You Can Record Yourself
Whether trying to preserve rough brainstorms or record a magnum opus, we musicians always have recording on our minds. It’s never been easier to make a decent recording in your apartment or garage and turn around and start selling it on the internet. Among all of the incredible opportunities brought on by the rise of cheap gear and the internet one thing that hasn’t changed is that it still takes skill to make your recordings sound good. Knowing what to do with your equipment is arguably more important than what kind of gear you have. Even people who have a lot of recording experience run into tricky sonic situations and need advice.
Here are 5 super cool, free, DIY recording resources. These lovely gems will help you with everything from tightening up your drum sound to figuring out which critical piece of equipment to buy. I use all five extensively and always learn something. Enjoy!
TapeOP has been my go to place for anything even remotely related to recording sound for almost 10 years. This is one of those resources that is almost too good to be true. Incredibly, TapeOP is actually two ridiculously useful, completely free resources.
The first is TapeOP magazine. This amazing magazine is funded by advertising rather than subscriptions which means you can get it delivered to your door for free. They feature articles with an insane variety of people in the recording industry: top engineers and producers, low budget basement recordists, artists who record themselves, manufacturers of gear, and more. They also review recording equipment and have a section devoted to questions and comments that people send them. In my opinion the coolest thing about this magazine is the fact that they don’t just present industry icons and insanely expensive gear. TapeOP seeks out people who are doing unusual and creative things with inexpensive and oddball set ups. In the reviews section along side the $10,000 compressors are $200 units. It’s truly a recording magazine for everybody.
The second part is the TapeOP Message Board. Searching alone yields a bottomless trove of information. Seriously. You might never have to actually post a question! If searching doesn’t sufficiently answer your question, a well worded post will do the trick. Like the magazine, the message board is frequented by professional engineers who’ve worked on recordings for big names, musicians trying to record their band in their basement and everything in between. Sometimes the volume of information can get overwhelming and even contradictory. You just have to consider your situation, filter out what doesn’t seem to apply to you and be ready to experiment!
Gearslutz.com is another forum that is just bursting with information about… you guessed it! Gear! What makes this forum cool is that you have access to a ton of advice about every aspect of just about any piece of equipment on earth new or old. It’s an awesome place to research a future purchase. People also a lot about how they use their stuff. It’s very cool. It’s also populated by a large, active and varied group of folks who are gaga for gear. As with the TapeOP forum information overload is almost guaranteed. After a while cherry picking what the ideas and opinions that might work for you becomes a valuable skill.
Homerecording.com is another great forum. The tone is a bit different from the previous two, and I would say that you get a different slice of of the recording community. This is a good thing. While there are professional engineers here, you also get a lot more of the amateur recordist point of view. When I say ‘amateur’ don’t think for a minute that I mean inexperienced. There is a ton of great information here and the slightly different orientation of the community makes it a great complement to the other two boards I’ve mentioned. I very often find myself searching all three of these forums and kind of averaging the information.
Though not quite as expansive as some of the others, independentrecording.net has some great information. Specifically their interactive frequency chart. The frequency chart is a really great way to quickly get a handle on the frequency characteristics of common instruments. I’ve been recording myself and others for while, but unlike a lot of recordists I have not internalized this information. I consult this chart when picking microphones and figuring out which knobs to grab on the EQ. My only complaint is that I wish there were a downloadable version of the chart (saving the whole web page doesn’t work) because I don’t purposely don’t have internet access in my studio. In addition to the frequency chart there are several well thought out articles and columns on topics ranging from compression to the music business.
What? Wikipedia? Why? I’ll tell you why. Because I don’t know the meaning of every freeking acronym and pucker inducing technical term that comes up in the forums. In addition to definitions, you can learn a lot about specific records, artists and engineers. So if you really like the way certain song or record sounds, you can very often find out who recorded it, where it was recorded, what instruments were used, who the additional musicians were, influencing factors, interesting techniques, and more. It’s a research tool. It can be hit or miss, but it’s worth a look because sometimes you strike gold. I routinely go to wikipedia to research something specific and end up learning all kinds of great tangental information.
There you have it. My top 5 go to resources for DIY recording information. I want to reiterate one last point. Taken alone each of these sites are amazing sources of information. But, I find the real power is in using them together. When I set out to research a piece of equipment I’m thinking about buying or my latest recording conundrum, I always search all five of these sites and collate the resulting information into an action plan. Or if I don’t find quite the answer I’m looking for, the information I do find is essential in crafting a detailed, clearly worded question for posting. I hope you find these resources to be great sources of inspiration and knowledge!