actually used it just yet, so obviously I haven't got a sure idea of what quality software it is--so, if it's crap, or there are superior (and reasonably-priced) ones out there, could someone here fill me in?

Which brings me to a bit of a dilemma--I still don't have a way of recording. I've been hunting around the Internet for a way to connect an instrument to the computer, and found a USB/guitar cable for $40.00--which struck me as a little steep for a basic cable, but I'll shell out the cash if it's the only way to go about recording via computer.

Then there's the matter of microphones, which I'm pretty sure I'll only be using for vocals at this juncture. Ideally, I'd love to come across a studio-quality mike somewhere within the 50-100 dollar price range, but I'm willing to be realistic--i.e., I won't mind settling for a mike that's within the said price range but at least a step or two above garbage. Or, could I possibly rent a studio-quality vocal mike someplace, instead of actually buying it?

Thanks for your time, and if you've got an idea of what I'm looking for, please let me know!

~Relatively new (or dare I say completely new) recording artist. XD
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Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 550
Location: Exit 4, Alabama

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like what your trying to do and I would like to assist you as well.

There are, here at hitsquad, several people that can give you their educated opinions about what to get for gear in your quest to record audio.

It seems like you are literally coming from the ground up.
It isn't free.

KRISTAL Audio Engine while being free has most likely already let you down.

Next is

Yep, its free...but is a good product. My take on this is, you want someone to tell you "do THIS and don't do THAT!"

You will actually have to crack the software open, work with it.

You know better then we do what it is you want to do. Recording is a lot of work and when you couple that with being the singer, drummer, keyboard player, et. al. it is exhausting!
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the audiophile

Joined: 22 Oct 2007
Posts: 36
Location: Adelaide, South Australia.

PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Every computer I've seen has a ine in/record socket as well as a headphone
socket. The guitar and keyboardvwill have to be mixed together with the vocals into a stereo format to be burned to CD. The Audacity program which Brian recommended will do just that. trial and error will teach you
how to use it.
I must admit that I have not tried recording directly on to a computer
via the line input so I don't know what the result would be.
The problem is that guitars, keyboards and other electronic instruments
have a higher input level (impedance) than microphones.
The recording level of the instrument (with a little adjustment) should be
fairly easy to adjust - if it distorts try turning the output volume of the
instrument down then re-adjust the level on the computer.
When setting the recording level try to get as high a level as possible
without going into the red zone on the meters.
I'm trying to use the KISS method here but it ain't easy.
The main problem might be the microphone.
I haven't seen any high impedance mics around for years. These have a
high output but they don't make them any more which means you would
have to use a low impedance mic. The problem then is that the output level
might not be enough to get a high enough record level.
The only solution then is to look around for a mixer. A used one would be OK. A low imedance mic is plugged into the mixer and is pre-amplified to
a useable level for recording. This is the only solution I can think of if the
direct method does not work.
As for the mic get the best one you can afford. If you can, try it before you buy. Different mics have different characteristics. A used mic might be a good bet.
You will probably need an adaptor to connect it.
I hope this helps you at this stage. If not just post any questions and I'll
to answer them. Cheers.
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Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 550
Location: Exit 4, Alabama

PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For a microphone, the guys at say that the Shure 57 and 58 are still the mics of choice. And I personally still see these mics in use on many settings on the tube, so that would be a good all around mic.

But you would need that external mixer....OR and a better choice, would be one of these babies:
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the audiophile

Joined: 22 Oct 2007
Posts: 36
Location: Adelaide, South Australia.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What you are attempting to do is set up a home recording studio.
To do this there are basic things you NEED.
1: A computor with a sound card + audio input & output.
2: A multitrack program on which to record. (Audacity)
3: Microphone and stand.
4: A way of getting the sounds onto the computor - a stereo mixer.
5: A way to monitor the sound as you are recording it - so you will need
at least a set of headphones and ideally have the audio output
connected to the audio input of a stereo system.
As you are a beginner I'll try to outline the basic concept of the multitrack
recording process.
Generally the music tracks are recorded before the vocals are added
eg: the drums on tracks 1 & 2 then bass on track 3, lead guitar track 4
and so on and vocals on last track.
Perhaps the easiest way for you to at least get something recorded
might be to record the guitar and vocal line together, with the guitar panned
to one side and the vocal to the other.
The keyboard can then be recorded on the next track.
The balance and sound can then be adjusted ready for burning to CD.
The most important thing to remember is to get the best possible sound
as you record. Minor glitches can SOMETIMES be rectified at a later stage
so it's not worth taking the chance - other people might not notice but
you know it's there and you'll have to live with it.
Big name artists can spend weeks in a state of the art studio getting
the recording just right so it's going to take time.
Record something then listen to it and be critical, pick out what you
perceive to be faults then record again. Keep doing this until you are
happy with the result. You might want to risk getting a second opinion but
beware - everyone else has their own perception of what is right and what
is wrong so don't be surprised if they rip your effort to pieces.
Use this as part of the learning process as some of their ideas could
be valid.
That's about as simple as I can make it to get you started without going
into rocket science mode. I have over 300 pages of notes from an
audio engineering course I did a few years ago so you can see I haven't
even scratched the surface.
I hope this helps.
If you need more info just post the question and I'll try to answer it.
Lovely day here in Adelaide, 28 degrees C and sunny,
going out to enjoy it, bye......................
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Joined: 25 Apr 2008
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been recording on the computer about 2 years now, and I started out exactly the same way, wondering how to get guitars and vocals on the computer inexpensively.

