Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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LenC
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Joined: Sat Dec 14, 2019 8:20 pm

Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Post by LenC » Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:10 pm

Hello !

I am a complete beginner with DAW, just trying to get an idea of what everything is and does, and what I can / want to go towards, with a very tight 100-200 euros budget at this phase.
I am moving towards doing solo jams with instruments (electroaccoustic guitar, and a drum kit) and female voice with some high pitches, in my about 30 square meters living room, through an extensive use of loops features I suppose. Apparently Ableton is great for that so I just can't wait to explore it!

So far I have done the 2 first tutorials in Ableton 10's Help View in Trial version, in Windows 10 64bits, on a high-end 2018 laptop with only USB-C ports, with a smartphone headset, and I have read the chapter 4, "Live Concepts', of the Ableton manual. It's basically all I know about music software and electronics. The headset's sound seems very low unless I hold it directly under my mount wich doesn't leave my hands free to play an instrument or play with Ableton's Session features while I record.

So I am asking to more experienced Ableton users and musicians what is the cheapest convenient thing that I must buy in order to record all the sounds I mentioned above (not necessarily together at the same time, with a preference for voice) in a way that leaves my hands free, respects the pitch and doesn't glitch while leaving my hands free. It's ok if the texture isn't good, even if it's pretty bad, I will buy quality gear in my next steps if I find that learning DAW really is something for me.


I already found names of materials by reading the forum but I am not managing to figure out what part requires what other part.
So, I would really like to know of a precise and complete list of models of things (hardware, software, cables...) that are absolutely necessary and work well together, that I need to purchase if I want to be able to record my sounds, for a 200 euros budget.

So far the SM 58 mic with a stand seems good... WIth a "pre amp"... Which one... Do I really need one? Otherwise a mini mic that I can pin under my chin or a simple headset would have been nice... Well, question marks everywhere. If someone is willing to help, that would be really appreciated :) Please don't refer to just one or two things, tell me the complete setup list (I'm supposing there aren't more than 4 things?), or I will still be about as lost as I am now.

Cheers!!

yur2die4
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Re: Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Post by yur2die4 » Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:50 pm

An audio interface will make it a lot easier to plug things that you want to record in.

There are maaaany many interfaces out there. And lots of features to decide on. In a number of cases, even mixers can act as audio interfaces.

I’ll drop a quick recommendation. And it won’t have had a lot of thought put into it but it’ll certainly get you started and get the job done in more ways than one.

For an interface you can get a focusrite Scarlett 4i4. Popular brand and product. If you get lost there’s plenty of info out there. Alternatively, there might be some handy Zoom devices out there that have a built in mic (for situations where you don’t have a mic to plug in) or tactile mixing options. I can’t speak for the quality of the Zoom options or even a specific model, I’m in a hurry at the moment. But you should be able to find things at a nice balance of function vs price.

Even just looking into those two will help you ponder on what basic tools might make it easiest to get started.

Also, don’t let the lack of tools stop you. Try to still keep going with what you have, develop your chops and your knowledge.

jestermgee
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Re: Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Post by jestermgee » Sat Dec 14, 2019 11:33 pm

Great advice ^^

Don't expect anyone to detail a complete list of what you would need because everyone is different and your budget is rather restrictive for "everything" but that isn't a complete roadblock, just means you need to select things in an order you can afford and probably will not be able to address everything right away. You cannot setup a complete recording and production solution in a single go. Even if you can afford it, would you have all the required skills to operate everything?

As mentioned, the first step would be an audio interface that suits your immediate AND future needs. Think of all the gear you may want to connect to record. Also, what kinds of connections and features it offers. This should always be the start point THEN consider your budget. Sometimes you may need to hold off for the perfect option for a bit and save some cash.

