February 22, 2007 at 03:28 AM · I find it really helpful to record myself and listen afterwards, but I have not found a good enough piece of software yet.
February 22, 2007 at 02:39 PM · Not about software, but I still like a mini-disc player/recorder very well. You can download via USB, or just use the little discs. The sound is really nice. I have fiddling friends who are using mid-grade voice recorders, but the tone can be scrapy. OK for them because what they want is to hear the tune basics, not their own tone production. There are new solid-state recorders which record to photocards, but they are pricey and you have to download relatively quickly or have extra,$$$ cards. Marantz field recorders are thought of highly. If you have a couple K for this purpose, there's a recorder that burns directly to CD, too. ;) My school owned one. Sue
February 22, 2007 at 03:27 PM · Maria,
Like Sue mentioned mini-disc players can be a great tool and easy to use. If you have a laptop you can also use it very easily for recording yourself. If you want to get more technical and work towards sound quality then you have options like Cubase, Nuendo, cakewalk and there are also some free programs out there. But then you will also need to spend about $350 for a PC interface and a decent condenser MIC.
February 22, 2007 at 05:14 PM · I've been using GarageBand in combination with a USB condenser mic, the Samson CO1U. I think I paid about $100 for the mic and I've been pretty happy with the sound quality. I've got a recording up on my profile if you'd like to listen.
February 22, 2007 at 05:20 PM · Your question is too vague to be answered. What's lacking in the software you have now?
Anyway, the software is the least important thing in the chain. It's just the recording medium.
A good mic,
A decent pre-amp,
A compressor of some kind (optional, but highly recommended)
A decent A-D audio card (to get the sound into the PC)
A VERY good reverb unit or plugin
Maybe some basic EQ.
That's it. The software application just holdes the info. There's not any difference in sound quality between any of them, as long as they are 16 bit. However, different applications will give you different options as far as reverb plugins go, and THAT makes a huge difference. Whatever you get, don't rely on the built-in reveb plugin, if it has one. Get something decent. For violin, nothing beats a convolution reverb.
February 22, 2007 at 05:35 PM · Allan, she wants to "record herself and listen afterwards", not get contracts from Deutsche Grammophon. I'm afraid you aren't helping her as much as you could.
February 22, 2007 at 05:43 PM · For Windows, Audacity is free, does very well, and has one of the more simple interfaces. If you want to do more than basic recording, it will do that as well. I've run through some of the more professional programs, and for recording a single violin they're like hunting mice in a closet with a shotgun.
The USB microphone idea is a good one, which will bypass the weakest part of the technological part of the system, the computer's own soundcard, but you can get pretty good results with a $10 computer mic and the computer soundcard, too. More important than any of the above, though, is the room and mic placement. Reflections in small hard rooms can do amazing things that you don't want to hear, even with $10,000 of equipment.
February 22, 2007 at 06:01 PM · Maria,
I asked a similar question about a month ago (and got a similar response from Allan, to boot).
Minidisc is great for the kind of thing it sounds like you want to do. It's very easy to use, and you can listen back to what you record virtually instantaneously. Because I recently asked the discussion boards about recording equipment, did my homework, and bought something I'm happy with, I thought I'd share:
I'd been using minidisc to record recitals, audition tapes, etc but was highly dissatisfied with the quality. I chose to invest about $500 in various equipment by purchasing it mostly on eBay. Here's what I chose, and why.
~ MBox Digidesign II (new from eBay for $300; retails between $400 and $500). This is a digital recording interface. That means that the mics plug into it, and it plugs into your computer via USB cable; when you record, it records directly onto your computer. The best part about the MBox is that it comes with Protools, the best sound editing software out there for the money. It's not that intuitive of a program for the novices out there, but it does come with an instructional DVD which covers basics. Luckily, the accoustics were so good where I recorded (Disney Hall) that I didn't need to futz with it at all.
~ Stereo microphones are really important if you want to up the quality of the sound you get; I got two new AKGs on ebay for $150. It's also important how you place them, and my recording engineer friend suggested we get the tallest stand we could find. Then you need one cable for each mic to plug into the box.
This setup serves my purposes just fine, and I know it will for a long time. It's substantially better than the minidisc but is also portable, and didn't cause any major financial strain. Working in the studios here in LA, I know that what I have pales in comparison to all the roomfuls of gadgetry commonly used, but for my purposes, this setup is great.
