Advice needed - can you effectively record at home and then mix in a pro studio?

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What would be needed to record mainly acoustic instruments at home prior to taking them to a proper studio to be processed and mixed?

My band doesn't have loads of money or available time, so I'm looking at this approach as a possible option. On the plus side, I have a reasonably quiet space, a decent MacBook, Logic X, a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, an Aston Origin, a couple of SM58s and stands etc. I have the basics of Logic, well enough to record multiple tracks but after that, things get sketchier.

My thinking is that we could meet up in the evenings over an extended period of time and record clean, unprocessed tracks using the Aston and maybe another mic for the drums - it's a stripped down 'skiffle-style' kit with just a bassdrum, snare and a wee cymbal/hi-hat thing. We'd use roughly the same set up for the acoustic and electric guitars and the Aston for the vocals. I've recorded my vocal with the Aston before and the mic seems to compliment my voice well enough. We'd aim to DI the bass guitar. 

I'd aim to record without any compression or effects and then take the tracks to a decent mixer or studio to be worked on there. Is this feasible? What would be the worst mistakes we could make? Any tips to make this work more effectively? Choose the mixing studio first and get their input? Or wait until we see what we end up with and then speak to different studios? Presumably one plus side of this option is that we could work with a far wider range of mixers/producers across the world if we were happy to trust them to do it without our input.

Any suggestions of another mic that would pair nicely with the Aston Origin and the SM58s? Another Origin or a different style of mic altogether? 

Or is it a mad and stupid idea. :)

Happy New Year ya wee beauties! 

cam f
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  • That would be fine. Better mics are always better but it really depends on your budget. I'd at least get an Audix i5 in place of the 58s if on a lower budget. On a higher budget I'd look to add a decent midrange valve condensor and a ribbon mic for very bright sources like violin, mandolin or crappy guitar  etc
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  • spark240spark240 Frets: 1036
    No problem with this approach...and you can post up the tracks for us all to mix as well ;-)

    I would suggest your main objective is to achieve separation, Ive only sampled the Aston Mics but they seem very capable, so I wouldn't worry there, or you could maybe borrow a couple of other mics to add some colour.

    Acoustic guitars , I would DI as well if possible, use 2 mics on each one as well so you get the best overall sound.

    Personally I would probably use some light compression on the guitars juts to keep an even level, but its top to you of course.

    The studio can always trigger some sample drums to sit under the actual kit, this is quite common now in particular with Kicks.

    Will you be working to a click track...this could also prove very useful in the studio.


    Mac Mini i7, 2.3Ghz.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    I thought this would be a slow-burn thread. That’s great, guys.
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  • MacBook, Logic X, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Aston Origin.  All good kit capable of producing good results in the right hands.  The SM58s are dynamic mics so are probably not the best suited for recording - however, nothing wrong with trying.

    The most critical thing in any recording is the performance.  If recording at home, without the pressure and cost of a 'real' studio, allows you to get the best results then this is the right approach.

    The acoustics of the recording environment may be an issue, especially with drums.  You'll need to choose the best sounding space available to you (I appreciate that this may be a limited choice).  Bigger is generally better.  Hanging duvets behind the mic is a good, low cost, way to minimise room reflections.  Do not fall into the trap of putting carpet on the walls (or worse, egg boxes).  You'll make things worse because these will tame the top end reflections whilst doing nothing for the mids / lows resulting in a boxy sound.

    Experiment with mic position (there are some good books available to give you pointers) but try to minimise the use of compression / eq during the recording process.  You can add in the studio during the mixing - you can't remove it.  Keep the levels sensible.  If you record at 24 bit you'll have loads of headroom.  There is no need to record as close to max as possible - there used to be a reason that we did this with analogue tape, there is no need with 24 bit digital (there are still plenty of 'Engineers' out there that still do this - because they do not understand what they are doing!).
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  • This can work, but you do need to take the time to make sure you get good-sounding raw tracks. If the room you're recording in sounds horrible, or you just sling up the mic in the first place that comes to mind, you'll get something that will always sound a bit compromised.

    A good example of this approach is the first Villagers album Becoming a Jackal -- I think that was recorded at home and mixed by Ben Hillier -- you can hear some dodgy room sound and other issues in places but the feel and mood of the album are great.

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  • wave100wave100 Frets: 131
    I think you have everything you need to give it a try at least - the main problem with recording acoustic instruments  (especially drums) at home is the sound of the room, if that sucks then no amount of gear is going to make it sound any better.  I assume you will be recording the instruments individually rather than all at the same time?  If the latter then you will probably need more mics, headphones and a headphone amp.

