Big Time Newbie and Recording 101

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by JazzBassvb, Aug 5, 2003.

  1. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003
    Hi all,

    I was a member under a different name, but I haven't posted in a while and thus had to reregister.

    Anyway, I got a catalog from Musician's Friend and that's what got me thinking about recording and such.

    Here is what I want to do.

    Record me playing Bass (Logically) :)
    Use the computer as my midi source (piano, drums, etc)
    Record to the computer and finally burn a CD

    With the above in mind, what is the best way to do this, while staying inexpensive.

    Do I need to have a mixer like the EZBus?

    I know I can go into the computer with the line-in on the sound card. I know I have a mic in, but not sure about the line-in.

    I know you can download freeware recording/mixer software and I have an older version of Quartz. Do I presume that I can select the input from my sound card as the source and record playing bass on one track while the midi stuff plays?

    Anyway, I'm so new to all of this that it's kinda overwhelming right now.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  2. Hi there, and welcome (back) to Talkbass...

    A really good source of information for newbies to recording and using computers for music is the Computer Music magazine (no I don't work for them!). You can often find it in bookstores like Borders etc. or if you're in the UK most big newsagents will carry it. They have a special edition out just now which is dedicated to explaining the basics for newbies, so try and pick that one up. They offer a completely free sequencer called Computer Muzys which will allow you to play MIDI stuff through your PC and record audio alongside it. It's a nice piece of kit, and even better because it's free. I think it also includes an audio editor, so that's handy. They also have free plugins, but we'll leave those until you're more familiar with this whole game. Check out their website. Very helpful tutorials: Another useful resource is the Sound on Sound website ( especially Martin Walker's FAQ section in the Forums (

    In order to get sound from your bass into the PC, the most basic approach is to use the line in input on your soundcard. You *should* have both line-in and mic inputs. Have a close look round the back. The mic input is an option, but since it's set up for recording things at a higher gain it may cause your bass to sound distorted (if your bass is active). On the other hand if you have a passive output, it may give you the little boost in volume/gain that you need to get a good level. You can check out recording levels by double clicking on the volume icon in the system tray (bottom right hand side) then selecting "Options -> Properties -> Recording". If you check which input your playing into, play a little and see if the there is any signal coming through to your audio recorder. If not, try a different input, or try boosting the signal.

    Hope this is helpful information for you to get started. Please do post back and let us know how you get on.
  3. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003
    Thank you!

    I'll see if I can find that magazine you mentioned.

    I have a SB PCI 64 (came with the computer) and I tried playing my bass with it plugged into the Line In and I could barely hear it. I switch over to the mic and it worked a little better, but was a little distored. I was using the line out from my combo amp and may try going directly from the bass.

    I had downloaded a copy of Quartz a while back and it did not work all the well on my computer. I'm going to download a newer version or go with some other freeware program.

    I hope I can get working right.

    Thanks again,
  4. No probs JBvb, happy to help.

    About getting the levels right for recording, using the output from your combo will add some extra oomph to the signal and of course you'll be able to apply your usual EQ settings, so that may be preferable to going straight into the PC from your bass. You can check the levels coming in to the PC and set them to avoid clipping (digital distortion) or give them a boost from the Recording panel of the soundcard volume levels as I described earlier. Try either boosting the input level on the line in, or cutting the mic levels right back to get the right level. It's a little bit trial and error I'm afraid. Be aware though that recording bass while sat in front of your PC monitor may cause humming on the recording due to interference because of the screen. If you turn your screen off and it goes away then you know it's just interference (and not the soundcard or your bass!).

    Even with your basic soundcard and without a huge amount of CPU power you ought to be able to record bass and play along to MIDI. MIDI information takes up very little processing power. Editting audio does eat up your CPU power though. If you record at CD quality then 1 minute of stereo = about 10Mb file size. You can halve this by recording bass in mono (you don't need a stereo input unless you have stereo effects). You can also reduce the overheads by working at 32KHz or 22KHz instead of CD's 44KHz. This reduces the quality, but may allow you to get ahead if file size or processing power isn't great.