Thanks to all who gave me their advice a month ago, and good luck to you Maria!
February 22, 2007 at 09:10 PM · Jim,
If all she wants to do is record & listen back, a $20 radio Shack tape recorder will do. Everyone should understand what the "correct" setup is, even if they don't intend to get there right away.
Maia, just a clarification: I don't think you bought two stereo microphones. More likely two mono mics that you are positioning for a combined stereo pickup. With a true stereo mic, you only use one. At the price you paid, they are probably dynamic cardioid mics. If so, don't place them too far away, as you will lose a lot of body.
-And yeah, Michael's right about the room being critical. I knew I forgot to put something on that list.
February 22, 2007 at 07:23 PM · My teacher wants me to record my playing. I started with a $20. machine and I came out sounding like a sick Donald Duck. Very sick. Maybe terminal. I'm now using my Brother-in-Law's old "Panasonic Music System" record player/tape player-recorder. went to Radio Shack and got a $20. mic. The setup seems to be working well for its' purpose of listening to myself for seeing where I need improvements.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Uggggggh. I've received many complements on my playing, but what I heard scared the heck out of me. I emailed my teacher and got this reply back. I'm cutting and pasting her comments.
"It is great that you have the equipment to tape yourself. It is a wonderful way to make strides forward. It really brings about more awareness. When we are playing we are so busy with this and that that it is hard to catch everything. Look at anything you hear on playbacks that needs attention as gifts. Then you know where to zero in. And remember, these kinds of sounds, quality wise, are not indicative of how you truly sound! I sound like Donald Duck and Daffy as well."
Her comment that what I hear are gifts.....I wrote back and said if those are gifts than this is Christmas.
February 22, 2007 at 07:22 PM · Hello everybody,
Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! I only needed to read as far as Peter's answer and I realized my first problem might be the microphone. I use a program called FlexiWave but with the cheapest microphone. I will try to get a better mic and maybe try Audacity if I am still not happy. What Maia recommended looks very attractive, so maybe that's the next step. Allan's sounds like the top, but don't bring me from there all the way down to the tape recorder! Anyway, thanks again to all of you, great people!
February 22, 2007 at 07:44 PM · P.S. That's right, the Donald-Duck-Dying sound pushed me to ask (I am getting really low volume no matter how close the microphone). I am sure Donald Duck will stay for a while though, till my playing also improves...
February 22, 2007 at 09:34 PM · Go to the volume control on the system tray and get to the microphone volume and make sure it's turned up all the way. Also look for a check box under "Advanced" that says 20dB boost and check it.
February 23, 2007 at 06:52 AM · And make sure the computer is on, right? But now that you mention advanced settings that I don't have, I'll look for a better sound card too
February 23, 2007 at 09:11 PM · Take a look at this link:
"The Zoom H4 Handy Digital Recorder fits in your palm and is ideal for recording live musical performances" - and it comes with Cubase LE, a 48-Track Digital Audio Workstation. It also has two studio-quality electret condenser microphones configured in an X/Y pattern for true stereo recording. I've seen them for as low as $250USD
February 23, 2007 at 09:34 PM · Maria the only thing I have I can use to estimate what you know is that you're asking the question in the first place. If you have it figured out by yourself, say so.
February 24, 2007 at 06:50 PM · Jim,
You are right, that could have been a possibility and I just found it funny. I really appreciated all the answers, from all of you, it is a great way to communicate in spite of a few minor shortcomings (e.g. minor misunderstandings like this one). As I said, I learned a lot, in spite of my dumb question. And I learn a lot in general on this website, it's just such a wonderful idea. Maria
February 24, 2007 at 06:59 PM · Maia,
What model of AKG mics did you end up with. I tried a model 3000 a while back and found it to have a harsh tone. I ended up with a pair of Model AM11 mics from GT Electronics which is a subsidiary of Alesis. They const me about $200 a piece. I'm pretty happy with them. They have a nice warm tone. but perhaps a little too flattering. So I'm still looking.
While we're on the subject let's get the dirty little secret out into the open. THE MICROPHONE LIES !! In particular it lies about tone quality. It also lies about articulations, making notes sound longer or shorter than they really are. It also lies about dynamics. Some recording setups will exaggerate accents or articulations. Other will minimize them.
