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Preparing To Record Live Instruments and Vocals

Posted by Ms.Tris On November - 13 - 2008

What’s up all… To all the Reason 4.0 users, I tried to do a Dirty South tutorial yesterday for ya. I had the pictures started, the beat started, and got stuck when I tried to edit the tracks note by note :-(…. I’m not sure if I like Reason 4.0, maybe when I have more time I’ll really get into it and figure it out. Until then I’ll be rolling with 3.0 for the new tutorials, and I’ll have to search youtube for 4.0 material….

On to today’s topic…..

I turned on my motif, and I am ready to play a few chord progressions over a beat made in Fl Studio. Everything is sounding good, I press record, and the motif signal is barely audible in the multi-track session. I normalize the wave, and all I hear is HISS and NOISE where there should be silence….. Back to the drawing board!

This mishap led me to searching about input levels, db monitoring, and mixer settings. I read about ” Signal to Noise Ratio”, I looked at a few videos on youtube, and I opened a couple books. All this and still getting some light hiss.

I finally started turning knobs and tweaking until I got it right. I had to adjust several important parameters in the process.

1. Levels on my soundcard mixer
2. Levels on the motif
3. Levels on the hardware mixer channel where the motif is inserted
4. Levels on the hardware mixers main outs

In a nutshell, you want to get a good solid signal going into your recording software with as little noise as possible.

The first thing I did to troubleshoot was listening, and watching my record input monitors. I used Adobe Audition and initiated the track where I would be recording the motif. Immediately I can see a signal although I’m not playing anything:

**I thought maybe my soundcard mixer inputs are to loud. I open my soundcard manual and set up the soundcard mixer as suggested. This is an important step I should have done when inserting the card in the pc**…better late than never though :-)….

I am still getting a signal, and I can hear hiss through my monitors. Next, I adjust the levels on the hardware mixer output, and it seems to fix the problem:

I played the motif and my signal was still low, so I adjust the gain on the mixer channel motif input, as well as the motif output volume. I turn the motif all the way up, full gain. I increase the gain on the mixer channel where the motif is assigned. I also turned down the gain on all the mixer channels not in use. Now when I record my signal is strong without a lot of hiss or noise. This is where I check the db level on Audition, and look at the wave form. I am getting an input signal averaging around -9 db, leaving headroom for adding effects and adjustments:

Now the motif is set, and my signal is good. I decided to check the mic, the mpc, and micron inputs as well. First I turned down all the hardware mixer inputs. *I want to make sure my mixer main out is not adding extra noise by having it’s output gain set to loud. I checked this by arming a track in audition, looking at the input monitor, and listening again. Not much going on at all, GREAT!… I repeated steps 2 & 3 for each instrument channel. I am leaving the hardware mixer “output” the same because I found a level that works well for each instrument in my set up.

After a while you’ll begin to co-ordinate site and sound, and get a basic idea when your levels are correct. Here is a session recorded at proper levels(arrows are place near key monitoring elements):

Looking at each track, I now have a visual of what a good signal level looks likes in wave form for different sounds in my multi-track session.

I am now set for recording a strong signal with little noise on each of my instrument channels. Aaah the infamous ” Signal To Noise Ratio”. This is a huge area to study if you really want to get a true understanding. My conclusion is, the higher the signal received compared to the noise level means less hiss and noise. I’ve read that I need to get as close to 0db without clipping. Sample rate, signal out put, digital conversion, even equipment cable, all have a part in getting a true SNR rating. When recording analog to digital ie: mic into a Daw ,studies have shown 0db may not be the best target. In my set up, the mpc averages a good input around -3db. Trial and error will be one of your most handy tools as your set up is different than mine. This post will help you get started in developing high signal to noise ratio or SNR, but as always further study is suggested. .

Happy Beat Making To All
Pz Til Later!~

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2 Responses to “Preparing To Record Live Instruments and Vocals”

  1. Gee Wiz says:

    yo good lesson here. how u been? i know we ain’t talk in a minute but im going to hit u up tomorrow

  2. Ms.Tris says:

    Geeeee Wiiizzzz what’s good partna?..it’s cool I’ve been on a super grind this week..I’m good what are you up to mayne? 🙂

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Introducing Ms.Tris Beats a Hip Hop Producer, Artist,and Blogger from Baltimore, MD. Currently producing for a host of Maryland\'s hottest Mc\'s, and artist from all over the country. Her music is in demand to the who\'s who in Baltimore Hip hop. Please enjoy your visit as Ms.Tris takes through her musical journey of production, hiphop and life....

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