making a demo of my band, need advice

I’m not new to sound engineering, (ten years mixing experience) but I am new to trying to put out a professional sounding recording. Right now we’re recording my band one instrument at a time. the instrumentals are sounding really clean so far, but I’m getting nervous about recording the vocals.

We have good studio quality microphones, but in post production, what effects should I be expecting to use through audacity to give it that pro sound? Compression? normalization?

here are some clips of what we have done so far, maybe somebody here can help me with the process


Anybody can rip a fresh recording apart and I have some content comments, but try to avoid base rookie mistakes.

The samples seem pleasant to listen to, but they seem to be playing to different rhythms. How are you doing your overdubbing? Most computers need a little timing help if you didn’t use purpose-built hardware (we’re writing an extensive document on this.) Get the drummer to do a simple, straight tap, tap, tap and then overdub with him doing it again – to himself. they should perfectly line up when you play the composite.

Both samples seem to have microphone buzz at the top. Bad mic cable? Fluorescent lights in the studio? Worse, dimmers on the ceiling lights? I use undimmed incandescent lights – or candles. I had to take a CFL replacement bulb out once because it made too much noise.

Most people kill vocals by recording them in a bathroom. Nothing says newbie like sounding like they were recorded in Mom’s basement / the third bedroom /the garage. My third bedroom happens to be soundproofed because the kid in the house before me played drums. Most people aren’t so lucky. There are performers at work that lined a closet with quilts and record in there. I made a portable studio once with moving blankets.

This is fuzzier. The drums are off balance. I listened twice and I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s like the mic was on top of the hihat and the rest of the drums got left out.

How did you do the guitars? That worked out OK.

Record vocals through a blast filter.

That helps with P Popping and helps keep the singers away from the mic to avoid proximity effects. The same effects you get when you sing at a small club and singers swallow the mic.

There was only one singer I ever met that required eq. She had a voice that would cut through most hardwoods and needed a lot of help.

Post something when you get your first vocal mix. And see if you can find that buzz. That’s really annoying.


For the first round, we recorded the drummer with 6 mics going into one laptop, and that was sent as a stereo mix into a mixer. The guitars were recorded at the same time with a different mixer and laptop. We had to do it that way, because none if the guys felt comfortable laying down their parts without the others there. I recorded my bass part afterwards, while listening to a raw mix of what the others did the day before and again recording into a laptop

The buzz is coming from the lead guitar player’s amp. I know it’s bad now, but the intros to the songs will be wiped away when I make a medley of all of the songs (15 total)

I don’t think the buzz can be heard once the song is going, and if it can it’s probably going to get obliterated when we add lead vocals, background vocals, and keyboards. Hopefully we wont introduce any new hums

The lead guitar was done with a miced cab, the rhythm player went direct from the clear on the back of his amp

Thanks for your help so far. I know the real test will be making the vocals sound natural, i’m recording it in my carpeted living room, assuming it was better to record in a clean environment instead of an echo chamber

The buzz is coming from the lead guitar player’s amp.

Now you can tell him/her, “See, I told you people were going to hear that,” (even if it doesn’t appear in the show). That’s a good excuse to get it fixed. Nobody would show up at Glen Glenn Sound Studios with a buzzy amp.

No, I only heard it at the top.

So the drums are your personal mix. Works for me. People post looking for the best possible place to put one mic for drums.

The lead guitar was done with a miced cab, the rhythm player went direct from the clear on the back of his amp

That worked out. I think it’s still the longest series of posts on the forum was about recording one (1) guitar. It’s not trivial.

my carpeted living room

That may not be enough. You need to have no shiny, reflective walls facing each other. We built a “Sound Room” in the building before this one. It had the usual cottage cheese ceiling and industrial carpeting, but it had one very unusual characteristic. None of the walls were parallel. They were intentionally built several degrees off from each other. The room just didn’t have slap. At all. Several successful recordings were done in there. Equipment and furniture only made it better.

To contrast, our new building is straight construction and the joke is you can clap and come back in ten minutes and the impact would still be bouncing between the walls.

On the other hand, we record in one of the larger conference rooms which is a study in Goosh, Overstuff and Padding. Close the blinds and the windows go away.


I’m going on about this because you can’t take out echoes in post production. It’s the leading cause of death by microphone.

My room is pretty dead, but I can start adding absorption if needed.

I am bothered by the hum on the beginning of tequila sunrise. If that’s the song that it sticks out the most on, I know I can get him to record it with a different amp. Honestly I think that song ut the only one you can hear it on while the song is going on

So after getting a feel for my set up, and knowing a have a large diaphragm condenser mic for vocals (with a pop filter ), what tweaks and effects are normal and expected that I can plan on using? The one thing that bothers me out my setup is it feels too clean, too direct… and it lacks the warmth of a professional studio recording

there are hum removal plugins, they do remove the mains hum and its harmonics but this usually obviously damages the music.

I’ve applied Steve’s de-hum plugin just on the start of the left track then Steve’s noise gate plugin

what tweaks and effects are normal and expected that I can plan on using? The one thing that bothers me out my setup is it feels too clean, too direct

Probably the two most common “effects” are compression & equalization. Some reverb is common too.

