Home Recording and Mixing Basics: v. 4.0

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This section of my site was written to give info and tips to people with small, medium budgeted home studios. You could be recording just yourself playing various instruments, a band that you're in, or a friend's band. It's assumed you own at least a limited variety of gear... a multitracker (any format), compressor, a multieffects processor, and microphone(s). Other gear would be useful, but not necessary. I also assume that you understand how to operate your gear. You don't need to be a master at using a compressor or multieffects unit, but at least understand what the different settings do to the sound. Read the manuals and ask questions in alt.music.4-track. You should also be fairly skilled at using your mixer to route sounds to your outboard gear, recorder and monitoring. Good headphones are important for monitoring mic placement and doing most tracking, and a pair of speakers for monitors is also important for stereo imaging. I survived a long time with home stereo equipment for nearfields, although real monitors and a dedicated power amp is much better. Even if you're a complete amateur, a lot of this will be useful, but some of the vocab might be a little confusing. This info is based on both my own personal experiments, books, magazines and the help of countless people from Alt.Music.4-Track and Rec.Audio.Pro. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or gripes, email me at IMS@HoohahRecords.com

Also, on a related note: I also prepeared another page, along with Chris Gieseke. It's named Getting Started in Home Recording and it describes most of  the essential equipment you'll need when you first start recording. If you're an absolute beginner, I recommend reading this first.

One thing I recommend is participating in some of the aforementioned Usenet Newsgroups.  There are 2 that I commonly participate in: Alt.Music.4-Track and Rec.Audio.Pro.  I've learned a ton from these guys, and I'd like to extend a special thanks to the people who answered my long threads of questions on these newsgroups.  I also enjoy helping people out with their questions.  It's a great place to get a wide range of opinions about questions you may have about recording.  I'd also like to point out that the newsgroups are archived at www.dejanews.com and you may search their database for answers and info.


These techniques are only recommendations, and I therefore accept no liability for any type of physical harm or damaged equipment or media resulting from trials. Some of these techniques and recommendations are only suggestions that I have not verified. Use at your own risk.

Changes from version 3.0:

Last Revised April 1, 1999

1) There's been a fairly significant facelift.

2) Revamped the microphone section (Chapter 1) by reorganizing the lists into better catagories, and adding several popular mics.  

3) Added section 1.4 for a little info about ribbon mics.

4) Added section 1.5 about auditioning microphones.

5) Added info on many common stereo recording techniques in section 2.1.

6) Added Section 3.8 for micing djembe hand drums.

7) Added section 4.3 that covers mixer terminology and signal routing.

8) Added sections 5.1 about the use of compression, and section 5.3 about a compressors Threshold and Ratio controls.

9) I really expanded the detail in the MIDI section (Chapter 8) giving example MIDI setups and pointer on how to configure your gear.  There's at least 10 times as much info here as before.


 Chapter 1:

  • 1.1 Inexpensive Dynamic Mics

  • 1.2 Large Diaphragm Condensers

  • 1.3 Small Diaphragm Condensers

  • 1.4 Ribbon Mics

  • 1.5 Auditioning Microphones

 Chapter 2:

  • 2.1 General Notes on Tracking

  • 2.2 Track Sheets and Organization

  • 2.3 Patchbays

  • 2.4 Equipment Setup

  • 2.5 Thoughts on Producing

 Chapter 3:

  • 3.1 Vocal Mics and Recording Vocals

  • 3.2 Guitar Speaker Cabinet

  • 3.3 Electric Guitar Direct

  • 3.4 Acoustic Guitars

  • 3.5 Bass

  • 3.6 Drums

  • 3.7 Congas

  • 3.8 Djembe

  • 3.9 Sax

  • 3.10 Flute

  • 3.11 The Figure-8 Mic

 Chapter 4:

  • 4.1 Mixing

  • 4.2 Special Considerations for Mixing and Preparing for Mastering

  • 4.3 Mixers and signal Routing

 Chapter 5:

  • 5.1  Why use Compression?

  • 5.2  Types of Compressors

  • 5.3  Threshold and Ratio controls

  • 5.4 Attack and Release controls

 Chapter 6:

  • 6.1 Natural and Mechanical Reverberation and Effects

  • 6.2 Reverb and Effects Processors

 Chapter 7:

  • 7.1 Special Considerations for ADAT and Digital Media Users

  • 7.2 A Few Notes on Tape Recorder Maintenance (Analog or Digital)

 Chapter 8:

  • 8.1 Basics of How to use MIDI in a Home Studio

  • 8.2 MIDI Channels

  • 8.3 A multiple device setup

  • 8.4 Other MIDI data

  • 8.5 Sysex

  • 8.6 Tape Sync

  • 8.7 Drum Machines

I'd like to offer a color printed 3 hole punched copy of this FAQ to anyone who'd like it.  I realize that browsing this on a web page isn't the most convenient, so for $15 plus shipping I'll gladly make you a copy.  Email me if you're interested.  Of course, if the print version doesn't interest you, or if you have your own printer, feel free to make use of this resource.  

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