You mention the following you would like to record:
- electroaccoustic guitar
- drum kit
- female voice

These all have different requirements for recording so that will be close to impossible for your budget since almost all that budget will be used in an audio interface (at a minimum)

Guitar is probably the easiest to record since you will have a cable and can take either your amp output (if you want the sound of the amp via the headphone/line out) or if you want the character of the amps cabinet sound you would need a mic which there are many different ones suitable for this, sometimes it takes 2 mics, but these mics will often be different from ones you use for vocals. Easiest way is to take the signal from the amp (or direct from the guitar if you want a clean signal you can process with plugins). You really only need the audio interface and a cable (optionally a compressor but some decent interfaces will have a digital compressor which can be ok).

Drum kit I assume is an acoustic kit? This is a challenge to mic up because you need a drum mic kit and mixer which consists of half a dozen mics to place on all the drums. You could try and use a single mic but you will get so much sound from the room that it will end up sounding pretty dull. A mic kit for the drums can be 500+ euro on its own... then you need a decent mixer to connect these mics to which can be the same again. You then need some experience and skills to mix these elements OR you need a more expensive audio interface to record each channel separate so you can do all your mixing in Post after it's all recorded.

Vocals can also be very challenging to record "good". First before any mics you need a good space to record in. No outside noise, needs to be pretty free from audio reflections and room sound, needs to be comfortable for the singer and then you need a decent mic which is more important if you have higher pitched vocals because there is a lot of detail to catch there. Mics can be VERY expensive for good quality ones and can easily be 200-2000 Euro. Then you need the cables, stands, pop filters, compressors, room treatment, headphones.... It adds up quickly.

Zoom gear is good for what it does. I own a Zoom H4n (with built in X/Y mic), Zoom F1n (with lapel mic) and a Zoom F8n which I attach various mics for all kinds of recording on the go. The inbuilt X/Y mics are no good for vocals or instruments as they have a too broad pickup range and will pickup too much room, they are for catching ambience mainly. The Zoom H5/H6 with interchangeable capsules can be a better option but I have found the zoom mic capsules for the suffer from a bit of noise which is expected at that cost tho probably not a problem with a good hot signal such as vocals. You would want the MSH6 or Shotgun for vocals but a lot of what producers look for in Mics is the character of the mic itself and Zoom mics (IMO) lack much character and are rather basic at recording audio. Great if that's all you have but if you will compare your recordings to professional recordings it will be hard to get the dynamics, warmth and tone out of these mics.

The SM 58 you have is a "Live Mic" designed to handle singers eating the mic and yelling into it in a Live situation. It's a "Dynamic" mic which means it is designed to handle a large dynamic range but the trade off is the signal quality is not as good or as sensitive as a condenser mic which will be far better at picking up the more sensitive female higher pitch vocals. They are great mics and very popular in live situations but not so much in studio recordings.

Don't be afraid to spend some time learning each part of your setup. If you "Need" to get things setup quick to release an album or something I would just recommend hiring a studio to start with. It will be easier, they have the gear ready to go and they will have helpful people you can learn from and you can learn the gear they use. Otherwise you will kind of need to make a choice as to where you want to start and get familiar with that part. Such recording your guitar as that will be easiest. Also, go to a music store and speak with the guys there. Make sure they have some experience and just ask questions and recommendations.

Get an audio interface first then after that you will have more of an idea where you need to invest in next but try not to "cheap out" (I hate the word cheap) and get the bottom end in everything because the cost you invest will often be the result you will end up with especially if your skills aren't too flash. Just be sure to have fun learning and don't be afraid to just try something out. If you find something you feel would be a good option, try ask about it here. Much easier for users to offer advice on a specific thing than a blanket "I need suggestions on everything".

Good luck.

TLW
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Re: Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Post by TLW » Sun Dec 15, 2019 1:43 am

Fo me the first priority woukd be an audio interface with XLR and line level inputs. As a less expensive range, Focusrite are well regarded. If possible avoid interfaces powered by the USB bus - those with their own power supply usually do better. They contain pre-amps so you won’t need a separate microphone pre-amp.