    (cross post with @Musicwolf )
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    Outstanding, people. Outstanding!
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  • Musicwolf said:
    The SM58s are dynamic mics so are probably not the best suited for recording - however, nothing wrong with trying. 
    The SM58 is the same capsule as an SM57 but behind the spherical pop shield.

    The Shure SM57 is an old favourite for close positioning on an electric guitar amplifier. Ideally, in conjunction with a second, more sensitive, mic placed at a distance.

    Some in-house engineers swear by the SM57 for almost everything. Just apply the relevant dynamic processing and EQ. 

    Musicwolf said:
    The most critical thing in any recording is the performance.
    I agree with this. Whenever possible, record the bulk of each song with the entire band playing live together. 

    Stuckfast said:
    If the room you're recording in sounds horrible ...
    ... try the Sound On Sound magazine trick of dampening hard room reflections with duvets.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • Talk to your mix engineer, ask what he'd advise. I don't think that getting totally raw tracks to him will help - it's often more than advisable, for example, to compress the vocals on the way in.

    We did this for our album (we're working on the release now) - everything was recorded by us (including vocals). We then handed it all off to a guy in Leeds, who decided that our drum recordings were utter balls and dragged us up to his studio to do it properly. The end result, though, is probably the best-sounding record I've ever been a part of; I'm genuinely proud of the way it sounds.

    So yeah, it can be done. It can be very time-consuming though. You'll inevitably spend a lot more time tracking than you would in a studio, because you can. That's a double-edged sword...you'll end up with a performance you're happier with, but it'll be exhausting.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    All great advice. Thanks guys. 
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 19961
    It presents a challenge for the engineer if you haven't recorded things well but I frequently mix for people who have self-recorded.

    From time to time I will ask them to redo sections, especially if the gain staging is off (ie digital clipping).

    The biggest issue is when the rare customer is precious about their work and refuses to acknowledge when something is not right and needs to be fixed.
    The entire project works better when the engineer phrases their request properly when the engineer is trusted and listened to.

    Also be clear about the arrangement- nothing is worse than trying to rearrange a tune after it has been recorded.

    Drums are the biggest issue to record well, using fewer mics makes phase relationship issues easier to sort but affords fewer opportunities to sample replace, should you wish too.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    Cheers @octatonic. Thats insightful info. 
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  • I am by no means an expert or even particularly experienced at recording but personally I was going to suggest @digitalscream 's suggestion of recording everything else yourself and then doing the drums "properly" in the studio (or, do it vice versa---speaking as a bass player I always found recording along to a proper drum part much easier than just using a click or guitar part).  

    That said, there's no reason not to try doing the drums yourself and see what happens---particularly with a stripped back kit that may be easier. 
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 19961
    I am by no means an expert or even particularly experienced at recording but personally I was going to suggest @digitalscream 's suggestion of recording everything else yourself and then doing the drums "properly" in the studio (or, do it vice versa---speaking as a bass player I always found recording along to a proper drum part much easier than just using a click or guitar part).  

    That said, there's no reason not to try doing the drums yourself and see what happens---particularly with a stripped back kit that may be easier. 
    In reality it means you need to record *everything that is not drums* twice.

    IMHO adding drums into a tune after everything else is recorded is a one way ticket to aintgotnogrooveville.
    So track the tunes with midi drums, then go do the real drum tracks, then re-record pretty much everything to lock in with the drummer.

    Ideally I like to see bass and drums tracked at the same time.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 12773
    I am by no means an expert or even particularly experienced at recording but personally I was going to suggest @digitalscream 's suggestion of recording everything else yourself and then doing the drums "properly" in the studio (or, do it vice versa---speaking as a bass player I always found recording along to a proper drum part much easier than just using a click or guitar part).  

    That said, there's no reason not to try doing the drums yourself and see what happens---particularly with a stripped back kit that may be easier. 
    To be fair, I wouldn't advocate doing the drums last if you can possibly avoid it - you end up doing a lot of touching up and re-doing sections to get everything lining up right.

    The rest of it stands, though.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    Yep, that all makes sense. I'd definitely aim to get a good drum recording from the outset and then build from that. I'm thinking that the mic or mics that might be the most useful addition to what I have would be a low/mid priced matched pair of small diaphragm condensers. Does that sound about right? Recommendations? Better suggestions? 
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8308
    edited January 1
    I've always found the opposite approach to work best. Get in a decent room with a good engineer and bash out all the rhythm tracks with a good drum sound and the proper live sound. Then spend any amount of time doing guitar and keyboard dubs on a laptop at home. Vocals you can either do at home or come back and do in a booth.

