Sound Recording Advice for the Home Recording Studio Sound Recording Advice for the Home Recording Studio Sound Recording Advice for the Home Recording Studio Contact John Volanski via e-mail at: soundadvice@johnvolanski.com
 
Read and excerpt from the book Sound Recording Advice.
Sound Recording Advice - THE book for the serious Home Recording Studio enthusiast.
Buy the book on-line via PayPal, or by fax or mail
Includes a new 44-page Addendum for 2014 plus the latest 2014 equipment recommendations.

Contact John via email to get
the latest list of recommended equipment for every budget.

 


 
"...All the information is presented very clearly, with simple, logical real-world options for the low to medium budget home recordist. There's great info on buying new and used gear, recommendations for studio setups at different price points, some simple DIY projects...just about everything you need for reference when recording at home..."
    Larry Crane, Editor
    Tape Op Magazine

    www.tapeop.com
 
Sound Recording Advice home page
Tips for the Home Recording Studio
Frequently Asked Questions about home studio recording
Setting up a home recording studio
Audio recording examples
About the book Sound Recording Advice - contents, excerpts, errata
About John J. Volanski
Resource Links related to home recording studios
Press-related information and book images
Contents of the book Sound Recording Advice for the Home Recording Studio are given including the full Table of Contents, book excerpt, book errata and book cover GIF image.
 
Site index for the Sound Recording Advice website.
 
 
Downloads:

Table of Contents
  (PDF file)
 
Book Excerpt
  (PDF file)
 
Book cover image
  (GIF file)
 
(get Acrobat Reader
   free)
 
Contents of the book Sound Recording Advice for the Home Recording Studio are given including the full Table of Contents, book excerpt, book errata and book cover GIF image.


Contents of the book Sound Recording Advice including Table of Contents and excerpts.

Sound Recording Advice contains a wealth of information for the home recording enthusiast. On this page you may:
   • view the Table of Contents,
   • read an excerpt from the book,
   • get the one small errata correction to the book
   • download a GIF image of the book cover

Buy the book now!click

Also visit the Press Info page for a book review, book endorsements, and an interview with the author.

 
 

Table of Contents

(download a PDF version of Table of Contents)
   (get Acrobat Reader   free)

About the Author....9
Preface - A note to the reader....10
Acknowledgments....11
Warning - disclaimer....13
Introduction....15

 
PART ONE: ELECTRONIC STUDIO
    EQUIPMENT....19

 
ELEMENTS OF A HOME STUDIO....19
    The Dedicated Space:....19
    Capturing Performances:....20
    The Recording Medium:....20
    Manipulating the Live or Recorded Sound:....20
    Combining Sounds Together:....23
    The Final Result:....24
    More about Project Studios:....24
OK, I WANT TO RECORD MUSIC, NOW WHAT?....26
RECORDING FORMATS FOR THE HOME STUDIO....33
    Reel-to-Reel:....33
    Cassette:....33
    MiniDisc:....34
    DAT:....35
    CD-R and CD-RW:....36
    Multi-track Digital Recorders:....37
    Digital Audio Workstations:....39
    DAW Plug-Ins:....42
    What's Next?....43
POWER FOR YOUR STUDIO....45
    Power Distribution to the Studio:....45
    Power Distribution in the Studio:....49
    Sequencing of Power:....52
    Power Distribution for the Computer:....52
MICROPHONE PREAMPLIFIERS....54
    Tubes vs. ICs in Amplifiers:....56
WHAT IS MIDI?....58
CONNECTING EQUIPMENT IN YOUR STUDIO....60
    Audio Patch Bays:....60
    MIDI Patch Bays:....64
    Digital Signal Standards:....65
    Audio Cables:....67
MONITORING SOUND IN YOUR STUDIO....69
EQUIPMENT RECOMMENDATIONS....77
    Computer:....78
    Mac versus PC:....79
    Audio Cards and Computer Interfaces:....80
    Multi-track Recorders:....82
    Reel/Reel Multi-tracks:....82
    Cassette Multi-tracks:....83
    MiniDisc Multi-tracks:....84
    Modular Digital Multi-tracks:....85
    Modular Hard Disk Multi-tracks:....86
    Mastering Recorders (2-Tracks):....90
    Mixers:....92
    Microphone Preamplifiers:....99
    Microphones:....101
    Effects Processors:....104
    Dynamics Processors:....106
    Enhancers and Exciters:....107
    Reference Monitors (Speakers):....107
    Power Amplifiers:....109
    Headphones:....114
    Headphone Amplifiers:....114
    Headphone Amp Kits:....115
    The Bottom Line:....116
RECOMMENDED BASIC SYSTEMS....117
    Recommended System under $500:....117
    Recommended System under $1000:....120
    Recommended System under $1500:....122
    Recommended System for about $2000:....122
    Recommended Standalone System for $5000:....123
    Recommended Computer System for $5000:....124
    Recommended Systems Over $5000:....125
BUYING NEW & USED EQUIPMENT....127
    Usenet:....127
    Search Engines:....128
    Judging the Condition of Used Gear:....129
    New and Used Gear Lists:....129
    Used Equipment Web Sites:....130
 
