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Why Reaper? First off, I did have that 2 page thread on Audacity and still find it be of value, even as I have changed to Reaper. And here is why. Audacity is free. And I made plenty of mistakes. But once I got the idea of digital recording more fully realized, I could make a better informed choice. And, of all the DAWs out there I could buy, given enough money, I could have bought more expensive DAWs. Probably the first and main reason is because of our fellow members, Felipe and David Lyon. They put out excellent recordings. I saw a few comparisons from others on youtube. And it is way easier to use than I imagined and as easy to use and in some ways, easier to use than Audacity. Why not save up and buy Protools? Pro studios use it, right? Well, a lot do, yes. And it is proprietary. Protools is designed to work best with the equipment and interfaces that were built with it. But, more importantly, I was watching an interview with the chief mastering engineer at Liquid Mastering. Almost without exception, music is sent to him for mastering in the form of two-channel wav. That's right, the pros ship to each other in wav files. And any DAW, including Reaper can export to wav. What bit depth? Usually 24 bit. The file size is more managable. Sonically, you may not be able to tell the difference between 32 float and 24 integer. By doing this, you save the dithering down to 16 bit for the mastering phase because the mastering guy has to put out 44.1kHz sample at 16 bit to match the industry requirments for CD duplication. Internally, in the DAW, Reaper works at 64 bit speed. I did like David and downloaded the 32 bit, for maximum use of other plug-ins. Though I imagine some boutique labs out there might be making 64 bit plug-ins. And I did not bother with the free trial. I already know my computer can run it. I already like the results of others with it. And it seemed the easiest to use. So, I paid the $60 license because that is my stage of the game, right now. If I can record albums and sell them and make more than $20k, it is no problem to pay for the license upgrade and it is the right thing to do. There is no 60 dollar or 225 dollar version grades. It is the commercially viable version, regardless of the license you buy. At 60 dollars, it is equal to all the others in ability and way more affordable. And because I "cut my teeth" on Audacity, I can more fully appreciate what I like about Reaper, though the other softwares are also good.
HOME RECORDING BASICS - A FOUNDATION FROM WHICH TO START! THE DAVID LYON SET-UP. When it comes to recording any instrument, people always get way too caught up in gadgets. This is especially true of recording vocals, especially for do-it-yourself recording studios. People tend to think that a better gadget will always translate into a better recording, which occasionally is true, but rarely. Yes, the better tools and equipment do have certain advantages, but you shouldn't bother proceeding to buy (and potentially wasting your money on) the more expensive recording stuff until *AFTER* you have first mastered the basics of recording, because otherwise it won't really make much (if any) improvement in your recordings. My current vocal recording & mixing setup: -- Dell Latitude E6420 laptop (almost 3 years old, Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5 GHz CPU, 4 GB RAM - In other words, nothing fancy or special) -- M-Audio FastTrack USB 2 (the cheapest DI that I could find at the time, less than $99) -- AKG Perception 120 condenser mic (a good quality mic, but also inexpensive at $99) -- Livewire Advantage 5' XLR microphone cable ($15) -- A cheap pop screen ($10?) -- A cheap tripod microphone boom stand ($20?) -- Reaper 32-bit DAW (Free if you want, I chose to support them, cost $60. I stuck with 32-bit Reaper even though I have 64 bit Windows, because more plugins are available for 32 than 64 bit) -- Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones (About $150. Don't buy the curly cord, get the straight cord!) -- A folding card table to set my laptop and M-Audio interface on. -- My basement family room (completely untreated - basic carpet, some couches, a TV on the wall, a cat weaving between my feet, etc.) That's it! What DOESN'T really matter: 1) Mac vs PC is mostly irrelevant. Digital is digital, so mixing and recording on a Mac vs PC is merely a matter of user interface preference, not results. I've personally found that Mac is the most "popular" platform recommended by musicians, but that Windows is the most "functional" platform that has the most plugins and recording/mixing software available for it. So I use Windows because I get more software options (plus it's much cheaper than Mac). 