Getting the BEST sound using a room mic and full band.

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by MaestroDT, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. MaestroDT macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2010
    Hello everybody!

    Lately I've been recording solely using a Blue Snowball in the middle of the room (set the switch to position #3) and to be honest I actually think it sounds pretty good. You can hear what we did last night below... we've got vocals, guitar, drums, tambourine, a bell kit, cello, an old casio keyboard, and someone shaking a bag of poker chips on this recording:

    We are currently using Garage Band for recording... but I would like to move up to Pro Tools or something.

    Basically we just position people in the room based on how loud we think we want them to be. My vocals and guitar are right in front of the mic and everything else was in a half circle further away... the wood blocks and bell kit were the furthest away, slightly further than the drum kit itself.

    I think the wood blocks are a little loud (despite being the furthest) and that cello and keyboard, which are halfway and sounded LOUD in real life are actually too quiet.

    Does ANYONE have any tips? I would love to make our future recordings sound better! Also, is setting #3 the best one to use on the Snowball for this? We kind of inherited it and I don't have any manuals or anything -- for those that don't know, the Snowball is a USB mic that has a switch with 3 positions on the back. From what I can tell, one setting is mono-directional, one is omni-directional, and one is omni-directional that makes things exponentially quieter the further away they are. If someone could clear this up for me, that would be GREAT.

    Also, I have an AKG Perception 220 condenser, but currently don't own a PreAmp with phantom power. :( I was thinking about buying one of the Blue Icicles, which is a USB XLR connector and provides Phantom Power... would this sound better than the Snowball?

    Please give the song a listen and tell me how we can do things better! :) We have a couple other songs on the soundclick page, but this is one of the better sounding ones. By the way, it's a terrifying cover of Your Body Is A Wonderland by John Mayer... but I transposed the melody line to a minor scale, so instead of sounding happy and upbeat, it sounds really creepy.

    Thanks everyone! :D

  2. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Jun 29, 2008
    Rather than recording everything at once I would recommend looking into recording each part separately and mixing it together. It may be more trouble initially, but if you ever need to re-record something it's a lot easier...
  3. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    Multi-tracking, as suggested, is typically how these things are done. Single-position micing can be fun, but IMHO it should be done for artistic and engineering reasons, not due to equipment shortages.

    If you want to stay on this path, I'd recommend reading about spaced omnis or Jecklin discs. You also need a pretty great sounding room to make it all work.

    As you've found, you need to play with positioning. Anything still too loud, you need to start placing sound barriers. Good luck, it's a fun way to record.
  4. Leddy macrumors regular

    Dec 16, 2008
    Hi MaestroDT,

    I think the recording is a pretty credible effort. There's something about a band all playing together in a room live that you don't get with most multi-track recordings ie. you may gain separation from multi-tracking, but lose the intimacy and feel of a live performance and the musical interactions between performers.

    You can hear how the high percussive transient sounds like the wood blocks, high-hats, bells etc. really cut through and I'd suggest moving them a little further back or experiment with having the players off-axis to the mic ... for me the cello cuts through quite well at the end, but I guess it depends on what kind of level you're aiming for.

    Overall the balance is pretty good, though I'd be inclined to ease the high-hats and even the acoustic guitar a little. I think the vocals could come forward a little more, though that might present problems with the guitar being attached to the vocalist as it is(!)

    Some of the best recordings of the past have been made in this way so don't feel you need to change for the sake of a pristine recording. If anything, listening back to the recording as a band will enable you to develop more nuanced performances in the future.

  5. TwoBytes macrumors 68030


    Jun 2, 2008
    I agree with Leddy above me - I miss the sound of bands in rooms.. Everything sounds a little too processed for me, but that's another discussion.

    As for recording, Leddy hit it on the heat with the hats and percussion being a little on the loud side.

    If you want to multi-track, Record the rhythm section first - Drums first, then bass, guitars, then vocals.

    Listen to Damien Rice's first album O. Fantastic, live and delicate soundings... I reckon you'd go for that sound which to me, sounds real. Ideally, what you want to go for is record live as you're doing but get more mics and a soundcard with lots of inputs to accommodate.
  6. MowingDevil macrumors 68000


    Jul 30, 2008
    Vancouver, BC & Sydney, NSW
    Count me in as 100% in favour of dropping the mic in the middle of the room & recording live! Go for it. WAY too much has been lost in terms of the 'spirit of music' for the sake of separation so engineers/producers have more control of the sound. It may take several takes over several days but if you can get the take you want then you'll be much better off.
  7. Avatar74 macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2007
    Once you're well-rehersed, rent a few mikes and record it live on multiple tracks so you can do it all in mostly one take. No one can have all the equipment they want or need, so I really strongly advise renting. In video, this is key... I can't have all the cameras and lenses and lights for every conceivable job.

    Once you make some money, then at least you can buy the minimum mikes you need... but I'd still record it live. You guys have a good sound, and without the engineering expertise that's been sorely lacking in the last two decades, you would in fact end up sounding too processed in a multi-track session.

    But you do need some control and balance of the overall mix, and miking instruments, vocals, etc. separately is going to help greatly. What you've got to start with is pretty good. Percussion is the hard part to balance out. But I have some friends who recorded a jazz album in the bass player's living room live, in one take, in an afternoon, on a four track analog, and it sounded great.

    It's not that multi-track isolated sessions ruin a recording... it's that it takes a tremendous amount of engineering skill and knowledge to do it right. In the past twenty years, the emphasis has been on amplitude and getting the tunes out quickly to distribution, because the (false) presumption is that listeners don't care. Maybe they don't consciously care, but if they could have the same band in a recording that sounds brilliant with lots of sweetening to make the instruments pop out at them (without 3D stereo signal processing and crap like that), they'd love it.

    It takes a lot of skill to get a live recording right, but the most important skill in that case is musicianship. Garbage in, garbage out... you can't improve the sound beyond what you started with. And I'd say you guys have a pretty good start. Just rehearse a lot, make sure you have everything down, and then rent the mikes you need... maybe two or three for the drums (or you'll wash out the bass drum and/or cymbals), one for every other instrument.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    There is also a compromise. These ideas woud give you the same live effect but also more controls

    1) Use multiple mics in the same room and all play together. Some mics will be closer to some instruments and later to can adjust the relative balance between the mics. same as you are doing now but with two or three mics you have more options

    2) Go back later and record added tracks. Record most of them live but you can add things later. THis also lets the same musician play two parts.

    If you want to upgrade the software Logic Express is a good way to go. It will read old Garage Band projects and costs only $199.

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