PART TWO: STUDIO LAYOUT AND
    FURNITURE....133

ACOUSTICS IN YOUR STUDIO....133
STUDIO FURNITURE....139
    Equipment Racks:....141
LOCATING EQUIPMENT IN THE STUDIO....144
SHELVES FOR KEYBOARD SUPPORT STANDS....146
PEDAL BOARD....147
ELECTROMAGNETIC INTERFERENCE & NOISE....149
SPECTRUM ANALYZER AND RTA....157
REMOVING AUDIBLE NOISE....163
    Overview of room treatments and acoustics:....163
    Single-ended noise reduction units:....163
    Removing other noises in the studio:....166
    Removing mic popping noises:....166
    Removing audible computer noise in the studio:....167
    Balanced versus unbalanced equipment:....170
    Direct Boxes:....171
    The Control Room vs. The Recording Space:....172
 
PART THREE: MODIFYING YOUR
    EQUIPMENT....174

TAPE DECK REMOTE CONTROLLER....174
ADDING A POWER SWITCH....185
ADDING A HEADPHONE JACK....194
MASTER FADERS....197
SIMPLE PASSIVE AUDIO MIXER FOR $5:....208
LINE OUTPUT CONVERTER....211
FINDING SCHEMATICS FOR EQUIPMENT:....211
LIST OF NEW & SURPLUS ELECTRONICS
    PARTS SUPPLIERS....213
 
PART FOUR: CAPTURING SOUND
    RECORDINGS....215

THE NATURE OF SOUND....215
    The Physics of Sound:....215
    Psychoacoustics:....221
    Measuring Sound Intensity:....224
MIKING/TRACKING INSTRUMENTS & VOCALS....227
    Tracking in General:....227
    Miking Vocals:....228
    Miking Instruments:....233
    Brass:....233
    Woodwinds:....234
    Sax:....234
    Harmonica:....234
    Piano:....235
    Solo Violin:....237
    Solo Cello:....238
    Electric Bass Guitar:....238
    Electric Guitar:....240
    Acoustic Guitar:....241
    Drums:....244
    More on Microphones:....249
BOUNCING TRACKS....251
MIXING....256
    Setting Gain Structure:....256
    Mixing the Song:....260
    Tricks of the Mix:....263
MASTERING....271
 