The SM58 is a decent microphone, as is the SM57. They’re simple to use and reliable, and being a cardoid pickup pattern have a bass boost in their response if the sound source is very close to the mic - a singer can use that to advantage - and tend to reject sound coming from the side or behind them. They’re often regarded as stage rather than studio microphones but the SM57 in particular is popular for recording guitar amplifiers, drums and acoustic instrument. A set of various condenser mics will be more flexible and maybe give better results, but given your budget you could do much worse than an SM57 or 58. The 57 and 58 are basically the same microphone but with a differently shaped grille by the way. Also get a pop shield, a singer’s breath hitting the mic can be a real nuisance to get rid of after recording - even if that’s possible.

Boom mic stands are essential.

For drums, unless the kit is huge it’s possible to record a kit reasonably well using only two or three mics. Glyn Johns used to get amazing results using three or four - https://www.recordingrevolution.com/the ... ng-method/ - and his approach can be adapted for fewer mics. One mic on the bass drum and a couple of overheads can do a good job.

More generally, one thing to consider is if you’ll need to send to several headphone sets at the same time. A cheap headphone amp is pretty much essential for that. If buying headphones get at least one closed-back set for the singer so spill from the headphones doesn’t get into the mic. Don’t forget to budget for cables either, no need to buy the most expensive, but OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) cable is a good idea; not necessarily for audio quality but because it’s less prone to corroding inside the cable than “ordinary” copper.

As a final thought, it can be possible to record a band using one microphone - which is how they did things in the 50s and early 60s. They got the musicians and singers balanced by paying attention to how far from the microphone each sound-source was and where it was in the mic’s pick-up field. Everyone would then play together and the engineer, who had to be very familiar with the recording equipment, would arrange people, instruments and the microphone until things sounded OK. Obviously you can’t do a multi-track mix on that kind of recording, which is probably why the technique died out. But it shows you can do a lot with a pretty basic setup.

Try to resist investing in third-party plugins until you know what you want and why you want it. Anyone who’s been doing this sort of stuff a long time will probably have a large selection of plugins many of which they don’t use very often - if at all. I know I do :-)
Live 10 Suite, 2014/15 MacBook Pro 15.3” Retina i7, OS Mojave 10.14.5. RME UFX, assorted synths, guitars and stuff.

ShelLuser
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Re: Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Post by ShelLuser » Sun Dec 15, 2019 1:55 am

First: welcome to the club!

I hope you're going to enjoy the ride with Ableton, it can be one heck of an environment to work with.
LenC wrote:
Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:10 pm
I am a complete beginner with DAW, just trying to get an idea of what everything is and does, and what I can / want to go towards, with a very tight 100-200 euros budget at this phase.
I think it's a good idea to keep things tight if you're still evaluating. After all, you don't want to put money into something only to conclude that it isn't for you, most definitely. However.... that budget won't do much for you. So a well meant advice: once you're convinced about the route or approach you wish to take then get ready to invest, probably a lot. Problem is this is professional material you're working with and that doesn't always come cheap.

Of course a lot depends on what you're going to aim for, what your goals will be, etc. But in the end.... And in full honesty: nothing wrong with slowly building up your gear over time. But I always want to stress this out: this market can be pricey.

But then again, you picked a nice time to dive into this because we're close to the Holiday season which is always a good time to purchase stuff due to the heavy festival discounts.

But one step at a time :)
LenC wrote:
Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:10 pm
I am moving towards doing solo jams with instruments (electroaccoustic guitar, and a drum kit) and female voice with some high pitches, in my about 30 square meters living room, through an extensive use of loops features I suppose. Apparently Ableton is great for that so I just can't wait to explore it!
Live is indeed great for that. It's a completely different workflow in comparison to your more traditional DAW interface, but that's also what makes this so special. You can basically pick your workflow. Arrangement view for the classic approach and session view which allows you to jam (and loop material) all over.
LenC wrote:
Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:10 pm
So I am asking to more experienced Ableton users and musicians what is the cheapest convenient thing that I must buy in order to record all the sounds I mentioned above (not necessarily together at the same time, with a preference for voice) in a way that leaves my hands free, respects the pitch and doesn't glitch while leaving my hands free. It's ok if the texture isn't good, even if it's pretty bad, I will buy quality gear in my next steps if I find that learning DAW really is something for me.
Pfff, difficult question. See, the problem is that this stuff usually isn't really budget friendly ;)

But yeah, I agree with the above comments: a dedicated audio interface. One which has its own ASIO drivers, that's going to seriously help you record some good stuff. There are all sorts of good ones, my personal favorite being a Komplete Audio 6 but in all fairness: that has everything to do with me having become quite a Komplete fan (kind of offtopic, and definitely not something useful for you right now).