Dynamic compression brings-up the volume without clipping/distorting the peaks, and it gives you a more-constant volume, and you can add some 'bite" to the sound. Compression on the vocals might be all you need to need to take care of that “too clean” sound! (I’m not clear if you have a separate vocal track, or if everything’s mixed.) Basically, compression works by ''pushing down" the peaks, and then you use make-up gain to bring-up the overall volume. Compression is usually used (to some extent) on all of the individual tracks, and again on the final stereo-mix during mastering. Compression, as part of the mastering process often makes the difference between an amateur-sounding or professional-sounding recording.

But, it can be over-done, and IMO it’s overdone on most modern recordings… music is supposed to have loud & quiet parts, and when it’s constantly loud (or 'intense"), it gets boring! Over-compression on modern recordings & re-masters is one reason some people (not me) prefer their old vinyl records. Some classical & jazz recordings are made with no compression.

There are settings to play with, and there are many different compressor plug-ins. It’s going to take some experimenting to get a good sound… It’s pretty common to use a hardware compressor on vocals too.

EQ is mostly used to correct the frequency balance or tone. With perfect mics and perfect instruments in a perfect room, you might not need it. But again, with pro recordings some EQ is going to be used on most individual tracks, and possibly again during mastering. Compression can affect the frequency balance to some extent, so sometimes you need to re-EQ after compressing. Also, pros often filter-out the bass (below ~80Hz) from everything except the bass & kick drum.

When you’re all done, it’s a good idea to normalize you peaks (at or near 0dBFS). You don’t want your peaks “trying” to go over 0dB, or you can get clipping (flat-topped distorted waves). And, you don’t want your levels too low either. Some people like to keep the peaks just-below 0db and some mastering engineers like a little (or a lot!) of clipping… We should probably leave that controversy for another day. (I go right-up to exactly 0dB.)

For the first round, we recorded the drummer with 6 mics going into one mixer, and that was sent as a stereo mix into a mixer. The guitars were recorded at the same time with a different mixer and laptop. We had to do it that way, because none if the guys felt comfortable laying down their parts without the others there.

I think bands usually play better when they play together. But if you are going to do this again, it wouldn’t hurt to get a multi-channel recording interface so you can multi-track and mix in post-production.

You might also consider getting a subscription to [u]Recording Magazine[/u]. I’ve got a subscription, and I’ve learned a lot!

The bitrate on the recording of “Tequila Sunrise.mp3” @ 128Kbps is too low for a 44100Hz stereo recording: the high frequencies (above 16KHz) have been lost as a result …
Bit rate on 'Tequila Sunrise,mp3' is too low, use 256Kbps.png
BTW you could chop off the hummy bit at the start of Tequila Sunrise …

wow, those hum filters do a good job!

eventually all the tracks will be clipped, we’re only going to use 30 to 45 seconds of each song on the medley. Kind of a rapid fire “best of” collection

thanks for all your help guys!

The vocals are going to be recorded one at a time, so I’ll have as much control over them as I need

Johnny B better ? (a more mono mix, with dynamic range compression, and hint of reverb) …

added the keys last night… It’s coming along…

thanks for that, although I like the stereo separation, I may tone it down just a little

For the reverb and compression, should I apply it all the way across the board, or just to select channels? what’s normal?

IMO I’d try to avoid applying reverb to the percussion if you have the option.

IMO dynamic range compression should be applied to the final mix just before you convert to MP3, but you may also apply it to individual channels, (BTW there is dynamic range compression plugin by Steve).

Your tracks are stereo 44100Hz mp3 which have a bit rate of 128Kbps which is too low : this means all the frequencies above 16KHz have been chopped off, ( have a look at “plot spectrum” in Analyze). You should use a bit rate of 256, or 320 Kbps if you are aiming for CD quality.

The demo is mainly for syncing up with a video on youtube, but i’ll look into my settings before we record vocals. I swear I though I was on 256, maybe converting to mp3 is dumbing it down. I’m editing in wav files, and only converting to mp3 for posting stuff here

I checked my settings, and it looks like my MP3 export was set on 128, but I’m recording and working much higher than that

next time I post a mp3 sample here, i’ll make sure I put it at least on 256 for you all

laid down cowbell and tambourine tracks tonight

Sounds much better on 256Kbps.

For some reason they all redline though (your 128Kbps recordings also did that) …
red lining.png
If you apply audacity’s “Amplify” on default setting (0dB),
Then you could apply Steves’s “limiter” also on default settings (-3dB) for an even louder sound which doesn’t redline.

BTW I can hear the drum snare wires resonating with the guitar on “listen to the music” intro …

(the guitarist should get an extra credit for percussion :slight_smile: )

thanks! That intro’s not going to be in the final product, it was just to get the feel for the song.

Recording vocals on Sunday, getting nervous!

You have a weird sense of balance. This piece…

26 seconds in, the lead guitar theme cycle is almost swamped by the other pieces but the accent guitars are very forward and crisp. This wouldn’t happen to be the guy with the busted amp, would it?

I remixed a song by one of the film people. He liked long melodic graceful love songs and I can take them or leave them. He did sing one up-tempo piece that I liked, but he put his voice under tons of reverb, no punch and low volume. Really, the object is not to hide under a blanket. I brought his voice up out of the mud and everybody who heard it loved it.

Do the vocal part as a piano or other instrument before you dive in to the real thing.

Are you going to do just one voice?

Ooooo-ahahahah multiple part harmony in the background?