    I've then typically had a band member mix it but this has gone one of two ways once we got it done over a weekend with a great result the other time took nine months of agony and then sounded really over done, but this was more about the person doing it than the process.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • You can do both at home if you know what you're doing, and if you know your limitations and your strengths.
    My Channel: Wires Dream Disasters --- My Band: Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster --- My Studio: Orogenic Productions (website coming)
    Disclosure: I'm an audio engineer, product owner, and content developer working for FXpansion Audio UK Ltd.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    @monquixote Fair point, but given the stripped-back, raggedy acoustic nature of the band, it feels like it might be worth having a go at trying to get a drum sound we're happy with. If that proves elusive or beyond the resources we have at our disposal, then your suggestion will be the next step: go into a studio and plough through as many drum/bass tracks as we can, then take the tracks home and add everything else we can manage at home.

    However, there's nobody in our band with the technical chops needed to tackle the mixing part and we know that's where external expertise and input could prove crucial to getting a finished sound we all like.

    This thread has really helped clarify my thinking on what we should do. We won't be rigid about it and will be as pragmatic as we can be. But the simple fact is, we don't have the money between us to record an album in a studio setting, so needs must, and all that. It has to be better to get of our arses and start working on this album project than sitting around talking about how we MIGHT raise the money to MAYBE go into a studio. I guess. 
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    @WiresDreamDisasters ; That pretty much sums it up. Being realistic seems key. But also pushing what you can do, learning and investing the time it takes to learn, and listening to what other people say while being sure about what you're aiming to do.

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  • If you need someone to mix and have funds, we could chat and maybe figure something out. Always up for recording+mixing jobs.
    My Channel: Wires Dream Disasters --- My Band: Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster --- My Studio: Orogenic Productions (website coming)
    Disclosure: I'm an audio engineer, product owner, and content developer working for FXpansion Audio UK Ltd.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    Cheers Drew, that could be an option. There might be a push from the rest of the band to keep it local so they can maybe attend a final mix, but that might not be practical or even especially desirable. :/
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  • camf said:
    Cheers Drew, that could be an option. There might be a push from the rest of the band to keep it local so they can maybe attend a final mix, but that might not be practical or even especially desirable. :/
    Well what I did with @digitalscream and @PolarityMan is they sent me all their projects, and I did mixes and sent them revisions for feedback. Don't necessarily need to be in the same room, and actually it can be counter productive. Especially when you've got a whole band sitting on your shoulders. Something to watch out for if you end up doing it yourself!
    My Channel: Wires Dream Disasters --- My Band: Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster --- My Studio: Orogenic Productions (website coming)
    Disclosure: I'm an audio engineer, product owner, and content developer working for FXpansion Audio UK Ltd.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    That's what I was saying... bands attending mixes is not a surefire recipe for success or happiness. You'd definitely be in the frame as far as I was concerned. 
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3717

    There's a lot of ways you could go but sometimes the best way is just to hire a room, set up everything and just play live, touching up bits later if need be. Some types of music like metal do benefit from the isolated recorded techniques but other types actually come out better when recorded as a band .... just treat the vocal on the day as a guide vocal and redo that. 

    I wouldn't compress anything to track unless the dynamics are wildly all over the place. 24 bit recording has such a dynamic range it's not necessary and if you get it wrong it can't be undone by a mix engineer. The trick is to get your gain staging right and your mic positioning .... if something sounds wrong don't assume it can be "fixed in the mix"  .... I've made that mistake loads of times when pressed for time and always regretted it. Basically you need to get the multitrack sounding pretty good with no processing ..... if something sounds wrong change the positioning of the mic or the way it's played ... pay attention to phase especially on the drums. Then the mix engineer can actually make it sound great. 

    I've been involved in hundreds of recordings (owned a professional studio for five years ) and I've done all kinds of projects but the last thing I recorded for my own band a couple of months ago was done just by setting up as a band in a rehearsal space and we just played the songs live .... took less than 3 hours to do 8 songs then I re recorded the lead vocal in my dining room with the singer under a dog blanket using a Senn E945 and a £30 Mbox into Reaper ..... Oh and I added some strings. 

    Then I loaded the multitrack  via Google drive to Ivan Williams, a freelance mix engineer and he mixed it for me. The whole recording and mixing came to less than £200 
     
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 3691
    I've always found the opposite approach to work best. Get in a decent room with a good engineer and bash out all the rhythm tracks with a good drum sound and the proper live sound. Then spend any amount of time doing guitar and keyboard dubs on a laptop at home. Vocals you can either do at home or come back and do in a booth.
    I agree with this wholeheartedly. If you've got a space that sounds great, go for it. But a lot of what gives a record its character happens while recording. It's when you groove and gel as a group. It's when you decide how you want the instruments to sound, record the room ambience that makes them seem real, where a good monitor mix and an inspiring environment can make the difference between something that sounds flat and something that sounds amazing - even if in both cases they're mixed well.

