Friday, November 11, 2011

Home Recording: Mike Friedman gives his advice

In tomorrow's World-Herald, we're taking a look at home recording since just about anyone can do it now.

One guy I turned to was Mike Friedman, who plays in Simon Joyner's band and records a whole lot of stuff in his basement.

While I used several of Friedman's quotes in my story, his stuff is pretty technical and not all of it fit in my story about getting started. But it's still full of info, so I thought I'd include it here.

Again, be sure to check out the main story in the paper and on tomorrow.

Q: How is your recording operation typically set up? What equipment (or software) are you using to capture audio?

A: My basic set up for the recording is an old version of ProTools with an M-Audio Digi 001 Interface running on an IBM PC that I had built specifically for this purpose. You have a ton have a lot of RAM make things run smoothly. I also recently added a Tascam 48 8-track ½” tape machine. This can be used independently of the ProTools set up, or I can record to tape and then dump it into ProTools for editing, mixing and mastering. I run my mics into a Soundcraft board to boost the signal with the preamps before going into either the Digi 001 or the Tascam tape machine, depending on what I’m doing. I keep this all set up in my basement with all my instruments: guitars, bass, drums, piano, organ, etc, so it’s ready to go whenever.

Q: Are you demoing tracks first? And how are you doing that?

A: As far as “demoing” goes, I guess I don’t really think of it in those terms. When I’m recording, if it comes out good, it doesn’t really matter if it’s the first take or the 10th as long as it’s good. That sort of goes with the question about what home recording offers that the studio doesn’t. The main benefit is that you’re not paying for the studio time, so you can take as much time as you want messing around with your tracks until you get what you want. In a way, you might call that demoing. Especially with ProTools, since you’re not paying for tape and there is not degradation of the sound quality for recording parts over and over again, you can just keep trying stuff out. And there is also the benefit that if you do want to go into a studio, you can work stuff out before hand at home so when you are on the clock you aren’t still experimenting.

Q: What does recording at home offer versus doing it in a studio?

A: So I’ll expand. As I said, the most often perceived benefit or recording at home is that you’re not paying for studio time. But it’s not like it’s really free, because you can spend a lot getting your home studio up and running. Between mics, preamps, a board, tape machine and/or computer and software, it adds up. And once you start putting a studio together, you’re always looking for more pieces. But much like owning a home instead of renting, the money you spend is benefiting you, not the landlord. What I like most is that I am familiar with all my equipment and I have access to it 24/7. The more projects I work on down there, the more I learn about what works and what doesn’t, so it’s a constant learning process. As opposed to paying an engineer at a studio to turn the knobs for you. And I am a very hands-on person who has a tough watching someone else turn the knobs anyway.

Q: Do you do the mixing yourself or have someone else take care of that?

A: I do all that myself, with the input of the artists I’m recording, of course, but like I said before, I really enjoy the engineering aspect of it all and for me it’s a rather fluid process where as I am recording I’m also mixing. Both for the benefit of wheover is laying down tracks – because the better it sound to them, the better they are going to play, and also to satisfy myself. I’m always trying to figure out ways to make things sound as good as possible during the process. So by by the time I’m don’t tracking, it’s already sounding pretty close to how it should sound.

Q: Say I'm a beginner and want to record some pretty basic stuff for a few songs. What would you recommend?

A: Well, if you are a beginner with a Mac you don’t need to do much because it comes with Garage Band which a good program to get started on. If you want to record more than one track at a time you need to get a new interface, but if you just want to record some guitar and then ad vocals later you can just plug in a mic and go. Or very not much money you can get an MBox which allows you to record 2 tracks at the same time. All you need is a couple mics, say a SM57 for your guitar and a SM58 for vocals and you’d have a good start.

Also many company’s make “all-in-one” digital multi-track recorders that are sort of the new versions of the old cassette tape 4 tracks. I have never used one personally, but if they are as easy to use as an old Tascam 4-track, then they should be fine for a beginner. But I’d rather use a cassette 4-track. You’d be surprised at how much you can do with that.

Q: I'm assuming you've recorded for Simon. What else have you recorded?

A: I have recorded tons of Simon stuff at home, but nothing that will see the light of day. This sort of relates to your “demo” question. One of the nice things about having the studio set up all the time is that I am able to record rehearsals and burn discs of the songs we are working on for the rest of the band so they can learn them and work on their parts. For example, we are currently working on some recordings for Simon’s new record. We built a studio in a warehouse are tracking it on 16-track 1” tape. But we demoed them first at my place so we could get the arrangements worked out before we went to do it on tape, again saving money and time. I think the first thing I did at my place was for an old band I was in called Hubble with Reagan Roeder, although as happens too often, the band broke up before we ever released it. I have also made a record for local singer/songwriter Dylan Davis, which is also yet to be released, and I finished up Lonnie Methe’s “Calendar Work” which was started on 8 track tape, then bounced into Protools for additional tracking and mixing. That will be released on Simon’s Grapefruit Records imprint.

I really just record myself and my friends. I don’t run it as a business. I don’t charge anyone. With places like ARC and The Warehouse in town, I don’t really have any delusions about competing in that market.

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