Right now, the most important thing you need is an Audio Interface. A way of getting sound into your computer. There are a few ways to do this.
I don't think a usb guitar cable is the way to go. You'll probably outgrow it quickly. Instead of paying $40 for something you'll stop using, spend a little more for something that will grow with you.

If you have a soundcard with a line in jack (not the microphone in jack), you can try options 1 or 2

Option 1)
As many have mentioned here, you can get a mixer. A basic inexpensive one is this:
(I haven't used it, just an example)
What a mixer gives you is XLR inputs for your microphone and line in jacks for your guitar. The mixer also provides a preamp (microphones need a preamp to produce their sound). Finally, the mixer takes your guitar signal, which is unbalanced (from the guitar to the mixer), and converts it to a balanced signal, so it's safe to plug into your computer (don't plug your guitar straight into your computer's line in, it's dangerous).

Option 2)
Another option is a mic preamp. Same basic elements of a mixer, except you can only record one thing at a time. A basic preamps will provide an XLR input for your mic and line in inputs for your guitar. Then you connect the mic preamp to your computer's line in.
A widely used one is this:
Personally, I use this:

Option 3)
Instead of using the line in on your soundcard, you can also use an audio interface that uses your USB port. An example is this:
I've never used a USB interface, but many do. From what I've read, a possible downside can be lag (a delay in time from when you play or sing and when the computer records). USB 2.0 will be better than USB 1.1 .

Option 4) You can get a Firewire audio interface. If you spend the money, you can probably get something you may never outgrow, there are professional grade products available in this category. But, these start to get pricey, for an entry level firewire, you're already looking at $200:

5) Finally you can get a soundcard with audio interfaces included, something like this:
or this:
As you can see, these also start to get pricey. Again, we're starting to get into the professional equipment realm.

My recommendation for starting out? Either a preamp (option 2) or a usb interface (option 3). This is probably what most home recordists are using, and will probably suit your needs for a long time.

OK, you've got an audio interface. Next, you need a Microphone. There are really inexpensive microphones you can plug into your soundcard microphone jack. But these are for karaoke, not recording. For any kind quality results, you need a real microphone.

First decision is dynamic microphone or condenser microphone (there are also ribbon mic's, but they are really expensive, not a starter item). To oversimply, Dynamic microphones are more durable and less sensitive. Which can be good or bad, for example, if you live near a busy highway, a condenser mike might pick up the highway noise in your recordings, a dynamic mike won't. Also a dynamic mic can handle a loud amplifier which some condenser mics could not. But in a good recording environment, condenser mics are considered better for picking up subtle nuances, for example in vocals.

When I was shopping for a microphone, almost every guide seemed to point to the Shure SM57 (dynamic microphone) as a good bet for a starting microphone, so that's what I got. To be honest, I think I should have gotten a condenser mic for my needs, since the main thing I need it for is vocals. The SM57 is supposed to be great for recording a guitar and amp, but I never do this, I record direct with my electric guitar.

You can't really go wrong with the Shure SM57, there's nothing it can't do. It's just not the best for some things I do. So it depends what you'll be using your mic for. Check some reviews, go to the store, see what microphone works for you.

A well recommended condenser mic is:

OK, you have an audio interface and a microphone. Let's make some music! You'll need recording software. I also recommend Audacity. It's a free and easy to learn. Plug in your mic, guitar, audio interface and hit record.

Some other recommendations. If you want to try adding some drums, search for a free drum sequencer/drum machine. Drums make such a huge difference, even just a basic beat. Right now, I use Hotstepper. I don't think it's still in development, you can probably find links somewhere, if not there are probably lots of others out there.

So that's what I've been using for the last 2 years, and I've gotten some songs together that I'm pretty happy with. Right now, I'm taking the next step and upgrading to FL Studio, so I can start getting some keyboards, brass into my songs and try to get the final mix sounding a little more professional. Hope this helps. Good luck, have fun!
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Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 550
Location: Exit 4, Alabama

PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Option 4 or 5 ... any of the other options will let you down. USB is notorious for bottlenecks and none of the rest even produce sound and/or add another link in an already fragile signal chain.
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Joined: 25 Apr 2008
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well options 4&5 are superior in sound quality, but she's just starting out and she's on a budget. She's not going for pro-studio sound, she's trying to figure out how to get sound into her computer.

For the cheapest possible way to record, take a look at this link
It's a starting point.
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Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 550
Location: Exit 4, Alabama

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You said cheap boss.

She said reasonable.

You seem to know a lot about someone you know nothing about ;)
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Smooth Moderator
Smooth Moderator

Joined: 13 Jan 2005
Posts: 197
Location: Brisbane

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might want to check out some of our updated equipment guides for recording:

Cheap USB Microphones
Music Production Software
USB Audio Interfaces
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