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I am a complete Newbie when it comes to mixing and multi-channel Audio. I have two instruments I would like to record simultaneously - a Roland HD-1 V-drum set (outputting a 3.5mm PL connector) and an Electric Guitar (either with or without an amplifier). On top of that I have background music coming through another 3.5mm jack. I want to record both instruments without the background music, but while recording I want to be able to hear the background music in the headphones. In addition it would be nice to control the levels of each instrument in each of the players' headphone sets.

What setup do I need? Which kind of equipment? Of course I would like to keep the price tag as low as possible without compromising too much of the resulting audio quality.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

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Note that, when you are using an electronic drum kit, you may have the option of recording midi or audio. If audio, take some time to set up the stereo spread of the drum pads within the drum's control unit (if possible). The results will be better. Think of it like virtual microphone placement. For the guitar: if you record the clean signal, you can then apply the effects using plug-ins in the DAW software. This way they are editable. The only effect you will not be able to alter after recording is the pickup selection and guitar tone controls. –  horatio Oct 2 '12 at 21:34
    
possible duplicate of How should I start recording my band? –  JoshP Dec 3 '12 at 14:45
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2 Answers 2

You have a few options here. Which of them you use will depend on exactly how much you're willing to spend, and what you want to get from the recording.

Your first option is to find a small mixing console, run your inputs into this, then run from the output of your mix console into whatever your recording device will be. This is known as recording to mono or recording to 2-track, depending on whether the end result is a single channel or a pair of channels mixed for the left and right speaker. As to the backing track, most mixers, even small ones, have some sort of aux send which you can use to send the signal to head phones for the players.

The other option is to buy a small audio interface, get a cheap Digital Audio Workstation (Reaper if Windows, you should already have GarageBand if you're on Mac). From there, run the instruments into the inputs of the interface, adjust the DAW to recognize the inputs and create a couple tracks for the instruments. To play the backing track, import the file to the session and make sure the DAW is monitoring existing tracks, then record without arming the backing track. The beauty of this approach is that you can edit the individual tracks, or rerecord one or the other of the musicians if you have a good take for one but not the other.

Things you will need either way:

1/8" (3.5mm) to either 1/4" or RCA adaptors - Most console and interfaces don't use small TRS jacks, so you'll need some way to get this up to whatever input your gear uses.

Something to bring your guitar up to line level - This can be a guitar amp, a direct box, or something along the lines of Line 6 Pod. Note that if your guitar amp does not have a line out, you may need to record it with microphones, which adds another layer of complexity onto the question.

Headphone box or splitter - When using smaller, cheaper mixers or interfaces, one of the first limit you will run in to is your output channels. You will need to listen to the mix while recording, and the musicians will need some sort of mix as well. Letting your musicians both use the same headphone line will help overcome this, and can allow them to independently control their own volume as well.

Assorted cables, headphones, etc... - Self explanitory

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covered everything I was going to say. Thing's Id focus one would be the DAW and audio interface. Unless its completely necessary that they record at the same time. Then everything else is a great recommendation. Personally, I like doing every track separately because of the old "YOU THREW ME OFF DUDE!" thing that tends to happen after recording frustration. –  Travis Dtfsu Crum Oct 1 '12 at 19:47
    
Thanks a lot for the detailed explanation. Assuming I want to go with a (relatively) cheap mixer - do you have any recommendations? Something in the range of $100-$150 is something I can deal with... –  vmalloc Oct 1 '12 at 22:26
    
Note that a guitar can be plugged directly into the mic jack of your soundcard since it is a mono source (line level is not needed in this case). If you have a preamp built in, this might be a bad move. Don't plug an AMP into the mic jack though. A mixer is more flexible. –  horatio Oct 2 '12 at 21:38
    
@vmalloc I don't know from personal experience but a lot of people on the gearsluts forum recommend Behringer mixers when price issues are a concern. Which one you would want is really up to personal preference since I don't what features you would want and which ones you wouldn't. Some have built in effects and a whole range of total channels. Take that into consideration –  Travis Dtfsu Crum Oct 3 '12 at 13:39
    
@vmalloc forgot to mention that a mixer isn't exactly a requirement and you could more easily pull off what you are trying to do with an audio/midi interface with multiple channels. The M-Audio Fast Track Pro is a common recommendation for beginners and falls within your price range. The go-to audio interface for a lot of people is the Focusrite Saffire 6. Its a little above your price range but comes highly recommended –  Travis Dtfsu Crum Oct 3 '12 at 13:49
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Another option is to get yourself a standalone solution. There are a number of them, but do a quick search for a Digital Multitrack Recorder.

A relatively inexpensive example: disclosure, I've never used it... just a quick search

TASCAM DP-008

In your case, you could

  • Record the stereo mix of your background music first, plugged directly into the mixer.
  • Play back that track (with volume control) while recording the stereo V-Drums plugged directly in.
  • Play both of those back while recording the guitar plugged directly in.

At this point you've got all of your recording done without a single microphone. Incidentally, it appears that this recorder even has a couple built-in mics for on-the-spot stereo recording.

Go ahead and check out the other various options with this kind of recorder. This one is small and portable, but misses out on some other features you may really want in the end.

  • It doesn't have a digital output (not a solution if you eventually want to edit in a computer)
  • Only records two tracks at a time, though it can play back more, and bounce internally (one stereo recording at a time could be limiting)
  • Battery powered (I don't know, but I would certainly want the option to plug it in)

Lastly, if your goal is to find a way to record your music because you are a musician, a smaller all-in-one device is not a bad starting place. You can spend more time with the music and less time with the recording of it. If your goal is to get your feet wet with the industry and mechanics of audio recording, maybe not so much.

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