Recording yourself playing as an ensemble

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Recording yourself playing as an ensemble

Post by DutchGuy » Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:04 am

Hi guys,

I had this idea that I would like record some music at home. Specifically, I want to record all parts myself. The problem is, I know nothing about this kind of stuff. I saw some people recording quartets and quintets and so, that's essentially what I want to do, just not necessarily with the video, and more parts. Think 4 trumpet parts, 3 trombone parts, 2 euphonium parts, 1 sousaphone part, and perhaps saxophone parts on flugelhorn and drums. So essentially a whole band.

I got the sheet music, and I can play the trumpet flugelhorn, trombone and euphonium. I have a windows PC, and would like to know what else I need to do this relatively cheap.

I guess I would need a microphone and a way to connect it to the PC. Any suggestions? Keeping in mind it should cover at the very least the range of trumpet and trombone, and later perhaps bass or sousaphone. Drums would be nice too, but not at all necessary. Price is definitely important.
Is a usb microphone the way to go? Or some kind of interface? Remember: I know nothing.

And then the software: I saw that Seb Skelly (trumpet player) uses Logic Pro X which is for Mac. Is there anything with an easy learning curve that does the same thing? Functions that he uses are among others a pitch correction, a gate, EQ, and vocal transformer (to lower octaves). I prefer cheap, easy learning curve and good tutorials.

Any help is appreciated!
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Re: Recording yourself playing as an ensemble

Post by ExZacLee » Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:59 am

Audacity is a free DAW that many of my students have used in the past. Given the results they got from using it, I imagine it is intuitive enough (as far as DAWs go) and can do what you want. It is compatible with Mac and Windows and I think Linux. If you don't want to drop $200 on Logic, this may be the next best thing. I've also heard good things about Reaper.

Some of the things you can do in the box with PT don't work in Audacity - for example, any effects processing has to be applied before you listen back to the track, it can't be done in real time. Adding meta-data to an MP3 is best done in another program (info/cover art) is best done in another program. My students would do most of their recording in audacity but would do the processing/mixing/mastering on one of the school systems using ProTools and UAD plugins. Still, some of the projects they did solely in audacity turned out pretty good - probably just took a bit longer to mix.

You can get a USB mic for what you want and it *should* work fine. As far as the issues you may run into, keep a notebook handy and write down any issues you run into. A list of possible issues would be pretty time consuming to type up - remember, google is your friend and any issue you have has definitely been had by someone else.

Word of advice: record to a separate drive from your system drive. USB 3 is easily fast enough to handle audio applications. I've had issues with crashes and freezes from recording to my system drive that were easily remedied by recording to a separate drive. Get a fast (at least USB3) 1Tb external hard drive - they're cheap.

Eventually you may want a better setup and workflow. I don't work on windows machines anymore, but you can definitely get windows machines that can handle audio provided they are A) fast enough and B) you keep it clean. Recording audio uses a lot of resources so make sure nothing is running in the background while you're recording.

When you're wanting to upgrade, you need a fast machine, fast drive, audio interface (I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett line of products, they work really well with everything I've tried so far) and some good cables and mics. The cable/mics will probably be the cheapest part of the deal. A good DAW doesn't have to break the bank - PT HD is not cheap. Digital Performer is $500 and is as good as any DAW on the market. Logic is $200. UAD plugin bundles are relatively affordable - a decent EQ plugin can be found in any DAW but you may want souped up compressors and a good Fairchild emulator is less than $200 now.
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Re: Recording yourself playing as an ensemble

Post by Pre59 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:38 am

DAW's have changed over the years to reflect the needs of their current ever changing user base. The problem is that yes, they can do everything that your heart can dream of, but they suffer from "bloat", trying to be all things to all men. I've still got Reaper, Waveform (formally known as Tracktion)and a couple of nice Mic's and mic pre-amps etc etc, but, I've found with each software upgrade that the DAW gets further away from what I want to use it for, and it needs to be used regularly to stay in touch with these changes. If you have just one project in mind you may be better off getting someone to handle the recording side for you.
Re mic's, I like the Rode M2, which is a stage condenser that can take a high input, but unlike a Sure SM57/58 has a very flat response up to 10kz and is a similar price.
Having said all of that, if I was starting out again, I'd try a demo of PreSonus Studio One, which has a more old school Pro Tools vibe about it.
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Re: Recording yourself playing as an ensemble

Post by DutchGuy » Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:55 am

I specifically want to do it all by myself. There is no budget. I buy what I need, preferably the cheapest acceptable stuff. Say, no more than 200 euros in total if possible. There will be no pay for this. It's just for me, and if it sounds like anthing maybe youtube, but mostly just for me and friends / band mates

I read something about the Shure SM58, which is acceptably priced. I'd need a converter to record on the PC, but those aren't too expensive either. I'm also fine with a USB microphone, but as I said, I have NO idea what everything means in microphoneland. I see there are many DAW's. What I need, I already described above: pitch correction, a gate, EQ, and vocal transformer (to lower octaves). I don't think Audacity is good enough to do this effectively. I just would like some advice on which one to try that has all of these, preferably free (Reaper?) or in a student version or something like that.

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Re: Recording yourself playing as an ensemble

Post by mwpfoot » Wed Sep 11, 2019 6:31 pm

Cheapest serviceable starting gear I'd recommend, assuming your PC is less than 5 years old:

$110 - Focusrite Scarlett Solo interface - actually get the 2i2 if you can afford, because the extra channel is handy for stereo pair of a group, a room mic, a secondary mic to blend and experiment with, ...

~$60 - used Shure SM57 - forever mic for live playing and general spot stuff in studio, however it is eventually a bit limiting in the studio on trombone; my feeling is that you can start there while you get your process and playing going, then look/save for, say, a Electro-Voice RE20 (large dynamic with minimal proximity effect, just saw a video with Fred Wesley blasting into one) or similar for the big horns; it's not perfect for all but you'll learn a lot about placement on your various instruments working with the SM57 and you'll have a common reference point for any future discussions with any recording expert; an alternative would be a "lesser" dynamic with a flatter response, which will sound less alive as captured on most of these sources but may ultimately be a little bit more straightforward to EQ in your mix ... you'd have to research response curves and maximum sound levels to determine what might be appropriate

~$25 - XLR cable and mic stand, they all the same

FREE* - PreSonus Studio One Prime - I use it and it's easy to get started and grow in it, and if you REALLY need 3rd party plugins (you won't to get started) you'll have to upgrade to the pay version; this software (in some form) is all you'll ever need to record and mix anything and a lot of it is common to other DAW

FREE? - headphones - start with what you have, go from there

That's both a great starting point for what you describe and gear that will have a place wherever this path takes you.

Just like horns, each of the "classic" mics that come up in these discussions has had variations, knock-offs, and derivatives, some of which can be found on and eBay for good prices. Just takes some digging to figure out potential similarities and differences. Finding examples of people blowing trombone into them is next to impossible, so at some point you'll have to make a leap.

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