    Plug in effects and instruments are nice, but they too will eat up CPU power. So start small and then try adding these things incrementally.

    Cool Edit is a very useful audio editor which is shareware. I've been using it for some time. There are lots of "Lite" versions of the big editors out there that you may want to try out until you find one that works well for you.

    I'd really recommend trying out the Computer Muzys software though. It's free, so if you don't get on with it, then you haven't lost anything!! :)
  5. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003
    Thank you.

    I'm going to play with it a little more tonight and see what I come up with.

    I'll take a look at that software as well.

    Thanks again!

  6. japhy4529

    japhy4529 this is only a test... Supporting Member

    I would recommend picking up a cheap USB Audio interface such as the Tascam US-122 or M-Audio.

    The reason for this is that most PC soundcards sound like rubbish when recording instruments.

    The Tascam allows you to record two tracks simultaneously (great if you plan on recording with others in the future). It has two 1/4" guitar inputs, two inserts (for a Compressor or EQ) and two XLR inputs. It also comes with GigaStudio and Cubasis software.

    I am planning up a Tascam unit in the near future. The US price is around $200.

    Good luck!
  7. USB Audio interfaces are getting a lot better these days. USB2 interfaces now have very low latency (gap between the audio being played/triggered and when you hear it through the software). A lot of them also combine MIDI and audio interfaces which makes life easier, and they allow you to connect to either a desktop or laptop PC. Neat bits of kit... The new generation of Firewire interfaces will be quicker again.

    I would recommend that JBvb upgrades his soundcard since the SB PCI 64 may limit him in doing more complex stuff in the future, but for now as he gets started it'll let him know whether using his PC (rather than say a 4 track recorder and a external drum machine) is the way he wants to go.

    It's really easy to get caught up in technology creep and GAS where "if only I had the next new piece of equipment then I would be able to do everything I want to." My PC is a 600MHz PentiumII and I'm using an SB Live! Platinum soundcard. Not the best, but I can have more than 8 tracks of audio running simultaneously with added effects without too much strain on the CPU. True, if I had a 24/96 soundcard I'd be able to have better fidelity in the sound and probably (no, DEFINITELY! ;) ) lower latency. If I had a faster CPU I could have more tracks running along with virtual synths and other instruments. But let's be honest 8-12 tracks is enough for most projects.

    I'd refute the comment that most PC soundcards sound like rubbish when recording instruments. I think the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96, the Echo Mia and the Terratec DMX 6Fire have all been regarded as very efficient and good sounding cards and they're all priced at under GBP200. Steve Lawson's last album, and the next one due out soon(ish) were both recorded at home using a fairly standard PC soundcard (M-Audio Delta44?) which is basically the Audiophile 24/96 with the extra capability to record 4 tracks at once rather than just one stereo pair. And if all you want to do is record a demo or record some tracks for your own enjoyment then any of the soundcards mentioned previously will be just fine.

    When you're starting out, play with what you've got, then decide what you need to move your recordings to the next level.

    But above all, have fun!
  8. japhy4529

    japhy4529 this is only a test... Supporting Member

    Hi - I was referring to stock PC soundcards that ship from the factory, not professional grade soundcards (such as the brands you mentioned). I own a Terratec EWS 24/96 card and I am very happy with it.

    I suggested a USB interface, since they are easy to install and use. A professional PCI soundcard will work just as well of course!

    - Tom

  9. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003
    Thanks to the both of you!

    So, a higher end sound card will do what I need it to?

    I think part of my problem with Quartz is the fact that my sound card does not have MIDI in.

    I think because of that, it crashes when ever I try to choose a Audio track to record to.

    Thanks for the great info!