    Even with simple drums, recorded with a couple of mics, the difference between those drums in a cool sounding room and those same drums in a typical home recording environment can be crazy.

    A recording session can focus the mind too - having all the time in the world is nice, but so's knowing you've got to get it right that day.

    And if the studio has some decent gear - mics, pres, eq & compression - and an engineer that knows how to use it, then there's also something exhilarating about hearing the record sound great immediately on playback. Take something like that home, mix it at your leisure, get help from people on here as you mix it, and it's really hard to screw up.
    Captain Horizon (my old band);
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  • absolutpepperabsolutpepper Frets: 149
    edited January 2
    Hi Cam. The best advice i can give is have a go, but as others have already helpfully pointed out there are a few key theings that would allow you to get the most out of a self recording.

    Firstly, the question of the home studio. Like others have said the main limiting factor of recording primarily acoustic instruments at home will be the acoustics of the rooms used. In my experience, it would be preferable to record drums (assuming this isnt a full band live recording) in a pro studio or even a rehearsal studio which has decent separation and has an element of acoustic treatment. If you opt for the home route it may be perfectly possible to get good results but its likely going to either require more time/effort to try and ready the environment or its going to be more time/effort in the mix trying to resolve any inherint issues with the room sound (the second being the least preferable option).

    this brings me on to my second point, getting it right at source. With the kit you’ve listed it will be possible to get some decent quality recordings but you are likely still light on gear to get a great drum sound. Sure it’s possible to record the kit with one LDC like the Aston, however the drum sound will lack a convincing stereo image. If 2 condensers were used you will begin to get that sense of width in the kit but due to limitstions you’ll probably miss some inherent kick/snare out of the mix.

    To achieve a good and workable drum sound i’d recommend looking at having the kit mic’d using the glynn johns technique as whilst this will still limit the ability to isolate and replace drums it does have the benefit of providing a nice stereo spread and decent representation of the toms, cymbals, kick and snare when set up properly. However with everything, getting things right at source is the number 1 issue. With drums, be sure that they are tuned properly, dampened where needed (if applicable), have new heads if required, etc and that mics are properly placed and that gain staging is carried out correctly and that phasing is correct (never forget about phase - dont just rely on plugins...use your ears).

    In my experience if you are handing mixes over to a freelance mix engineer, the best way to get the best result is to give them something where the source audio is the best. When i work for clients who are under a tight budget i often have to assist remotely with helping them get the basics of the recording right - because if the source is good then there is less to fix and also less to ‘improve upon’...and natureally the more time an engineer/producer is fixing a bad recording, the longer the mix takes and usually the more its going to cost.

    there’s plenty more i could talk through so i dont want this to be like war and peace but if you want a chat drop me a pm and we can discuss or i’m happy to take a few calls to set you on the best track (pun intended ;-) )
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  • Sorry, read a bit more about your kit setup (its early so probably shouldnt have skimmed through that). Glynn Johns may not be needed on such a small, almost cocktail-like setup but there are still a few options i could recommend to get the most out of a kit like that.
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  • menamestommenamestom Frets: 2471

    Personally, I think the live recording setup could be best.  If you have a decent space you can leave things set up, just get into the habit of of hitting record.  Do rough mixes and listen back, see what works and see what doesn’t.  Aim for some separation but don’t worry about some bleed.  At a certain level I think a live sounding basic mix with tracked vocals can be the most honest representation.  Once you get too complicated you can end up squeezing the life out of a track.    You could post rough mixes here and people in the know can see what might need re recording, I.e.  what sources are not quite right.  If it all sounds workable get somebody else to just mix it.

    Depends on the style of music I guess, you said acoustic so I’ve assumed an open natural sound.  For tighter pop mixes yeah drums elsewhere may be required.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 760
    That's what I'm thinking, too. And better to screw it up and know how it stands, than just die wondering. :)

    On the plus side, I have a choice of a few interesting rooms I can use during the day, including a wooden-floored hall. I've also got the time to experiment a bit and I've decent monitors that should help. I've already had an offer of some different ears willing to give a listen to what I manage to record and give me a steer as to whether I'm wasting my time or not. That would be a real reassurance. I've played music for 40 years and I know that my ears are a bit knackered, so that's one reason why I'm hesitant. But logic suggests that my ears will at least, probably, be consistent and by being smart with referencing other recordings as a guide, I might be able to get in the right territory. But being able to access some second or even third opinions would be a real help, so I'm very likely to stick some sounds up for a bit of feedback.  
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