I recently ordered M-Audio Fast Track USB, I already have a Shure SM57 with the stand that came with it. I’m an avid user of Audacity, my favorite DAW.
The soundcard on my computer is IDT High Definition Audio CODEC (excuse the caps). The computer is a HP Desktop Windows 8.1; I use Audacity 2.0.6 (if upgrading is needed, I understand).
Here’s my idea:
- Use M-Audio Fast Track USB to record the lead, rhythm and bass guitars through an amplifier, likely a Peavy (not sure of the model) and then into Audacity.
- Use M-Audio Fast Track USB to record the vocals via the XLR chord port on the device and then into Audacity.
- Use the Shure SM57 to record the drums via the XLR chord port on the device and then into Audacity.
This is my idea, and what I am using software version-wise as well as equipment-wise, and etc.
If any questions, please do ask. I will have the M-Audio Fast Track USB soon and am excited to test it. I guess I’m just curious as to:
- Will it work?
- Do I need a different soundcard, or will it be compatible with this setup?
- Do I need to do/configure anything specific that can be recommended aside from/around what’s mentioned?
- Am I misunderstanding anything I’m trying to explain in my post?
- *How do you think the drums will sound? Again, it’d only be one mic, a Shure SM57; But it’d also be on a stand, and couple have a cover on it while recording the drums.
Any input/suggestions or words of insight as to how this will work or if this will even work would be greatly appreciated! (:
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The Shure SM57 is a good solid “instrument” mic. They are usually extremely reliable. Even though the “head” of the mic may appear to be a bit a bit flimsy, they are actually very robust.
For recording electric guitar / bass, if I can get a good sound from the amp then I generally prefer to mic up the amp rather than “DI” (direct out from the amp to the sound card). Particularly for an electric guitar, the guitar amp and speaker contribute a great deal to the sound of the guitar. With careful microphone placement I find that the “sound” can be captured far more “authentically” using a mic than with a “DI” recording. The main down sides of mic’ing a guitar cab are: disturbing the neighbours and picking up other sounds (the neighbours banging on the wall )
Note that when mic’ing a guitar / bass cab, mic placement can make a huge difference to the recorded sound - much experimentation is needed to find “the sweet spot” for the mic (there’s lots of info available via Google about mic’ing up guitars).
Mic’ing up a drum kit with only one mic can be quite tricky. With the SM57 you should not need to worry about overloading the mic (they can handle a lot), but you will need to take care to keep the input level on the FastTrack low enough to avoid overloading the pre-amp. Allow plenty of “headroom” when recording drums - it is very easy to produce occasional peaks that are much louder than expected. The resulting recording will probably sound much too quiet, but don’t worry about that - it can be fixed after recording using compression, limiting and amplification. Distortion caused by recording too loud cannot be fixed, so don’t do it
The other big problem recording a drum kit with one mic is “room acoustics”. Get as much sound absorbing material as possible in the room so as to avoid “ringing”. This is especially important when recording a drum kit with one mic because the mic will need to be some distance away from the kit so as to achieve the correct balance, and will therefore pick up a lot of “room ambiance” (sound reflections). Without a lot of acoustic damping, the recording will sound like it is in a barn / bathroom (depending on the size of the recording space). Carpets, coats, sofas, heavy curtains etc. all help to reduce room reflections. Heavy blankets or carpet hanging a little away from a wall will often absorb more than the same attached directly to the wall.
The Sure SM 57 can be used for vocals, particularly “rock” vocals, though note that the SM 57 will tend to pick up more “plosives” (blasts of air from saying sounds like “P” and “B”) than microphones that have a “ball” end (such as the SM58). Foam “blast filters” are not very effective, and may muffle the sound (and the SM57 is already not particularly “bright”). Better to use a “mesh” pop filter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_filter). If you are on a tight budget, you can make one out of a wire coat hanger and cheap stockings/tights/pantihose or similar (search Google for details).
There are career moves for people who can mic drums. In general you can get one microphone to work by finding the sweet spot on a soundproof stage. Or your can tight-mic each drum in a crappy room.
Once mic in a crappy room is a challenge…
I’ve never heard of doing this, but if you really wanted to torture a drummer, make them play each single drum and assemble the drum performance through overdubbing. That way you can carefully mic each drum as it’s played and it doesn’t matter what kind of room you have.
Of course, they won’t be speaking to you after the show…
Which particular M-Audio device do you have? There are several with the “Fast Track” name, but I note that most are only 2 input channels it’s not clear from your question whether you were planning to record the whole performance in one go, or as several over-dubs. If the former then you may be out of inputs to handle everything.