2) Condenser vs. Dynamic / Cardoid vs. Super-Cardoid / etc... is also mostly irrelevant. Actually these do matter a little bit, but not really for a beginner recording engineer. Different microphones will definitely have different "warmth" and "character", and also different sweet spots, but usually the difference is quite minor and very subjective. Just start out with a good quality mic and use it A LOT until you really know its quirks, strengths and weaknesses. Getting to know a mic is like making a good friend - it takes a lot of time together to really know it. Over time, you can begin to work your way into other mics as you begin to learn the subtle nuances of each different mic. What DOES matter when studio recording: 1) Nothing replaces a good performance. Bad vocals recorded in a world-class professional studio are still bad vocals. Relax, have fun, and let your experience and training take the lead. 2) NO CLIPPING! If your microphone is clipping, you either have the gain turned up too high, or you are using the microphone incorrectly, or it's a sh*t/broken microphone that needs to be replaced. Every microphone has a "sweet spot", which will differ depending on the microphone and how loud you sing. Do some experimentation to find your microphone's sweet spot. Keep experimenting until you can record your vocals cleanly at about 60-70% max. In a modern digital recording and mixing environment, there is ABSOLUTELY NO advantage to recording at or near clip! That's an old paradigm from the analog recording days when the tape imparted some "hiss" moving over the heads, which no longer applies when recording and mixing digitally. So, record your tracks normalized to about 60-70% (leave lots of head room), and then adjust volumes to blend properly during the mixing phase, and worry about normalizing only for your master track after it's all said and done with mixing. 3) Use a microphone stand. Using a mic stand helps you keep your mouth in the microphone's sweet spot, and also creates a more consistent recording volume floor. It also eliminates extra noise created by bumping or holding the microphone, plus you can't really use a pop screen without a mic stand. When recording, to control volume for vocal dynamics (like when you're going to shift from a quieter to a significantly louder vocal projection, or vice versa), move your mouth, not the microphone (you can see me doing this on many of my videos, like SOAD - Toxicity). 4) Use a pop screen. This will help reduce the harshness and wind-blow noise from "plosives" - like "B", "F", "P", "T", etc. It can also serve as a convenient visual cue for where to place your mouth to stay in the microphone's sweet spot. Pop screens don't help much as a de-esser, but that's pretty easy to fix in mixing with some fairly simple EQ-ing or plugins. 5) Shut down any unnecessary applications or services on your laptop/workstation when recording. Maybe also temporarily disable Anti-Virus scanners if yours is processor heavy (many are). Definitely shut off email and browsers - you don't want those distractions anyway while recording. 6) Do multiple takes. I'm typically better on my 3-6th take than I am on the earlier takes (warmer, more relaxed, more familiar with what I'm going to do vocally, etc.). Tracks are free in your DAW, so don't be cheap! Make a new track for each new take, and save your work often. 7) Take your time. You are recording at home. It's not like you have to pay per hour for the studio or a recording engineer. If your voice just isn't cooperating with you today, come back and try again later today or tomorrow. 8) Avoid wireless microphones for recording. The conversion and transmission of a wireless signal, even on a really expensive high-quality wireless system, still results in lost fidelity. Use a good quality microphone cable (shorter is better) plugged directly into the mic and the DI. 9) Record tracks DRY with no effects! You can add all the crazy effects your heart could ever desire after the fact during the mixing process. By recording dry, raw tracks, you have unlimited flexibility to mix and add effects to it any way you want in the future. 