Point being: this is going to reduce latency, which is key when working with audio.

You mentioned drum kits so eventually I'd also try and grab a midi controller which can help playing all that. I've tried percussion with a midi keyboard, it's not a success ;) Heck, a simple Akai MPD drumpad can go for 50 - 60 I think?

As to complete setup... Jester already mentioned that but...

See, one golden rule within this business, and a very important one, is that "what works for me doesn't have to work for you". It sounds simple enough but don't underestimate the message. There is no clear "right" and "wrong" way to do things within audio. So giving you a complete list could end up a waste of our time (no offense intended) simply because... the above.

But try to come up with specific questions and I'm sure plenty of people will be happy to try and help out.

Hope this can still help a bit and give you some ideas.
With kind regards,

Peter

Using the 'Power' Trio: Live 10 Suite (+ Push & Max 8 ), Reason 10 and Maschine Mk3 (+ the ultimate Komplete 12).
Blog: SynthFan (under heavy construction!)

LenC
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Joined: Sat Dec 14, 2019 8:20 pm

Re: Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Post by LenC » Sun Dec 15, 2019 2:43 am

Wow, many elaborate and insightful answers, I am grateful thank you guys!

There is a lot to ponder and explore, I am going to thoroughly do that and I may come back with more questions.

Cheers for everybody :)

jlgrimes
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Location: Atlanta, Ga

Re: Beginner : what to buy for very first steps?

Post by jlgrimes » Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:02 pm

LenC wrote:
Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:10 pm
Hello !

I am a complete beginner with DAW, just trying to get an idea of what everything is and does, and what I can / want to go towards, with a very tight 100-200 euros budget at this phase.
I am moving towards doing solo jams with instruments (electroaccoustic guitar, and a drum kit) and female voice with some high pitches, in my about 30 square meters living room, through an extensive use of loops features I suppose. Apparently Ableton is great for that so I just can't wait to explore it!

So far I have done the 2 first tutorials in Ableton 10's Help View in Trial version, in Windows 10 64bits, on a high-end 2018 laptop with only USB-C ports, with a smartphone headset, and I have read the chapter 4, "Live Concepts', of the Ableton manual. It's basically all I know about music software and electronics. The headset's sound seems very low unless I hold it directly under my mount wich doesn't leave my hands free to play an instrument or play with Ableton's Session features while I record.

So I am asking to more experienced Ableton users and musicians what is the cheapest convenient thing that I must buy in order to record all the sounds I mentioned above (not necessarily together at the same time, with a preference for voice) in a way that leaves my hands free, respects the pitch and doesn't glitch while leaving my hands free. It's ok if the texture isn't good, even if it's pretty bad, I will buy quality gear in my next steps if I find that learning DAW really is something for me.


I already found names of materials by reading the forum but I am not managing to figure out what part requires what other part.
So, I would really like to know of a precise and complete list of models of things (hardware, software, cables...) that are absolutely necessary and work well together, that I need to purchase if I want to be able to record my sounds, for a 200 euros budget.

So far the SM 58 mic with a stand seems good... WIth a "pre amp"... Which one... Do I really need one? Otherwise a mini mic that I can pin under my chin or a simple headset would have been nice... Well, question marks everywhere. If someone is willing to help, that would be really appreciated :) Please don't refer to just one or two things, tell me the complete setup list (I'm supposing there aren't more than 4 things?), or I will still be about as lost as I am now.

Cheers!!
Focusrite Scarletts are nice interfaces especially if starting out. They include preamps.

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