If you are recording you can do it with a USB Mic but it might be easier with an interface like a Focusrite or Behringer, TBH I've never tried it with just a USB Mic,
There are many recording programs , the one I know is called Reaper. I will put down here some steps to get you started (for free): * Download Reaper (free for 60 days) HERE * Download Melda MFreeFXBundle HERE * Download Blue Cat Electric Guitar Amp HERE and Voxengo Boogex guitar amp HERE * Optionally download Izotope Vocal Doubler HERE * Optionally download MT power drumkit HERE * Optionally download the Lil Peep Drumkit sounds here (to add to metronome if you hate clicks) HERE * Optionally download Acon Multiply HERE * Optionally download TAL reverbs and anything else that looks useful HERE
Play with guide track in your headphones. We don't want to hear the guide track in your contributions! The guide track keeps you in key and in time and means that mixing the track is much easier.
Use as decent a mic/recording device as you can manage, you will sound better for it. A USB Snowball type mic around £50 is ideal or a similarly priced condenser mic going into a Focusrite or Behringer interface. But we've had great results dfrom just a phone.
Video would be nice although don't let t his stop you, I'm starting to thing just audio is all you really need, after all its the music that counts.
You don't need to be fantastically gifted to contribute a great track, just playing something tasteful at the right time, even if its simple.[ We always need more instruments, even if its just tambo or triangle (even balalaika, hmmm)
Watch out for backing noise that you don't notice, its impossible to get rid of. Eg: Air conditioning, computer fan, traffic, dogs, kids lol
Try to record vocal and instruments on separate tracks, we can do a much better repair job in the mixdown if its all separate. This may mean submitting 2 tracks, thats fine. OK, so you have to sit there and go through it 2 or 3 times, but each track will be better for it.
Recording to MP3's is fine, that is sufficient quality you don't need huge "wav" files. The problem of losing audio quality isn't really to do with with the software medium we use
I've tried lots of things, bought stuff and plugged everything in to everything else, completely messed up going online and made all the mistakes!
This is my summary of recording for a home CD, videoing a performance for posting online, streaming video live for WINDOWS:
Recording A Home CD ================
Aston Condenser Mic --> Focusrite PC Interface Box --> Reaper DAW software + plugins for reverb etc from Izotope or Waves.
Alternatives: Condenser mic and PC Interface from Behringer. DAW from loads of places.
Videoing a Performance for Posting Online ============================
Setup 1 (Acoustic): --------- Mic/Interface as above --> OBS Studio --> Possibly export to Reaper for sound tweaking --> Cut the start and end with any video editor eg VideoPad.
Setup 2 (Electric): ------------------- This one is a work in progress.
Mic+guitar pedal--> Acoustic amp to act as a monitor so you can hear guitar in particular --> Mix output to PC Interface -->OBS Studio for recording -->Video Pad for topping and tailing.
Streaming Live Video ==============
Condenser Mic --> PC Interface Box --> OBS Studio --> Facebook Live via RTMP settings (works great)
OBS Studio .......................
The big thing I have found is OBS Studio (free), which apart from being good Webcam software (can change image quality/balance etc) can also tweak the sound AS ITS BEING STREAMED. Not only that but it can use standard VST plugins that you might use in a DAW so the sky is the limit with reverb, compression, autotune (although always problems if you have guitar and vocal in same mic).
PC Interface ........................
A PC Interface is usually a box which basically is a digital - audio converter to convert the analogue mic signal into a digital signal that it sends down the USB connection so the computer can use it.
The leading brand which is damn good is Focusrite but you can good cheaper versions by Behringer and other makes like Audient are good too.
For recording a home CD you only need one channel because you just keep recording one track at a time to build up. For streaming or videoing you need a channel for your guitar and vocal. If like me you like a third input for foot drums thats a 3rd channel and you need a bigger box. The Focusrite Sol and i4i4 are excellent.
The Mic ................ For recording a home CD you need a condenser mic and these pick up everything you can hear a pin drop. The more money you spend the more they pick up. They are very lively to work with and if are using an amp will be prone to feedback.
So for some recording live situations where you aren't aiming for near studio quality a good old dynamic mic like a sure SM58 is worth trying and will be very robust and forgiving.
Hurrah! It seems Acoustic Guitar Magazine agrees that OBS is the way to stream into Facebook or Youtube: Acoustic Guitar Magazine
Home recording is a great thing to do anyway (listen to how ropey you sound!), but in these days of isolation it makes for a productive pastime. Over the last few months I've been developing a mini-setup, mainly just to make a record of what I was capable of doing in 2020 if that makes any sense. I've made a few mistakes, wasted a bit of money here and there and made some decent choices too. I thought I'd share my experience.