10) Really, REALLY study and learn how to mix! This is a lifetime achievement goal, one you will definitely not master overnight, if ever... But the more you study, the more tutorials you watch on YouTube, the more real mixing you do, the better you will get at it. Learn what kinds (and what settings) of reverb or compression plugins sound best for your voice in different scenarios. Learn when and how to use a delay or a chorus plugin. Learn how to do doubling and layering of multiple takes. It all takes time, but the more you do it, the better you'll get at it. Those are the basics! Good luck! Check out my videos on YouTube and Facebook, especially the more recent ones. I hope you'll see that a good quality recording can be made using very basic equipment. In fact, maybe check out some of my older recordings too, because the difference of recording and mixing experience becomes very clear when compared to my newer ones (my recording setup has stayed exactly the same, but my mixing experience continues to develop). I hope this is helpful! -- Dave Some extra info: HOW TO AVOID CLIPPING: 1) Use a DAW to do your recording and monitoring. Reaper is a perfect one to start with because it's free, and it's probably perfect to stick with forever because it is as good (or maybe better) than almost any other DAW on the market (including ProTools, Studio One, Audacity, etc.). 2) Basically all decent USB Direct Interface ("DI") boxes have at least a Gain knob for the microphone, a master (headphone) volume knob, a Direct Monitoring switch, and a Phantom Power switch. Don't buy a DI for vocals that doesn't have at least these minimum requirements. 3) Plug your microphone and earphones into the DI. Turn ON the Direct Monitoring switch (this way the DI will send your microphone back to the earphones, so you can hear what you're singing, with zero delay). If you have a Dynamic mic, leave the phantom power OFF. If you have a Condenser mic, turn phantom power ON. 4) Launch your DAW, and create a test track to set your volume levels. Set the vocal recording test track to MUTE - you are already monitoring your voice via the DI's direct monitoring, so turn off feedback from the DAW because it will be slightly delayed. Sing into the microphone and watch the recording level indicator in the DAW. Adjust the gain knob on the DI until the recording level tops out at about 60-70% in the DAW (just barely above the "green" and into the "yellow", absolutely NO "red"!). IMPORTANT!! ONCE YOU HAVE BEGUN RECORDING, DON'T TOUCH THE GAIN KNOB AGAIN FOR THE REST OF YOUR RECORDING SESSION, EXCEPT IF YOU FIND YOU ARE CLIPPING!!! 5) Import your instrumental music track (the song that you'll be singing/recording along with) into the DAW. It is critical to import the track into the recording session. Don't try to play it in one program while you record in a different program, or you will end up with lots of sync problems when you try to mix. Now, here's the magic, how you hear yourself while recording, without the microphone clipping. Remember, DO NOT TOUCH THE MICROPHONE GAIN KNOB!! 6) Start playing back the song from the DAW, and start singing along to it. Listen to your earphones. If your voice is too quiet, turn UP the master (headphone) volume knob (but *NOT* the microphone gain knob!!) on the DI box. If that makes the music too loud, turn DOWN either the master volume or the instrument track's volume in the DAW! Keep tweaking these two settings until you are able to hear yourself and the music at the same time at a reasonable volume. If you have done all of this correctly, you should now be able to hear both your own voice, and the music track in the earphones at adequate levels; and you should be able to sing as loud (or quiet) as you need to for the song, with the maximum volume in your vocal recording track maxing out at about 70% (nowhere near clip, just barely into the "yellow" area of the level meter, a little bit above "green"). There is (of course) more to it than just that, but that is the basic starting point from which to begin.
Please participate in this poll... this "Poll" post has been opened up for discussion as well.
I wanted to share this, since I am doing more and more recording these days... thought I would share what Im learning and using. It has taken me some time and trial and error, and private lessons from a producer to get a great home recording chain going. Here is what I use to track all my vocals and comp., prior to being mixed at a professional studio with a console. Let me know if you have any questions. You can get most of this gear at Amazon.com if you run a search at top right of the web site, or click on The Vocal Gear Store. Microphones: Pearlman TM2 (Tube Mic) - 1st Choice RODE K2 RODE NT1 RODE NT1A Electro Voice Cardinal Headphones: Extreme Isolation - X-29s PreAmps: Focusrite ISA One Universal Audio 701 Infinity Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (Love this, its great!) DAW: Logic Pro X 10 Plugins: Focusrite Plug-In Suite (comes with the above mentioned interface, good value!) From www.waves.com - Vocal Rider - Doubler - Vocal Series Suite - Vitamin From Izotope - iZotope Nector 2