    Take care,
  10. JBvb - a lot of basic soundcards *have* a MIDI input, but it's through the joystick connection believe it or not. You can get connectors that fit onto the joystick port and give you MIDI sockets. So you almost certainly have MIDI inputs, but perhaps the software has recognised them. It seems surprising that the software crashes when you try to record to an audio track. The MIDI issue shouldn't really cause that to happen. Have you checked that your audio setup is correct in the Preferences section of the software? Check that the audio inputs are set up to receive the sound from your soundcard (you can usually choose left channel, right channel or stereo). It may be possible that you have settings that mean that your CPU and soundcard can't cope with the rate of information that is being passed to it. Often if the latency is set too low it causes audio to drop out. If you can set the latency in the Preferences, set it to something really high and see if you still have problems. Also with a lower end soundcard, you may want to switch off anything that says "monitor input". This would allow you to hear what the soundcard is doing as you record (a good thing) but due to latency issues it can cause a slap-back delay in what you hear if your latency isn't good.

    Check out any documentation you have for the software to see what the recommended audio settings are. I still think that even with a really basic soundcard you ought to be able to record *something*.

    Tom - sorry for any misunderstanding. Good input!! :)
  11. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003

    You know, I'm pretty sure I don't have either on this card. When the software starts up, it gives me an message saying there is now MIDI input device. I took a look back there and I'm positive I only have a Speaker Out, Mic In, Line In. No other connections.

    We're talking cheap card here. :(

    Anyway, I'll take a look at the settings again and see if I find anything.

    I've also been doing some looking around and wanted to get some feedback.

    I've looked at MAudio stuff and it looks really cool, but being the newbie that I am, feel really overwhelmed with this stuff.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but in theory, I should be able to get a MAudio card (1010LT or something less), get a Direct Box for the bass/mic/guitar, whatever and plug into the card and record that way. Is that right?

    I think the Direct Box is necessary as there is no other visible means of connecting the bass and the direct box has the XLR input that it needs to send the signal to the card.

    For the card and box, it's not too expensive and should be a sound investment once I commit myself to it.

    What do you think?

  12. I just started using an M-Audio Delta 44 sound card and it works fine. The Delta 1010 is expensive and chances are you won't need that many inputs. The only pro it would have for you is if you wanted to record a band all at once. You would need more inputs to mic the drum kit. If in the future you do, then any Delta card can be upgraded with the Omni I/0 (a bunch more inputs and options).

    I don't use a direct box, but I only record direct. I just use my amp to boost my signal and monitor everything through my computer speakers. Not ideal, but it works. If you want to use the mic then something to boost the signal would help.
  13. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003
    Thank you.

    I'm just wondering, how do you connect your bass to the card? I haven't seen one in person, but I thought the pics I've seen only show like RCA plugs and for Mics.

    How do you do it? Am I mistaken?

  14. M-Audio Delta 44

    The Delta 44 has 4 1/4" inputs and 4 1/4" outputs on a breakout box that connects to the soundcard in the back. To connect my bass to it, I run a cable to from my bass to my amp to boost the signal, and then from my line-out on my amp to the Delta's break-out box. Then to monitor what I'm playing I have to connect one of the outputs to either my computer speakers or headphones with a couple of adapters.

    It would be a little different though if you wanted to mic your amp. First of all you wouldn't have to worry about an external monitor to hear what you're playing because you will just be plugging your bass into you amp and playing. To connect the mic you would need to buy a low-z to hi-z adapter (probably XLR female to 1/4" male). Then just plug that into the sound card and you're ready to go.
  15. AdlerAugen


    Aug 9, 2006
    Just to add to this, I recently got an Alesis multimix 8 USB, which I currently use to record onto my computer. It works really good, and I think just about any mixer with a USB output should be able to record at much higher quality and with much less distortion, either mic'd or line-in, than your soundcard's mic. Mic-in on a typical soundcard isn't meant for any professional recording, and most soundcards have quite limited recording capabilities. Mic-in doesn't cut it for me, so I went USB.

    Oh btw...I don't use any pre-amp or postamp for recording with my mixer. I do have to put up the volume a bit, but it's not a necessary item unless you want to hook up speakers that aren't through the auxilliary input on a stereo.
  16. soong


    May 10, 2007
    Endorsing Artist: MTD Kingston Basses
    Anyone know how Line6 Toneports go for bass recordings?