PART FIVE: TOOLS, ADVICE &
    MISCELLANEOUS....274

WALL WART ADAPTERS....274
RUBBER CLEANER/REVITALIZER....276
HEAT SHRINK, COLD SHRINK AND VELCRO....278
ANTI-SKID RUBBER FEET....280
MEDIA BACKUP....280
TROUBLESHOOTING AND TOOLS....282
    Basic Tools:....282
    Troubleshooting Techniques:....285
    Noisy Volume Controls:....288
    Intermittent Signal Connection Problems:....289
    Tape Deck Drive Problems:....290
HOME STUDIO SECURITY....292
HOME STUDIO INSURANCE....295
BEST PRACTICES IN THE STUDIO....297
OTHER MISCELLANEOUS TIPS....300
    Tips for Burning CD-Rs and CD-RWs:....300
    Keeping a Notebook:....301
    Listening to Your Mix on Other Speakers:....302
    Tips For Better Noise Reduction:....302
    Automatic Key Depresser:....303
    Low-cost Light Show Controller:....303
    Pertaining to Analog Tapes and Recorders:....304
    Pertaining to Recording Music to Tape:....305
    Keeping Track of Signals on Mixer Channels:....305
    Getting Convincing Guitar Sound from a
        Keyboard:....305
    Understanding Guitar Effects:....306
    Large Keyboard Support Stand:....307
    Free Mastering Booklet:....307
    Sharing MP3 Files:....308
    Can't Sing In Tune?....308
    Shielding Your Monitors (non-invasive method):....309
    Shielding Your Monitors (invasive method):....310
    Which Unit To Buy?....310
    Low-cost, Lightweight Portable Recording System....310
    Musician's Earplugs:....312
    Recording Vinyl LPs:....312
    Adding a MIDI Retrofit to a Synthesizer:....313
    Non-slip Material for Desk-top Units:....313
    Figuring Out Speaker Polarities:....313
    Long Speaker Cables:....314
    Telephone Ringer/Signaler:....315
    Battery-Backed RAM Memory:....316
    How do I learn more about all this Studio Stuff?....318
 
Fade To Silence....319
 
INDEX....320

 return to top   


 

Book Excerpt

download a PDF version of the Excerpt
   (get Acrobat Reader   free)

The following is an excerpt (pages 19-24) from the book Sound Recording Advice by John J. Volanski. All rights reserved by Pacific Beach Publishing.

PART ONE: ELECTRONIC STUDIO
EQUIPMENT

ELEMENTS OF A HOME STUDIO
 
Music recording equipment in the home recording studio.What defines a home studio? How do you know when you finally have configured a home studio? Something as simple as a microphone and a cassette deck could be defined as a home studio, since you are at home capturing some sort of audio performance to a recording medium for later playback. However, a simple home studio such as that would give very limited flexibility indeed.
 
Let's define a home studio as a dedicated space within your home where you can capture the performances of multiple instruments or vocalists (either all of them simultaneously or individually at discrete instances in time) to some sort of recording medium, manipulate the live or recorded sound in some fashion in either the time domain or the frequency domain (I'll explain this shortly), combine them together in some relative fashion to achieve a desired effect, and then transfer the final result to some other medium for later playback. We can also define a project studio as simply a home studio that is used for and possibly by others to achieve the same results as defined above. Let's dissect this paragraph one element at a time.
 
The Dedicated Space:
At best, this might be a spare bedroom, the garage, the basement (if you are lucky enough to have one), the attic, or maybe even a small shed or building out behind your house. At worst, the "dedicated space" might be a section of your living room or family room (i.e., look at the inside cover of Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything album). If you share a living space with others, this arrangement of using the living room as your studio space generally does not work amicably for very long. The idea is to get a space that can be dedicated and arranged to support the particular requirements of recording audio.
 
Capturing Performances:
In order to capture performances, several critical items must be present. First, you will need some musicians or "the talent." The people that you record may be playing traditional acoustic instruments, singing, and/or possibly playing electronic, amplified instruments. Some electrical instruments can be connected directly to the equipment in your studio while others, along with the acoustic instruments and the vocalists, will need to be recorded using microphones. Microphones are simply the reverse of speakers. They convert acoustic sound energy into an electrical signal that can be recorded. The performances you capture might consist of a group or ensemble of players and singers, all playing at the same time. Obviously, this would require multiple microphones in order to capture each individual performer's audio and retain the ability to exercise some control over how it is recorded and processed downstream. Or, the performance you capture might just be you singing and playing different instruments one at a time to build up a complete musical composition.
 
