Recording your rehearsals is an integral part of trying to improve your performance skills. You need recordings so you can listen to them later and break down the tape to see what you are doing well, what needs tweaking and what is just not working and needs to be really improved upon. There are many factors to consider when recording a rehearsal. It’s much easier if you are a lone musician and gets more complicated if you are band with guitarists, drummers and more.
Computer and Software
You will need a computer. Ideally, a laptop is better so you can easily lug it with you wherever you have to go for your rehearsal. Most laptops work well and the crucial item is the software you are running. If you are just beginning, simple software like GarageBand or Audacity may be your starting point, but the programs have limitations and will frustrate you if you are looking to get a little extra out of your software.
A good middle ground is the Reaper, which is relatively inexpensive and has most of the functions you will need. Reaper even has a full 60-day demo version you can use to evaluate if the software is the right one for you before purchasing it. On the higher end, you do have industry standard software, like Cubase by Steinberg and Pro Tools by Avid, but these will burn a bigger hole in your pocket.
The type of interface you employ will be determined by the number of instruments you want to use during the rehearsal. If you have a band with one bass, one drum kit and two guitars or if you have a full drum-kit which you plan to use with eight microphones for example, an interface with eight microphone preamps will be required. One excellent audio interface is Focusrite Saffire Pro 40.
A single large condenser can work for any acoustic instrument or even be used for electric guitars and vocals. It’s also fine to use just one microphone for the drum kit. Just place the mic at the right distance to ‘catch’ every sound from the drum-kit. One or two feet away, about three feet high and at 45° is a good starting point. You can test the position and figure out what is the best position for the one microphone setup. Generally, you will want to place the microphones directly in front of the speakers (without touching them of course).
One interesting microphone option is Shure’s SM57, which is durable and is priced right. It’s a versatile mic that is good enough to be used with different types of instruments and works for vocal recordings as well.
Tips for the Session
Make a Plan
Plan out how you will go about your session. If you are just planning to lay down some keyboard tracks, the drummer doesn’t have to be there. If you want to make some vocal recordings, ensure all the supporting instruments have been laid down previously. Usually, tracks are played linearly on top of each other so for instance, you would want to get the drum track right on point before moving on to the bass.
Remember to tune after each recording. That’s one thing you can’t fix afterwards and if not done then all your hard work will be for naught. To prevent your best recordings from being wasted, tune after each take.
Stick with simple strategies, like using mono microphone techniques. Move around your microphones till you can find the right sound. This normally requires some practice, but after a few sessions you will develop a feel for where to put the microphone.
These are just some ideas for you to think about to ensure you have a successful recording. As you get more experience, these procedures will become more of a second nature and you will develop your own strategies. For now, you can rock on!