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DIY Recording for Bands – Equipment Guide

There is a vast range of studio equipment out there for Recording your band. All accessible for a reasonable budget. You could simply buy a cheap multi track audio recorder such as a tascam digital multi track and Microphones and your set to go. For those of you looking for something more superior with a releasable sound quality you might benefit from reading the following article.

Unlike previous articles in this series we’ll follow the signal path from the source of sound to your finished tracking.


A good place to start before doing any recordings is to get your instruments sounding the best you can, besides spending £100’s on amps and guitars etc you can look at some cheaper, simple improvements such as new Guitar strings on your guitars and bass, new drum heads on the kit etc. Setting up the action correctly on your guitar is also recommended. Also when it comes to tuning a universal guitar tuner for both bass and guitar is also advised this makes sure all the instruments are perfectly tuned to each other.

So your band is sounding top in the practice room and you want to do a multitrack recording in a comfortable environment rather going to a pro recording studio you could either record your songs live or use a more advanced method of multitrack recording.

The following recommendations are based around the standard band setup of drums, bass, guitar and vocals.

Buying Microphones

There really are no rules as to how you record an instrument. Starting with the drums you’re at least going to need one overhead / a stereo pair, followed by a kik drum and snare drum microphone. If you’re drummer hits the toms a lot during the songs then you’ll also need to close mic the toms. For a cracking snare sound you should mic both the snare tom and bottom. That’s a total of 3 – 8 microphones for a 5 piece kit. You could simply buy a set of clip on microphones and cables. However separate dynamic microphones are recommended for those of you with a little more in the budget but don’t forget you’ll also need mic stands as well if you’re not using clip on mic’s. In my opinion clip on microphones are great for live gigs, but when it comes to recording it’s nice to have the options of mic placements including different proximity that just isn’t an option with the restrictions of clip on Mics.


Microphones for drums

Sennheiser e904 (toms)

Sennheiser e604 (toms / snare)

Shure PDGmk6 (set of drum mic’s)

AKG D112 (kik drum)

AKG Groove Pack (set of drum mic’s)

LD Systems D 1007 (kik drum)

Shure SM57 (toms / snare)

AKG C1000 (over heads)

AKG C214 (over heads)

Microphones for your Guitar Cab, you can’t go far wrong with a shure sm57 and a sennheiser 421 placed up close in the centre of the speaker. Especially for heavy, loud distorted guitars. For the those of you looking for a really warm clean guitar sound then you might want to swap the 421 for a large diaphragm cardiod condenser microphone such as a AKG C414 or a valve mic like the SE Gemini. If you’re using an open back amp like the fender twin then placing the large diaphragm mic round the back of the amp gives a really rich full sound. But ultimately you’ll only capture the sound coming from your amp. So make sure want is coming out of your amp is the sound you want to record. If the volume of your amp is to much for the Mic’s then do what the engineer did when recording people like Clapton and Hendrix and simply move the microphones a foot or so away from the amp. Seen so many engineers turn the amp down and totally spoil the guitar tone. Remember dynamic mic’s give punch, condensers and valves give smoothness and warmth.

Microphones For Guitar Amps

AKG C414

Sennheiser e609

SE Gemini

On to the bass. Almost every record you have heard with electric bass on for the last 30 years will have the bass DI’d. Don’t just buy a naff behringer DI for £40 and expect the bass to sound ace. Invest in a decent DI box like the EBS valve drive DI Box . Ideally if you have enough input channels then also put a Microphone on the bass cab. Same rules apply as with the guitar. Dynamic equals punch, large diaphragm condenser equals warmth.

So for the vocals. If you’re looking to record everything live, garage band style then you can’t go far wrong with a cardiod dynamic mic like a shure SM58. However if you are recording your vocals as overdubs or you’re lucky enough to have separation then go for a condenser microphone like the sontronics orpheus. A pop shield is always help full for reducing those P’s in the vocals but when it comes to sibilance try and reduce this as much as possible without using a Desser plugin in the mix. Simply placing a pencil in the centre of the microphones diaphragm can reduce the SSSSS massively. There really is over all best vocal microphone, yes different characteristics can be enhanced by different microphones, but ultimately as a vocalist what microphone do you feel most comfortable recording with. So many established artists say they get the best vocal take by holding a mic such as an SM58 and performing in the same way they would at a gig. If you have the opportunity then try a few different vocal mics out before buying them and see what mic suits your voice best recorded.