1. The Room
It needs to be as quiet as possible as the microphones you will be using pick up everything. A "dead" sounding room is better than an echoey one IMO, because you can always add reverb electronically and can't take it away. I'm using the kids bedroom ;-o
2. The Computer
Most people will have a desktop computer. I am using Windows but the setup I use would work under Mac too. You can record on an Android tablet too (check out Audio Evolution) which is what I may end up doing if and when I am allowed back at my caravan.
3. The Main Software - The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
There are lots of routes to go down here, you can google it. They all work on the same principle, that of recording multiple tracks either simultaneously or, more often for us acoustic types, consequentially. You could do it with a general purpose audio file editor like Audacity (free), but a specific music recording DAW is probably more efficient. I started off with a paid one (Mixcraft) which I still like but for stability reasons with plugins I moved to Reaperand I love it. They have a free license until June and after that is only $60. It is also an online jamming platform (Ninjam) and has an active community eg Reaperblog. You may want to do your own research on the DAW, I think personal taste comes into it. I have a friend who loves Ableton and Apple users like Logic and Garage Band.
At first, plugins seems like an esoteric thing for the experts, but you rely on them. The DAW basically organises your editing, cutting, snipping and recording, but you will want something to change the way you sound. Your DAW will come with some plugins (Mixcraft is very good for this, Reaper a bit more basic but still has the main ones). As well as the free plugins that come with your DAW, you can download free plugins online, most of which are very good. After that, you can buy plugins, and I will discuss this later. The main things you will need are:
(a) Reverb. They don't all sound the same. (b) Pitch Correction. Yes I'm afraid so. You can choose to use just a little of this, to move that note just a litttle closer to its intended pitch. Too much pitch correction can start to sound weird like some yodel thing. I think most DAWs have basic pitch correction built in which I think is mostly based off the Melodyne software. (c) Noise Gates can reduce background noise as can DeHissers. (d) EQ. A kind of sophisticated Bass/Treble control.
The plugins I use are mostly paid. Izotope have a range thats great for beginners. "Nectar" just makes you vocals sound better and seems to make me sound 20 years younger! It includes reverb and pitch correction. "Ozone" automatically does the final stage of preparation "Mastering" which is a dark art as far as I am concerned but I just hit the "Assistant" mode and he chooses something for me. "Neutron" is for instruments and I'm not convinced it does much but I use it anyway The Izotopeplugins will cost more than the DAW and if you are smart I'm sure you can get the same results with free stuff. To make the guitar sound decent , I either use Neutron and tell myself it actually did something or I use one of 2 other plugins that are like acoustic amps - "CLA (Chris Lord Alge) and Maserati(not the car). They are always "on sale"!
Lots of arguments about how good these need to be and whether you should use condenser or dynamic. I think you need a half decent condenser mic. I would recommend theAston Origin if you have the money or the Audio Technica or Samson or Behringer do a cheap one that gets OK reviews. The more money you spend the more stuff it picks up. I'm training myself to avoid breathing, swallowing or shifting my buttocks - its tricky Don't forget you need a desktop mic stand.
For recording guitar, I have found keeping the mic well away, like 2-3ft plus is better, because they can get so boomy. Some people have a second recording stream from the guitars pickup, I wanted to avoid that.
For vocals, you have to be pretty close to get the "proximity effect" that sounds so pure (lol). But not like a dynamic mic, so you still stay 6-12 inches away. The nice thing about the Aston mics is they have a built in pop screen.
6. Interface Boxes
You need a box to connect your mic to the computer, I think technically its a preamp coupled with an audio/digital converter.
Most people use either the Focusrite Scarlett or the Behringer U-Phoria. I used both and found the Focusrite software seemed more stable with my DAWs, but I did a lot of good stiff with the U-Phoria.
I'm not sure your guitar has to be that great actually. the recording process throws up lots of anomalies and sometimes a basic guitar can do the job better. If the guitar starts booming it wrecks it IMO.
After that, for percussion, a couple of sticks maybe - I might experiment with whatevers in the kitchen draw
there are all sorts of synthetic instruments inside your DAW, but I'll be honest, I don't understand all that.
8. The Work Sequence
My blunt and simple recipe , at t he moment, until I know what I'm doing, is this: (a) Use the DAW's built in metronome to set up your click track and use this for recording everything before turning it off to produce the final mixed MP3. (b) Record the main rhythm accompaniment instrument ie the guitar. Slap on the the usual "sound nicer" plugin effect like Neutron or Maserati. (c) Record the Vocal. Slap on reverb, pitch correction or just let Nectar do its thing. (d) Add any other layers you want eg percussion, solos, second rhythm guitar, harmony or doubling vocal. (e) Optionally apply a mastering plugin to the overall track, like Ozone, then mix down to MP3.
It usually sounds better a few days later rather than straightaway, like fine wine
Nearly forgot! You will need some decent CLOSED ear studio headphones, start at at about £30 on Amazon,