In this introductory series we will discuss the basics of getting started with music making software discussing the fundamentals of recording audio. Music making is meant to be a fun, stress free activity. This is the strength of MAGIX Music Maker in that it does not require technical know-how! These articles aim to get you set-up and producing fast. There is often too much emphasis placed on producing release quality productions. This is a long road, and what is really needed is a good foundation to build upon. Let us take a direct route to achieving quality results and let the finesse and expertise come with practice based on solid knowledge. Where necessary I will include links to “good-to-know” topics.
First up in your signal path to the music software is the microphone. There are two basic types of microphone (mic), dynamic and condenser. Dynamic microphones are versatile and robust. They can be used to record voice to instruments. Condenser microphones are the professionals’ choice for recording. They have a wider frequency response and a better dynamic range when compared with dynamic microphones. This means they capture more of the detail in the source they are recording. Condenser microphones require power (phantom power), which can be supplied from your soundcard. Dynamic and condenser microphones come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Which one you choose will depend on what you are recording.
Once you have your microphone selected the next part is the most important and often overlooked part in the whole recording process, microphone placement. This requires practice and critical listening to master. Even before you position the microphone, listen to the source you are recording. It might sound obvious but use your ears, get up close and move around listening for changes in tone. Other factors that will influence the sound will be the size of room you are recording in, as well as the surfaces on the floor, walls, and ceiling. This can effect how dull,bright, and reverberant the source will sound. You can also have some fun and experiment here. Recording vocals in the bathroom, drums in the garage, strings in a stone floored room. Each space will add a specific character to the sound. The safe option though is to record in a neutral sound room, leaving room for experimentation later in the recording process.
First things first
The instrument should be in good working order (including voice!). This may require tuning, new strings, and fixing any rattles or squeaks. At every stage the recording process quality should be maintained. Recording a defective instrument will make it difficult to create the sweet sound you are after. A good tip is to monitor the microphone signal in your headphones while manually moving the microphone’s position. Altering the position even slightly can drastically change the overall tone. Getting the right frequency balance avoids any drastic equalisation (EQ) later.
Trust your ears
Monitoring in this way will also allow you to hear the balance between the direct sound coming from the source and the reflections in the room you are recording in. Make a short recording and critically listen. If your music software has any tools to view the frequency spectrum you should also use them. Make any adjustments if necessary to correct the tonal balance. In general moving the microphone closer to the source will increase the low frequencies, moving further away will reduce the low frequencies and also capture more reflections within the room. It is often useful to have reference recordings similar to the sound you are attempting to produce. Listen to these and compare them with your recording. Even the pros use this technique.