It's a good idea to have a friend listen and compare your live sound with the recorded sound. Often your playing is better than what the recording sounds like in very specific ways. Then again, sometimes the recording is better than the reality. I think some recording engineers are bery good at making that happen.
February 24, 2007 at 08:41 PM · The microphone does lie, at least in terms of tone quality. Tonally the right everything often sounds better than the real thing did, as if the best things are highlighted. But I do know live is often better than recorded, like you say, I think because of some elements of the live experience that I really can't put my finger on. Psychologically, small mistakes are more forgiven live I think, smoothing the whole thing out maybe. Conversely I have friends who are boring live but that performace recorded sounds great:) Like watching them puts you to sleep or something.
February 24, 2007 at 08:26 PM · What I do is simply take my digital camera (still camera) into the practice room with me and record a video. Most digital cameras come with a video setting these days, and not only will you get the sound, but you can critique your posture and whatnot as well at the same time (without having to crane your neck to look in a mirror). You can listen to it instantaneously, and then upload it and save it for later as well!
February 25, 2007 at 01:09 AM · Since the question was about software . . .
My son has recorded me with a pianist for self-study purposes, but we wanted it to be good. (He works as a theater sound designer in his non-day job and has all his own equipment.) For software, he uses Apple's "Logic Express" recording to an iBook. Excellent results, and he can mix the results as needed, but the software isn't cheap, so it may be more than you want.
Audacity does have a good reputation (and I happen to be acquainted with the programmer who wrote it; he's an outstanding jazz pianist, went to Carnegie Mellon).
And I agree with Ray Randall, a self-diagnostic recording can be enormously helpful in improving one's playing.
February 25, 2007 at 05:05 AM · On the subject of the microphone telling lies--not only do all microphones have their own voices, but I also discovered, after spending a bit too much money, that many microphones have what's called a "presence peak" which boosts certain frequencies that happen to make violins sound particularly bad (if you see a frequency response chart for a mic with a bump up around 4KHz, you don't want that--it might be good for trumpets or something, but not for violin). If you're getting into mics in any sort of big way, look for something with flat response. Behringer's ECM8000 is one, and it's only 50 bucks, but I settled on AT3032s, which are pretty flat, and also have extremely low noise levels (the Behringer is designed for adjusting sound systems--it's not really a recording mic, so the noise level is high and the response is a bit mushy). Also, the Zoom H4 idea is a good one for someone who wants to be mobile. I have a M-Audio MicroTrack, which is a similar, older concept with fewer bells and chimes, and costs more money, but it's really convenient (but don't buy it--get the H4).
As you see, you can spend a lot of money on this depending on how sick you want to be about it. :-)
February 25, 2007 at 06:02 AM · I tried the ecm8000 you mentioned out of curiosity because it's so flat. I hated it as a recording mic. It's like every mic will add something, and flatness in a mic sounds gray and undetailed. There's a good reason recording mics aren't designed that way, which obviously isn't hard to do. Luckily I just borrowed it.
February 25, 2007 at 01:47 PM · What were you comparing it with, and what could you recommend in the same price range? A lot of cheap mics (or should I say most, or all?) have the same type of problem with detail.
February 25, 2007 at 03:03 PM · All I owned at the time to compare it to was an sm57. I was inexperienced and the 8000 was one of my first shots at a mic solely for recording. I had flatter is better in my head from being an audiophile from way back, so my eyes popped when I saw the spec. Since then, from my own experience with a half-dozen real recording mics, and from listening to recordings knowing what mics were used, I've settled on a Russian mic that's called the Oktava mc012. I have three of them but I just use one and record everything in careful mono, which is more than 2x easier than stereo:) I got them at Guitar Center for $100 each. I can't get anything else to work as well as them, everybody raves about them, and if you look at the lists of available equipment recording studios put out, more often than not they're on the list. The sm57 is actually decent for recording acoustic instruments too. It has a fairly rich sound that's a bit dark. They're everywhere, and it or the -58 are about the only thing you'll ever see in cheapo to upper medium live applications. They're also about $100.