The Recording Medium:
The performances you capture have to be recorded onto something, and that something is the recording medium. Currently, there are many options and formats for recording audio. Some of the options use magnetic media such as analog tapes (reel-to-reel, cassette), digital tapes (digital audio tape (DAT), PCM digital data on video tape) or computer hard disk drive platters and removable disks (Zip, etc.). Other newer options use optical disks such as the CD (Compact Disc), DVD (Digital Versatile Disk) and MD (MiniDisc) formats. These options will be discussed in more detail later in the book.
 
Manipulating the Live or Recorded Sound:
Audio processing and recording equipment.Rarely is a sound recorded directly to a recording medium and then played back without some sort of manipulation en route. There are several ways that a sound can be manipulated. It could have its time domain characteristics changed in some way. This is generally achieved when all or part of the sound is delayed in time. Some of the effects achieved in this way are echo, reverb, flanging, chorusing, phase shifting, detuning, pitch shifting, and harmonizing. Echo is a copy of the sound that arrives at a later time. There might be just one echo from a delay line, or there could be multiple discrete repeats. Reverb is a continuum of echoes that all blend together and die out over time. It is the effect you hear after a single handclap in a large auditorium. Flanging is a strange effect first discovered when playing back two reels of tape containing the same audio and then delaying one of the tape players slightly by pushing on the flange of the tape reel. It gives a soaring inside-out type of effect. Chorusing is an effect that makes one sound be perceived as two or more similar sounds. Phase shifting is an electronic effect where different bands of frequencies are shifted in time relative to each other, and it gives a motion or swooshing effect to the sound. Detuning is a similar effect to chorusing, where a slightly detuned version of the sound is added back to itself to give a fattening or thickening effect to the sound. Pitch Shifting or Harmonizing is a more radical effect than detuning. The actual pitch of the sound can be changed up or down by an octave or more. Harmonizers can provide multiple outputs, each with a different pitch that is harmonically related to the original pitch.
 
In addition to time-based effects, a sound can have its frequency characteristics changed in some way. Equalization, filtering, distortion/fuzz, noise reduction and excitation are examples of frequency manipulation. Equalization is the boosting or cutting of different frequencies within a sound to achieve a desired effect (e.g., to make a voice sound as if it were being heard over a telephone). Equalizers can come in any one of several different types including graphic, shelving, parametric, and semi-parametric. I discuss these equalizer types in more detail later. Filtering covers a broad range of effects which can remove high frequencies (low pass filtering - LPF), remove low frequencies (high pass filtering - HPF), remove just a band of certain frequencies (notch filtering), or remove from a sound all frequencies except for a band of certain frequencies (band pass filtering - BPF). Distortion and fuzz effects have been popularized by electric guitarists for decades. This effect changes the shape of the waveform of the signal (and therefore its frequency content), usually by chopping off the peaks and adding various harmonics. Noise reduction changes the frequency content of the sound by removing or reducing in amplitude certain bands of frequencies within the sound in the hopes of also removing offending hiss, buzz, clicks, pops and other annoyances that creep into recorded sound. Exciters are used to add a spectral enhancement to the sound. They can make the sound appear to be brighter, clearer and more harmonically rich. Exciters are also called enhancers.
 
Finally, the sound can have its amplitude manipulated in some way. The volume control on a mixer or preamp is the most obvious example of this, but effects such as compression, expansion, limiting, panning, and noise gating are also examples of amplitude manipulation. Compression is an effect that allows a sound's amplitude to only increase at a certain ratio based upon the original amplitude of the sound. For example, with 2:1 compression applied to an input signal, the output signal will increase only 1 dB (deciBel) for every 2 dB increase in the input signal. This helps to even out the dynamics of a sound, such as when a vocalist moves toward and away from a microphone or when a bass player plays with an uneven dynamic style. An expander performs just the opposite function of the compressor. For example, with 1:2 expansion applied to an input signal, the output signal will increase 2 dB for every 1 dB increase in the input signal. This helps add punch to a sound that has a limited dynamic range. Limiting is a more severe form of compression where the output signal is limited to a certain amplitude, regardless of how high the input signal amplitude becomes. Panning is the placement of a sound in the stereo panorama (i.e., left, right or center) by manipulating the relative amplitude of the sound in each channel. Noise gates cut off the audio signal when the amplitude falls below a certain preset level. This helps remove noise from the recording during quiet passages.
 
