If you're reading this, there's a good chance you've come from my FREE PDF, "Jeremy Storey's guide to START RECORDING FOR UNDER $1000". If you didn't and would like to get yourself a copy, click this link here --
In this blog you'll read and learn of 10 Steps I use pretty much every session to get it going and ensure things are going to run smoothly. After you finish reading, you'll be sure you're set up to get that recording right the first time!
Lets get to it!
1. Turn on your computer and open your DAW - The first step to setting up your session to get that right take right away, is turning on your computer and opening your DAW. Not to much to explain here, other then to make sure you have you DAW properly installed.
2. Connect your audio interface - Once you have the DAW all loaded up, grab your interface and plug it in to the USB connection of your computer. Depending if you're using a MAC or PC you may need to go through some software or driver installation to allow the interface to work. If that's the case, follow the steps the software provides and download the needed drivers to install and set up. Once you do that, continue from where you were here.
NOTE: Most audio interfaces have a few extras you can download for free by simply registering your product on that particular companies website! Go see if you've missed any FREE products!
3. Turn your DAW's audio input and audio output to the connected interface - Once you've installed the needed drivers or software to run you audio interface. You'll need to find your DAW's input and output settings. (Generally in 'Preferences < audio' of most DAW's) and change them to those of the audio interface. This tells your DAW what audio driver to listen to, and where to send the output to so you can monitor.
4. Plug in headphones or monitors - Now you can go ahead and plug in your headphones to the headphone port, or if you using monitors at this time, plug in those to the corresponding sides of the interface and power them on. If you do decide to use studio monitors during the recording process, make sure you turn them down to prevent feedback. Audio Feedback or Acoustic Feedback is a positive gain loop caught between a microphone and a loudspeaker, or in this case monitor. The loop goes on and on which causes the system to overload. This results in a terrible screech.
NOTE: With quieter signals it won't necessarily cause a feedback loop, but will cause a sort of 'comb filtering' effect, nulling out certain frequencies causing a sort of 'hollow' sound. Unless you have a fully isolated, treated, and soundproofed room to place you or the artist in, and have the monitors in another fully isolated, treated, and soundproofed room. I would HIGHLY suggest using headphones during the tracking/recording process.
5. Set up your microphone on the stand, secure it to the proper hight of the artist - After you get all that technical side of the session set up and handled, you'll have to set up the mic to you or the artist you're recording. To set a good hight for your artist, line the capsule up the mouth of the artist. Be careful you or the artist doesn't get to close or you could start to experience 'Proximity effect'. This is when the bass response is intensified beyond what it actually is. A good place to start is about 3 to 6 inches away. Put your pop filter in-between the artist and the microphone to help reduce the plosives.
NOTE: At this point, this where you would set up your microphone shield if you have one. They usually attach to the mic stand. If your shield has instructions on how to attach to your stand, please follow them.
6. Plug in your XLR cable from the interface to your microphone - Now its time to plug the mic into the interface. Be sure you have the input knob on the interface turned down before you do plug your microphone in to avoid any popping from speakers, ect... If you're using a condenser microphone for this recording, make sure you turn on the 48v phantom power AFTER the mic has been plugged in. DO NOT plug in the microphone if 48v phantom power is turned on. DO NOT unplug the microphone until phantom power has been turned off. Failing to do so can result in a possible shock the person unplugging, or a potential blown microphone or pre, or even all three! So MAKE SURE phantom is OFF when you plug in and unplug your microphone to your interface or pre amps.
7. Create a channel on your DAW ready to receive input from the interface - Whatever DAW you're using, create a new audio track within. Make the input of the newly made channel, the corresponding channel you have your microphone plugged into on your audio interface. On your DAW, turn on the record ready button on and get ready for the next step. You can also turn on your 'input monitoring' if you'd like to hear what's coming into the microphones at any given time.
IE: If you have a talkback microphone and would like to be able to talk to the artist between takes. This is where input monitoring becomes useful.
8. Set a healthy input level of-6BDFS on the meter in the DAW - At this point you want to get your artist to start saying some words into the mic to set the level. (Here's where I'd usually play the beat in their headphones, and tell then to start preforming as we're recording.) Start twisting the input knob until you see the meter on you DAW display's a level of roughly around -9DBFS to -6BDFS. This will give you lots of head room for mixing and adding anything after with plugins.
NOTE: It's also a great practice for when you want to send your audio to a professional engineer who uses outboard gear to process and mix audio. Outboard gear are just as sensitive to input levels as well as output levels, so it crucial to make sure the level isn't clipping on the way in. The mix engineer can reduce the levels if needed. But if you can save him that much more time, he'll or she'll like you A LOT more. I promise you that.
9. Do a quick test pass to make sure everything is set - Once you think you're good to go, hit record real quick while setting levels to get a quick snippet. Take this snippet and play it back to make sure the levels are good to go. If during the playback its to quiet or clipping, adjust the input the knob on your audio interface accordingly. This is a good time to start moving either the artist or the mic around to change the tone up until you find the spot that gives you the best sound.
10. Record the first take! - At this point you should have everything all set up. You've double checked all your connections, checked all your levels and nothings clipping. Headphones got audio coming to them. You or your artist is at the mic waiting. If all that is in check, NOW you are ready to get your FIRST official recording. So get ready to press that almighty Red record button and capture that next record. Who knows? YOU may just be sitting on the next platinum record. but YOU have to start somewhere. GET TO IT!
Before you go!
I've made you a condensed version of this checklist you can download for FREE! Now you can send a copy to your phone and always be ready to record anywhere you go! Send it someone else who may be starting and needs a good routine to start their sessions!
Thank you for taking the time to read this! Remember to leave a comment on what you think about this as well as to share on FaceBook for other people to learn and benefit! Share the knowledge!
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