Vocal Microphones

Shure SM58

Senneheiser e945

Sontronics Orpheus

SE Electronics Magento

OK so you’re all mic’d up and ready to roll! Well not just yet.

For every mic you use you’re also going to need a mic stand and cable.

Personally at this stage I’d be looking to plug the microphones into a mixing desk (analogue) as I like to be able to EQ the mic’s and source and have hands on control over the faders while recording. However the technology these days allows you to simply plug direct into an Audio Interface and use the internal mic pre amps.

At this stage you won’t to think about whether you’d prefer to record everything live at the same time and capture that raw energy. Or track with guides and overdubs (recording the instruments separate).

If recording everything separately you’ll need at as many inputs as mic’s you want to place on the drum kit. An audio interface with 8 inputs is ideal.

MOTU 8PRE (8 input usb audio interface)

Should you want to track all the instruments and vocals live with flexibility in the mix then I recommend you look into using an audio interface with at least 16 or more inputs.

Tascam US1800 (16 input audio interface)

This is of course subjective to the sound you want to achieve and what you’re looking to use the recordings for. In the past I’ve done live recordings in the practice room with bands who want a really filthy garage sound. The majority of the drum sound came from the room mic’s that captured the sound of the room and in the mix I simply put a touch of kik and snare for extra punch and increased the intensity of the guitars and vocals by using some of the close proximity mic’s. Though more microphones were used in the tracking I only used 6 / 7 of the microphones in the final mix as this was the perfect sound for this style. If you go for this style of recording then balance the amp levels to the kit and vocals in the room prior to your tracking.

When it comes to doing overdubs in multi track recording monitoring is very important. While you’ll find most audio interfaces have a headphone output on them. This will be no where near loud enough to get the volume of the headphones sufficiently loud enough to hear what you’re playing to over a loud guitar amp, even if you’re using closed back headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT100‘s. You could simply place the cab in another room and monitor the tracking your playing to through the studio monitors. However if you’re the kind of guitar player who likes to stand next to the amp for added sustain and feed back then you’re going to need a decent headphone amplifier.


Near field studio monitors are also important to hear the actual sound you’re tracking on, but if you’re monitoring the tracking in the same room as the band playing you’ll find yourself using the studio headphones to simply be able to hear above the volume in the room. So it’s recommended you buy at east one pair of decent studio headphones

When it comes to the perfect DAW to use both the recommended interface come with free software and are more than sufficient for tracking and mixing. However as you’re mixing becomes more advanced I recommend using a programme such as logic or cubase with some more advanced plugins.

If you have an extensive budget you can look into buying a couple of valve pre-amps and plug the microphones into the pre amps and then out of the pre amp into the interface.

Building a studio for your bands DIY recordings can be very expensive. At first you might have some equipment and need to borrow or hire other pieces of kit such as a nice microphone. Check out our hire department for this. Click here

Also when working with a limited budget it’s always worth a look on ebay. There’s been numerous times I’ve picked up bargains from studio clear outs within reasonable distance of Manchester. Bargains such as five good mic stands for less than £50 are a great save and allow you to spend your budget on more important things that improve your sound quality like the audio interface and microphones. The interface will probably the most expensive single piece of kit you’ll buy at this stage but remember this investment is where the the majority of your sound fidelity comes from. As for the microphones it worth looking around at some of the clone microphone companies. These can save you a small fortune and for what you save in money it’s worth the reduction in sound quality. I’ve had the pleasure of recording drums with a pair of U87 clone microphones that were about £1000 cheaper each than the real thing and as over heads the difference in sound was minuscule.

So you’re all set to go. Any further guidance you’d like on buying studio equipment then call the technical team at Soundbase Megastore today.

This post first appeared on PA Sound Systems | Soundbase Megastore, please read the originial post: here

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DIY Recording for Bands – Equipment Guide


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