In my opinion, the first outboard boxes you should buy for your studio are a decent reverb, a stereo compressor and a stereo noise gate (in that order).
 
Combining Sounds Together:
Audio mixing and recording equipment.Once all of these separate sounds are recorded to a medium with suitable processing and manipulation, they will need to be combined together onto another recording medium, so that other people will be able to listen to them and so that you can store them in their final mixed-down state. This function of combining the different sounds together is generally accomplished by a piece of equipment called the mixer (also known as a mixing console or a console). The mixer contains many little amplifiers inside, and each amplifier has its own volume control (also known as a potentiometer or a pot) and pan control that allows the sound engineer (that's you) to adjust the relative amplitudes and placements of the signals so that the final combination of the signals results in some desired output. This final combination of signals is then sent out of the mixer's main output to another recording medium to preserve that particular performance mix.
 
Any good audio mixer will allow a portion of the signal in each channel to be sent to one or more internal buses. These internal buses are usually called aux (short for auxilliary) buses to distinguish them from the mixer's main output buses. These portions of signals acquired from each channel of the mixer are called "sends", because they are picked off the main signal and sent somewhere. If they are picked off before the main volume control for that mixer channel, then they are called pre-sends. If they are picked off after the main volume control for that mixer channel, then they are called post-sends. There are two main reasons for having sends on a mixer. The first reason is to create a separate and unique mix (also called a cue mix) of sounds for any musicians who might be monitoring through headphones. These sends are almost like having another whole mixer at your disposal. The second most popular use for the sends is to send portions of the audio signal out to external effects processors to further manipulate the characteristics of the sound. For example, echo or reverb can be added to the signal sends and then mixed back into the main mix on the mixer. These processed (or effected) signals return to the mixer through a different bus structure called (appropriately enough) the return bus or just the returns. The returns also have their own volume controls, so that just the right amplitude of effected sound can be added to the overall mix. In this manner, the listening experience of a complete sound stage can be recreated at the mixer output that contains all of the different instruments, the processing on their sound, the relative placement and amplitude across the panorama, and the required ambiance effects such as echo and reverb to give the mix a natural reverberant space.
 
The Final Result:
When all of the songs have been recorded and mixed down to stereo, they will need to be combined into one cohesive unit. This process is called mastering. Generally, mastering assures that all of the songs in the group hang together with a similar volume level, equalization level, and amount of compression. Mastering is also involved with the order in which the songs appear, the amount of silence between them and other aspects of recording finalization.
 
More about Project Studios:
I have used a simple definition of a project studio in this book (a home studio that is used for and possibly by others to capture audio performances), but there are more ramifications when you affix the moniker 'project' in front of studio. Your home's location may not be zoned for commercial business use, so neighbors might complain when they see a steady stream of people filing in and out of your house. And, they might be able to hear those people (pounding drums and bass, ripping guitars, screaming synthesizers, wailing vocals) in addition to seeing them, which might not help matters! If you work strictly solo in your project studio, then this probably isn't going to be a problem. Also, project studio owners need to be more involved in and aware of tax implications, depreciation of assets, insurance against loss, financial accounting and invoices, equipment maintenance, the physical appearance of the studio, and a host of other issues.

References:
Cosola, Mary, "Get Serious", Electronic Musician, Nov 1995, pp102-108.)

Copyright 2012 by John J. Volanski

 return to top   

 
 

Errata

On page 171 of Sound Recording Advice (1st Edition only), there is an error:

The XLR/RCA adapter cable should actually be hooked up as follows:
 
      RCA Center (Hot) connects to XLR Pin 2
      RCA Shield (Gnd) connects to XLR Pins 1 and 3

 return to top   

 

Pacific Beach Publishing
E-mail:
 
Home  •  Tips  •  FAQs  •  Studio  •  Audio  •  Book  •  Purchase the Book
Author  •  Press Info  •  Links  •  Contact Us  •  Sitemap
 

Website design by Orangeport Studios