P.S. as for cheap mics and detail, detail for practical purposes is a function of the frequency response. Whatever's missing in "detail" would also be missing in the response graph, if you could correlate the two that way. So happens flat mics are like potatos without butter or salt. They just sound bad. I only have experience with the 8000 but any other flat mic would sound the same by definition. The art of desiging a microphone is in what you tweak away from flat. Investigate the mc012 and try it if you want.
February 25, 2007 at 02:45 PM · I just purchased the Zoom H4 from SamAsh. It arrives this Tuesday, and I can't wait to try it out!
February 25, 2007 at 03:04 PM · Yes, by the time I found out about the Octava, my budget was shot. They're quite a bit more expensive now than the Behringer--over $200 each from the official importer--and the market is littered with Chinese counterfeits.
February 25, 2007 at 03:17 PM · Yes. I read about the Chinese counterfeits. I also heard GC quit carrying the brand, but I'm not sure. They also counterfeit sm57s big time. GC used to be the official importer for Oktava, or bought them directly from him or something. Some exclusive arrangement.
February 25, 2007 at 07:37 PM · I won't bother with much tech stuff, since my world is bit different from the discussion at hnad, but one thing should be corrected:
Jim, you wrote, "as for cheap mics and detail, detail for practical purposes is a function of the frequency response."
I can see how you might think so, since many really junky mics also have limited response, but it's not actually true. Some of the most detailed mics in existence or ribbons, and they have extremely limited HF response. They also happen to be the best choices, most of the time, for recording violin.
(OK, I see that your specifically are talking about cheap mics, so you have a point to some extent, but I still dissagree for the most part. Better to understand the technology than to use generalizations that could be misleading, IMO.)
Detail can be lost in two basic ways:
1: A heavy diaphram,esp when recording at a distance of 3' or more. Dynamic mics would be the worst, though many condensers have heavier than optimum diaphrams. For distance recording, you want 6 micron or less.
2: Bad electronics. Cheap caps, junk transformers, bad design ....
Also realize that flat response is never an indication of quality, and it is rarely desired in a high-end mic, for various reasons. As Jim wrote, quote: "flatness in a mic sounds gray and undetailed."
Vocal mics should add definition at 6-7 K, and exhibit lots of proximity boost. Mics for orchestral recording are typically designed with a HF boost, to overcome losses from air compression. Mics chosen for recording bright instruments up close (Violin, trumpet, cymbals) typically have REDUCED HF. -That's why ribbons are so popular for these sources.
I agree that those Octavias are quite good for the money. (not found in high-end studios, but yes a very popular mic in home studios, for a good reason) The afore-mentioned AKG 3000 is horrible, in my opinion, at any price.
Be careful when considering any mic made in China. Their quality control is simply not there yet. I know of two mic manufacturers that started manufacture there and had to close down production before coming to market.
If anyone is reading this and considering getting a really nice set-up, I'd recommend the AEA ribbon mics, esp the R84. This is cheap by ribbon standards @ about $1,000 street, and is very close in sound to my fav,, the Coles 4038.
Note- if you go with ribbons, you will need an exceptional preamp, with lots of clean gain. Millenia is great, TAB V72s also.
Last thing: Someone above mentioned a unit with a buiilt-in X-Y condenser setup. this would be a very bad choice, IMO. I won't go into detail, but X-Y is not the way to record violin, even in a good room. A single mic would be better (an omni is better than a cardioid, but only a true, dedicated omni) Spaced omnis are the ultimate, IMO. this is called "A-B stereo" and has the best chance of capturing the complex timbral radiations of our favorite instrument.
-Violin is not just the Devil's instrument for players, it's also one of the Devil's instruments for recording engineers. Very, VERY tough to get it recorded well.
February 25, 2007 at 07:34 PM · One thing I've noticed is that virtually all of the cheap mics I've tried are smeary--even the ones with small diaphrams. Is that electronics?
One of the things I like about my AT3032 (which is a pretty obscure mic favored by birdwatchers/recorders) is how clear everything is.
I know that most of the good mics have a presence peak, but for violins I find that really irritating. Perhaps it's useful for compensating for close or distant micing, but not advantageous in the situation we're talking about? Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I just want the violin recording to sound as much as possible like the violin that made it, no more, no less. . . but that seems to be asking too much
February 26, 2007 at 02:16 AM · I also have been using Garageband on my iBook and the mic installed inside the laptop is surprisingly good quality- it is Apple..:)
Then you can just export it to iTunes, it's in mp3 file format, and burn it onto a CD.
