Recording an "Old Boys" basement band

Hello. I just downloaded Audacity with a view to recording my group of retirees’ basement band. Typical 2 x guitars, bass, and drums. I’m using a single Yeti mic located in the middle of the group to capture vocals and instruments. Do you have any recommendations as to sound level settings or other recommendations? Thank you.

Is this an amplified “rock band” or an acoustic band? How’s the recording sounding so-far?

Digital recording levels aren’t critical (1) as long as you don’t “try” to go over 0dB. Leave plenty of headroom and you can adjust after recording. The digital-to-analog converter (inside the mic in your case) is hard/limited to 0dB and you’ll get clipping (distortion) if you try to go over.

The Yeti has various pick-up pattern settings. If you are in a circle with the mic in the center, omnidirectional would “theoretically” be best, but I’d also experiment with stereo and even cardioid (singing into the "front).

When you amplify (or Normalize) after recording it may not sound “loud enough” compared to commercial recordings. Pros use dynamic compression and limiting to bring-up the overall-average level without clipping/distorting the peaks. You can try the Limiter effect which is easier to use and harder to foul-up than the compressor effect. Use “make-up gain” or amplify or normalize after limiting to bring-up the loudness. (Limiting is a kind of fast-compression.)

You can also experiment with the Graphic Equalizer and maybe add some reverb. Although, there may already be too much “bad reverb” depending on the acoustics of your “studio”.

Compression/limiting, equalization, and reverb are the 3 most common effects and they are used on almost all commercial recordings. But don’t get carried away. A perfect recording in a perfect acoustic environment wouldn’t need any effects!

Recording in a typical basement is difficult and it’s just hard to get good sound in a basement… Pro studios are sound-absorbing, and of course they multi-track record with all of the instruments close-mic’d to minimize the sound of the room. Most “live” recordings are also close-mic’d, with separate mics to pick-up the room sound and audience sound.

Some acoustic recordings are made in a music hall with good-natural reverb using just a pair of stereo mics (or maybe with a couple more mics.). And with minimal effects, or none at all.

(1) If you remember analog tape, you wanted to record “hot” to overcome tape noise, and tape tends to soft-clip when you push-it so it was OK to occasionally go “into the red”. But with digital there is no tape noise so you can record much-much lower, and it’s unforgiving if you try to go over 0dB.

WOW! That’s a lot of great information. Thank you very much.

I’m not a sound engineer by any stretch, and have only today downloaded Audacity, so I haven’t had the chance to try it. Today will be the acid test. Are all of the settings you discussed, in the software?

Nope! They are ALL on the Yeti.

With a USB mic you can’t normally even adjust the recording volume from the computer. The analog level has to be adjusted before it hits the analog-to-digital converter (inside a USB mic if that’s the kind of mic you’re using), and luckily the Yeti has a recording volume knob… Some USB mics don’t and you just get-what-you-get.

You probably won’t get the best results on the 1st try. Once you’ve found the best settings for the mic, you may need to move people around and adjust the levels of amplifiers, or whatever, to tweak and “balance” the sound that’s hitting the mic. All of the mixing is happening acoustically and you’re stuck with what you get.

It would be best if you can make this a practice session… Make notes about the mic pattern settings and listen-evaluate later when you have some time. It’s not easy being a member of the band (and maybe the band leader?), the recording engineer, and the producer, all at once!

There’s an advantage to making a “simple” recording like this… If you make a multi-track recording (which Audacity isn’t great at) you’ll spend hours mixing & editing.

Perfect. Thank you very much for the feedback. Let’s see how it goes.