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Online Performing / Whats Your Setup?
Last post by JohnD -
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
Online Performing / Re: FB Open Mic
Last post by JohnD -
FB Open Mic runs on Sunday Evening from 8pm and is run by Claire O'Brien with help from Lisa Lew,

Starting this Thursday 9th April Lizzie  Bee will be starting here "Kings Head Virtual" Open Mic on the FB Open Mic group page.

The format is that a running order is established and you each take turns streaming to the FB Open Mic page.  It works well, you het loads of viewers (40+) and lots of kind comments!

Home Recording / Developing a Home recording Set-Up
Last post by JohnD -
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.

4. Plugins

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"!

5. Microphones

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.

7. Instruments

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 ;)

9. Headphones

Nearly forgot!  You will need some decent CLOSED ear studio headphones, start at at about £30 on Amazon,

10. Advice

Lots of advice out there, just   Google it.
Guitar / Starting Fingerstyle Guitar
Last post by JohnD -
The first port of call for me is Jeff Isbells videos from a few years back.  Just have a browse:

Jeff Isbell

This is really for the gentler kind of fingerstyle playing epitomised by Paul Simon.  For something more driving, check out Tommy Emmanuel but its really hard to do.

Still the best teacher in my opinion and many others online is Mark Hanson, who has 2 great beginner books:

The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking by Mark Hanson

Fingerstyle Guitar: Beyond Basics by Mark Hanson

Singing / Seth Riggs
Last post by JohnD -
Seth Riggs has testimonials from Michael Jackson, Michael Bolton, Stevie Wonder, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez.

His teaching has spawned most of the Youtube singing coaches.

Here he is in 1996:

Seth Riggs explaining his methods

And running Michael Jackson through vocal exercises:
Seth Riggs with Michael Jackson

Most male pop vocal teachers you might see online owe what they do to Seth Riggs:

Here is a playlist of Seth Riggs Interviews:
Seth Riggs Play List

There is some controversy about his teaching, partly because its been so successful. Is it BS? You decide!