February 26, 2007 at 05:54 AM · Allan -
Allan, you said -
I won't bother with much tech stuff, since my world is bit different from the discussion at hnad, but one thing should be corrected:
I can see how you might think so, since many really junky mics also have limited response, but it's not actually true. Some of the most detailed mics in existence or ribbons, and they have extremely limited HF response. They also happen to be the best choices, most of the time, for recording violin.
Allan - I almost didn't say anything in this thread because I knew someone who does not pay enough attention or does not know enough would come on to refute it. I don't write things that aren't factual.
You didn't understand what I said. What I said was that every single characteristic of a microphone would be displayed in a graph of its frequency response. That's what the frequency response is in fact - the sum or all these other quantities that you could break out if needed. That is basic, fundamental stuff. I didn't say "detail" was a function of how "good" the frequency response is, i.e. the bandwidth of something.
I'm sure many people don't post here because someone will come along and refute what they say, after skimminng half of the post they're going to refute, or in reality not having the background to refute it. I don't know if you're really involved in audio or not - I think you might be in some capacity or maybe you would like to be. You know some things I'd want you to know, and don't know others. You could go farther if your energy is directed more toward learning than teaching, like all of us. One of the most annoying human qualities really is to try to make yourself look good by trying to make someone else look bad. You'll never get even three feet ahead that way. Much better to simply try to do the opposite, after some sessions with the books.
February 26, 2007 at 06:06 AM ·
February 26, 2007 at 06:01 AM · quote:
"You didn't understand what I said. What I said was that every single characteristic of a microphone (and other things) is displayed in a graph of its frequency response. That's what the frequency response is in fact - the sum or all these other quantities that you could break out if needed"
No, it most definitely is not.
There's the phase response (temporal relationship of all frequencies.)
There's slew characteristics.
There's harmonic & inharmonic distortion, of both the transformer and of the amplifier.
There's impedance masking effects.
There's the resonance of the capsule itself that can change response based on amplitude.
There's the integrity of the off-axis response, which is phenomenaly important, esp if recording a stereo pair.
There's the amount and character of the proximity effect, which can drastically change frequency response based on distance and angle to the capsule.
The list goes on...
Not one of these things shows up on a static frequency graph.
February 26, 2007 at 06:00 AM · Allan, all these things are shown by the frequency response. Even the amount of distortion present will affect the frequency response and show up there.
This is the difference between someone who knows signal processing, or even basic amplifier desigh, and someone who doesn't. You don't know what you don't know.
February 26, 2007 at 06:13 AM · quote: "Allan, all these things are shown by the frequency response. Even the amount of distortion present will affect the frequency response and show up there."
Jim, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, and it has now become offensive. I have taking a good deal of time to politely explain to your just a few of the reasons why your statement was in error. You seem incapable of accepting the truth. This is, in fact, my #1 area of expertise.
Before you embarrass yourself further, I suggest you have a long talk with an experienced engineer, or someone who builds microphones for a living. -Or maybe read a few books on the subject.
I'd rather not argue with you publicly, but you are making ablatantly false statement which could be detrimental to those reading it, and I just can't let it go.
February 26, 2007 at 06:30 AM · Allan, I actually am an engineer and have been since 1987. People like you are one of the kind of people I meet sometimes and I'm very familiar. I'm usually insulated from them :) Now, go tell the Chicago Symphony how to tune their violins.
February 26, 2007 at 07:02 AM · Too funny ....
February 26, 2007 at 07:02 AM · Whatever helps you sleep at night, mate ....
February 26, 2007 at 07:24 AM · I use SoundForge for single track recording from a decent mic through a soundcard (I have an adaptor). For multitrack recording I use Vegas. Sometimes I edit the individual tracks in a seperate program and then open them together in "vegas". I used "acid" for awhile (I think that is a cakewalk program as well as the newer Sonar4. Of all of them, I have found Vegas to be the easiest because of the file types and how you get files to and from the program. Try to avoid programs that use file types that can only be opened in that program. They are frustrating.
