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Advice for a total noob Desktop Synthesizers
Old 28th August 2007
Here for the gear

Talking Advice for a total noob

Greetings all ! Managed to find this place a couple of months ago and have been lurking ever since. Amazed at all the talent that resides on here!

I have been throwing around the idea of picking up some gear so that I could start doing some live recordings, and learning the art and science of recording. Since my much lengthier original post just got wiped out because my login seemed to time out I'll make this one shorter. The original seed of an idea came from my wanting to be able to record my own personal practice sessions (saxophone), now that I'm getting a lot more serious about it after a too-long hiatus. But I've always had some interest in the recording process too, and I know several friends that are working musicians that seem to not have very good recording experiences - like having their recorded sax playing sound nothing like what they really sound like.

So anyway, my thinking was that one way I could approach this would be to pick up some gear and then arrange w/ a couple of the folks that I know to do some live recordings of some of their gigs for free, so that I could learn the trade a bit. I know that several of them would also be up for the sort of experimentation w/ mic positions, etc., that it's become obvious to me reading on here that you need to do to get the best sound.

I'd love to hear some suggestions from all the real pros on here. Thanks in advance!
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
Jim vanBergen's Avatar

Welcome, Big E.

So, you want to dig a hole in the ground and burn your money? Join the club- you found the right place. heh

What exactly can we tell you? Our lives are pretty much opens books- from failures to successes and back again on every gig. But we need to have a more specific thing to join in on the thread.

Please don't take this as a slap, it's really just a "Welcome! Now, specify your needs" post.

Best wishes,

Old 29th August 2007
Here for the gear

Thanks for the reply, Jim. Definitely no offense taken. A bit after I posted it, I was actually thinking "you know, that's going to be just way too general for anyone to really sink their teeth into."

I guess what I'm most interested in, right now, is some opinions on how I could best go about learning the craft, without either going to school for it or taking a job/internship? Since it would be just a hobby and not a living, that sort of thing isn't going to happen. As I said, I can think of a couple of good friends (and excellent players) that I know would be very interested in letting me record certain gigs and such. I know they'd be willing to work with me so that likely both of us would learn something in the process, and with a little luck they might be able to at least get a song or two that was worth putting up on their website. Is that enough to get started, though?

Thanks again

Old 29th August 2007
Gear Addict
Graham Tobias's Avatar

well first before you record some live shows I'd mess around just recording yourself and learning about mic positioning, signal flow, gain staging etc... so you learn how to get the sounds that you want. When it comes to the gear I'd say (others may say differently) that the first thing you want to decide is if it's a computer based system or a harddrive recorded based system. From there we can help guide you to some good decisions. Good luck!
Old 29th August 2007
Here for the gear

Yes, good point, I was definitely planning on spending a while playing around with everything and recording myself, experimenting w/ mic positions, etc., before I'd even think about trying to do anything else. I was also thinking I'd probably want to try and work my way up in terms of # of mics and instruments. Like starting w/ just doing solo instruments like sax, piano, then maybe do some duo recordings of piano & sax, and gradually add in other voices. I would definitely be totally overwhelmed w/ doing even a quartet recording to start.
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
Jim vanBergen's Avatar

Originally Posted by Big E View Post
I would definitely be totally overwhelmed w/ doing even a quartet recording to start.
Sounds to me like you need to find a mentor who does this and really get some experience. Find someone near you who does this and do a few shows as an unpaid intern/assistant. Even if you started out as a doing freebies as a cable puller for Steve Remote, you'd learn a TON onsite, y'know?
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
tnjazz's Avatar
I agree. Find someone who will let you do some of the more "menial" work (setup, cable runs, tear down, etc) and see how you like it before you commit your life savings to it.

I know more than a few people who were intrigued by the glamourous life of being a "recording engineer" and spent way too much money only to find out they didn't really like it as much as they thought they would. There's a lot of tedious work behind the scenes involved in making a good recording, and I guess they never really saw that. They just saw the dude with the speakers, headphones and flashing lights, monitoring levels and pressing the record button.

Not trying to dissuade you from this at all, but if you come into it with your eyes open you'll be much better off in the long run. Best way to do that is to find a local company that will let you help them out so you can start to learn.

Good luck!
Old 29th August 2007
Gear Addict
Graham Tobias's Avatar

Ask lots of questions here too! There are aspects of remote recording that you will never have to deal with in the studio and some of them can be confusing at first. Transformer isolated mic splitters definitely confuse people. Same with getting power. Sometimes power means simply plugging into the standard 120v outlet with your small rig.... but I've definitely had to rearange breaker panels and use a bunch of adapters before on truck gigs. People have ways they want you to coil their cables too. Time to go buy a mag light, a leatherman and lots of black clothing. jk jk.
Old 29th August 2007
Here for the gear

Thanks all. The assistant thing is a good idea, I'll just have to find the right person to be assisting (when is Mr. Remoteness working in DC???).

I would think it might be more beneficial to have a little bit of experience first - like playing around w/ mic positions and such while I or a friend plays - before looking to assist a pro. My experience in nearly everything else tells me that you can learn a lot more from someone when you already have at least enough knowledge to understand what they're talking about!
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear
LX3's Avatar

I think, if you can pick and choose who you record and try to limit yourself to fairly small ensembles and small-scale gigs, you could dive right in and do a lot of fun creative stuff.

Classical recordists can make great recordings with just a few mics. The old Blue Note recordings weren't big multi-track-fests either.

Take on projects where people aren't going to lynch you if it doesn't go 100% smoothly... which means working for free (or close to it) and for friends and friends of friends. You can learn a lot that way... sometimes the most useful lessons are learned when it goes a bit wrong!

(Though I agree, helping out other recording guys also a great move...)

If you volunteer yourself into situations where you're trying to record 24 tracks or more, you'll start needing mic splitters, racks full of mic pres, big fat snakes, and so on. As Jim said, once you start down that road you'll be digging a big expensive hole for yourself that you may struggle to climb out of.

Start small with some good quality kit that you won't be ashamed of in six months time, and be selective about what you record. Sounds like you have plenty of friends around DC who'd love a recording...

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