Hey all!  This topic has probably already been covered but I couldn't find it.  I'm sorry if this is a repeat of another thread.  

anyway, I'm needing some advice/input/ideas about what equipment is good for recording and mixing songs.  we have quite a few original songs and want to get them recorded.  I have a PC, not a Mac.  I would like a  recorder with at least six tracks.

anything you can tell me would help, a lot!
Thanks!

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Audacity is free recording software that'll get you started, leaving you free to spend your money on ways to get a good sound into the computer... that's the biggest trick. Plugging a mic into a typical soundcard is not gonna get you there.

Personally, I record on a standalone digital workstation - in my case, one of these:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct02/articles/yamahaaw16g.asp

It has two mic inputs and six more "line" inputs; 16 tracks and you can record up to 8 at a time; internal 40 gb drive holds a lot of songs. Lots of currently-available things here:

http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/recording/multitrack-recorders/

I have recorded to a computer at school and elsewhere, and the problem always seems to be that you wind up fighting with the computer in order to record... you apply the new service pack and suddenly you can only play back four tracks at once, stuff like that. When I have time and inspiration to do a song, I want to be able to switch on the machine and make music, not fight with the computer. YMMV.

I'm sure there will be lots of responses here, but my suggestion would be to pick up some sort of digital workstation like this, borrow some mics from the worship team and start learning how to do it. One suggestion if you do go the digital workstation route - be sure you get one where you can pull tracks and mixed songs off the machine onto the computer via USB. My AW16 uses a CD writer which was very picky about media and Yamaha was useless about fixing it. I happened to find a replacement writer in an old laptop and it's working again, but without that, there was no way to get individual tracks off the machine.
Audacity is a good free program, but I personally hate recording on a computer. I have to be there with it and it's not usually there when I want it. I recommend a Boss BR-600:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/BR600/

It's small, has built-in mics if you want to use them and is easy to use. It's perfect for quickly tracking out a song that you just created or quickly laying down a rif you just came up with. You can export your results as wav.

Other things to consider is a good choice of mics.
My understanding of "virtual tracks" is that you can only play back one of them at a time - you can have 8 different versions of track 2 on your machine, but when it comes time to do the mixdown, you only get to use one of those versions. So you're really only recording eight tracks - the VT function just lets you keep 8 different versions of each one to choose from later. Am I mistaken about this?

Charles
That is correct for Roland / Boss devices, I can't speak for any other. I have a Roland and a Boss and they both work the same. It's nice if you want to lay down a groove and then try different solos over it.
How are we missing the point? Charles is correct - you can't mix down more than 8 tracks at one time. (Or however many tracks you may have.) You are limited by the control surface. From what you're describing, you're using V-tracks differently than I would. I don't find a great need to bounce and sub-mix, it gets way too confusing when I don't need them. But I do use V-Tracks all the time on my BR600 and VS880 to rehearse and try different versions of a track like a bass part or a guitar solo. So for me, it's a great organizer.

So yea, I checked out the manuals. In fact, I'm using them the way the manual recommended! Again, how is this missing the point behind the v-tracks? I don't recall seeing an official point for using them. You can use them any way you like, I won't mind. I do Roland Police won't ding either of us for missing the point!
For the original poster, if you choose a Roland / Boss system with virtual tracks, you're in for a real treat. It allows you to record a bunch of tracks and mix them down to a pair of virtual tracks without losing your originals. It's like having 64 actual tracks to navigate through and record / mix-down to. The best thing is that it's non-destructive to your original takes. You're only limited to the total number of virtual tracks. On my old VS-880, that's a total of 64 tracks! However, there is a catch.

While my VS-880 has exactly 64 real usable tracks, when it comes time to mix it down, I can only mix 8 tracks out of that 64, and each one has to be from a different "stack". I'm not sure how Terry's BR11800 works, but thats how my VS-880 and BR600 work.

Another great use for these v-tracks is to audition various takes such as a vocal solo, guitar solo, or any sort of part where you want to try different approaches before final mix down. As a result, you can retain several good but different takes and decide which one you like later.
Terry, calm it down bit. You're taking this way too seriously. I thought you would realize that I was trying to lighten you up, sorry it wasn't clear.

I understand the system quite well having owned one since they first came out with the VS series many years ago. (15?) And I understand very well how you're using the v-tracks. It's not the only use for them. If I needed that today, I would use it that way. I have more use for a vertical stacking method that allows me to audition different takes into a total mix. The sky is the limit on these things, they're that versatile.
I'm a computer-based guy, and use a Yamaha N8 n with my PC. I now wish I had the N12, but other than more tracks it does the same thing. The N8 is basically a digital mixing board that you can use for live gigs as well as recording. I match it up with Cubase software (a free basic version comes with it). We've been getting some very good recordings off of it, but it can be a hassle to set it up first time - firewire is a whole entity unto itself. Just make sure you have a big, fast computer or you'll bog down in a hurry.

Oh yes, and they're not cheap...
oh my gosh guys!! thanks so much. I'm so excited about all the info and suggestions you are giving me. Of course money is a huge issue! ha! so, I'm going to have to see what i can do. I already have audacity and have played with it a little. I'm excited to check into the equipment ya'll told me about!
I could be convinced on the computer if I had a separate control surface and interface for it. But operating sliders and knobs with a mouse is a pain. One really cool option is to get an iPad and use one of the excellent apps that are available for it like "FourTrack". I use this app on my iPhone when I want to lay down a quick riff. However, I don't think all the interface options are on the market yet.
The N8 is in fact a seperate control surface with manual sliders, et al. Cubase has the mouse operated stuff, and in effect you can use both together. Works for me.
I just looked that up, looks like a solid piece of kit!

The other hardware that would make computer-based recording practical for me is a laptop. But I'm starting to see stand-alone devices that double as control surfaces for software recording:

Cakewalk:


Boss BR800:


Anyone experience these yet? Seems quite practical, but I'm not sure how well they execute.

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