The faceplate can be used creatively as well,either for the mic, from the piano, or from the amplifier that has a mic as an input... Or I record on my minidisc player and as I'm playing it back through their program, set the computer to record "what you hear". That records the sounds that the computer is processing. Anyway. As it plays in the Sony program, Soundforge records it. Then I can turn it into a Wav. or .mp3 and use it in any program I like to edit it.
My minidisk recorder mic (the only one that was compatable and sold by the same company....) has a very treble quality to it. It acutally records stringed instruments very well and quite cleanly. But for recording vocals, no matter what I use the mics for (minidisc or otherwise), this quality of sound remains. That is what clued me in to the importance of the mic.
I've used two stereo mics before, hooked together in order to get stereo from each side of the room. What would that be called? Quad-area-o? He he.
One thing that moving does...at least if you back up your computer fiiles....it takes me through the spectrum of my recording, and thus my playing.
No matter what equpment I have used throughout the years, if my playing sucked, so did the recording. If the playing was good but the recording was bad, youcould still tell. It might not be an enjoyable recording to listen to, but it is descernable.
Recording is SO MUCH FUN!! (and ache).
February 26, 2007 at 08:38 AM · "Whatever helps you sleep at night, mate"
There's a neat property built into this kind of thing, which continually gives me peace of mind. It is that the people to whom an issue is actually significant always resolve it properly somehow. If they can't, then their actions unfortunately really wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things anyway. Live long and prosper :)
February 26, 2007 at 10:35 AM · I can't resist saying how distortion shows up in the frequency response of an amplifier:) Distortion is the deformation of a sine wave, which is simply the addition of frequency components that were not at the input. Therefore a perfectly flat amp must have zero distortion, and any deviation shows up in its frequency response. That's how the two are related. And infinite slew rate would mean infinite bandwith, again part of the frequency response. And we know the phase/frequency relationships within the amp's bandwidth from its upper roll off characteristics, again part of the frequency response. Everything about the amp is included in the simple frequency response, in an unbroken-out, undiagnostic way. A marvelous wonder to behold...
February 26, 2007 at 01:13 PM · I have several mics, including a pair of those Oktava MK012, an Oktava ML52 (a ribbon mic), a Rode NT 2000, a vintage Altec Lansing 639 B (popularly known as the birdcage mic--it has both the ribbon and dynamic elements in it), and the one I turn to most often for everyday use (specially if I need to set up quickly) is the Audio Technica stereo mic AT825. I'm very happy with it. I record using a Marantz PMD660. For software I just use Sound Forge, which is a two-track program.
February 27, 2007 at 03:31 AM · just a note... speaking of recording, I thought you might "like" this http://www.pristineclassical.com/HattoHoax.html
And thanks everyone, I'll look into all the (affordable) possibilities.
May 6, 2008 at 12:41 PM · I like the Donald Duck metaphor. When I record in acoustically dry surroundings, it can really sound like him dying!
One of the things that helped me to bring old Donald back to life was to add just a little reverb. My Audacity program has a plugin called GVerb which does the trick nicely. The following settings gave results that were good for me:
Room size 40 m (I assume they mean length); reverb time 3 s; damping 0.9; input bandwidth 0.75; dry sound level 0 dB; first reflection -27 dB; tail -33 dB. There is an Audacity wiki that offers explanations and other settings as well.
I record with a Behringer C2 mic pair in an equivalence configuration, a Xenyx mixer and a Creative EMU 0202 USB interface to my laptop. The program used is Audacity.
This way, one can at least expect to hear a live Donald Duck.
May 6, 2008 at 02:51 PM · Easy media creator gets a vote here. It is the easiest I have found and does the most for the least amount of money. For a technical newbie, like me, it is really pretty easy which is why I stick with it. It is not free but, not too much and is very flexible and can do video, DVDs with menus, CDs, for PC or MP3 player formats. The output options are really great. It is around $100. US. I use it with the snowball microphone (under $100) which records in one direction or omni-directional mode allowing a decent sound if you are recording a small group or just yourself. The kids like to see the video of their rehearsals and it is easy to edit video and change it to any format you want. I load them on an Itouch and it is really great. For the money it is the best I have found so far although some great suggestions are posted. It allows some effects like reverb if you at home and the sound is really flat. Good luck.
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