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My son has to submit a recording for a first round audition. I was wondering if any of you could share info on what software and microphone you use to make a CD with your computer. They said it was acceptable to submit a "tape" but I don't want to make a cassette. I would rather CD quality as much as possible.


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We've found that the best and cheapest recording studio is in the high school choral room. They've got a great mic, a piano, good accoustics, a great digital videotaping system, and a better recording system than I could dream of owning. (The college has a better recording studio, but it's not free)

Because the music students' achievements reflect well on the school, the administration is eager to provide this equipment, even when the need isn't strictly school-related. They're moving toward CD/DVD capability. If the videotaping is digital (as I believe the new system is), I assume it can be produced on disc.

We're planning to video-record the college audition submissions.

For home use, my husband is looking into a system by/called Fostex (?). Does anyone here use this? Unfortunately, a good mic is essential and $$$.

So, I'd check out your son's school facilities first.


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I wouldn’t make this a do it yourself project. The school may have good equipment or there may be other facilities. Studio time doesn’t have to be expensive and your son won’t need a lot of time if he goes in prepared. You want recording experience and knowledge. There should be a lot of local facilities for recording demos. Ask local musicians. Good digital recording equipment for this purpose isn’t terribly expensive these days but you want someone who really knows how to use the equipment and has nice studio space. It’s like going to the photographer for a good portrait versus a snapshot. Part of it is the photographer’s equipment but mostly it’s the talent and experience of the photographer.

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There is a long posting- last entry was 10/07/03- about a MP3 player/recorder that they were making CDs from and liked the quality. The first posts say they were getting them at $39.95- don't get excited, by the time you get to posts 66 they say the price has gone up but they like it.

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1.here are some software programs my friend suggested:

softa-Cubase /Nuendo /Wavelab/ ProTools /Cakewalck/ Cooledit /SoundForge/ Sek'd .............

2.the sound cart in your PC may be of some of thise : lexicon/sonorus/rme......

3. microphon is good to be condenser microphon

Here is a set for example :

mic AKG 420 /card LEXICON CORE2/soft CoolEdit/

In addition he suggests a self training in recording skills since the requirements for auditions are sometimes more than for a regular CD record.And his final suggestion was that you should better go in a reccording studio well prepaired ,thus the procedure will take less time = less money

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Here are some suggestions, assuming you wanted to do it on a budget:

For mics I would choose the Oktava MK-012, $80-100. It’s a multi-pattern small diaphragm condenser microphone. This is a very good mic for the money. Comes standard with cardio capsule, which will be fine for your purposes. Basically, cardio means that the mic only picks up sound from the direction it is pointed. Omni means the mic will pick up sounds from all directions. Lots of semi-pro recordings have been done with these mics. Stay away from the cool looking large diaphragm mics, for string instruments you want a small diaphragm condenser mic.

Then you have to decide what format to record to. Using your computer is one option, but remember that unless you have a laptop, they are not very portable. Also, with computers noise can be an issue. And remember that you need a way to listen to your recordings after and usually PC speakers are pretty crappy. A good set of headphones would provide the best sound for the money, whichever way you decide to go. At $30, AKG K-55 are good value headphones.

For the computer route: The Tascam U122, $200, would be a good choice and it comes with a lite version of Cubase (recording software). This is a USB based audio interface and therefore you don’t need to upgrade your soundcard, it just plugs it into a USB port and your ready to go. It has built in preamps and phantom power for condenser mics as well. Phantom power is required to run condenser mics and basically means that an electric charge is sent up the mic cable to run the microphone. A preamp is a device that basically takes the very weak signal from the microphone and amplifies it so that it can be recorded.

Another option is the Marantz CDR300, $700. This is a portable unit that records directly to CD and has a built in preamp w/ phantom power, so again all you have to do is plug in a mic and record. This style of unit is used a lot for field recordings. This combined with a good condenser mic would make some really nice recordings and, unlike the computer, you could take it anywhere.

Another option would be a minidisc recorder. The advantages of this are portability. The disadvantages of minidisc are that most consumer models can’t upload from minidisc to your computer digitally. They are encoded to prevent this. Why I don’t know. However, you can use the analog out to re-record onto computer but will lose quality. This combined with the compression a minidisc uses might not give you the results your after. They are great for recording lessons though.

There are other stand-alone multitrack recorders as well; they record onto either a removable storage (ie. Flash cards) or an internal harddisk. They range from $300 to about $3000. Some have internal CD burners built in. Keep in mind that most of the smaller units don’t have phantom power so you will require a power supply. One to look at might be the Fostex MR8 ($300); it records to Compact Flash cards at full CD quality and can upload to PC via USB. Note: CD quality is 16 bit 44.1kHz, and not all of the small multitrackers record at this.

Hope this helps.

p.s. where you record and the mic placement will have the greatest effect on the final CD. Try to find a place to record that has nice acoustics and experiment a little with the mic placement. Search the web and you'll find diagrams for basic mic placements for your particular instrument.

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Here are some links to other threads on this subject.



Just a lot of ways to skin this cat. Another link (that I just discovered is, unfortunately no longer live) also emphasized microphone placement. The little bit of experimenting I did also confirmed this - makes a big difference in the sound.

I don't want to discourage you, but PC recording of acoustic instruments has problems. As noted, noise is a big one. You also need to convert a *decent* microphone level to something your average soundcard can process. The microphone input on the card is designed for the cheapest kind of mike that comes with your PC - not something you want to record with. So, at the least you'll need to buy a good mike, a boom mike stand so you can experiment with placement, and a pre-amp, mixer or similar box to increase input level to the card. You may find you need a better soundcard, and more sound isolation for the PC just to get a good recording. After you've got the sound on the PC, you'll need software to edit it. I've used both dbPowerAmp and Audacity (free) software. The latter has a little more editing power, but seems less stable (on XP, anyway) - so save often, and not "on top of" previous good copies. Yes, you'll probably need another hard disk before too long.

Kabal certainly has some valuable input - track him down.

Me, I still use my tape recorder and record to tape first, then input that to the soundcard. It really works OK.

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When does the recording need to be complete? I don't think it's as hard to get a decent DIY recording as some folks make it out to be, but there is a learning curve. It might be wisest to pay for a bit of studio time, and the expertise of an experienced sound engineer, as oldgeezer suggests.

On the other hand, there may be a trade-off between getting the best quality recording, and playing your best. I've only played twice in pro studios, and both experiences were quite scary, partly because they were live broadcasts, but mostly because the acoustic is horrible. It's designed for microphones, not for the human ear - your playing sounds very small and exposed, and I certainly found it quite intimidating. Musicians who spend a lot of time in the studio must get used to it I'm sure, but I ended up on both occasions with great quality recordings of some relatively timid and lacklustre playing.

If your son wants to do it himself, you can get good enough gear fairly cheaply as other posters have said. For the last lot of clips I posted (here) I recorded on my PC using an AKG-C1000S mic (£UK95) and a Behringer Eurorack mixer (about £60). The boom stand for the mic, plus good quality cables came to about £50. The PC soundcard is important - I have a Creative Labs Audigy 2 that came with the PC. You also need recording software. I use nTrack Studio which is shareware, and quite cheap. If you're using Windows 98 or Me, you can get Pro Tools for free here. I haven't used it, but it gets great reviews.

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Howdy RainyAnn,

Lots of good advice here.

I would personally tape the kid on the el-cheapo tape recorder.

The audition staff is not looking for a sound guy, they are looking for kids who can play. CD quality? That only happens if you have cool toys.

I have a bunch of cool toys. I have reverb, yada yada. The people hearing the tunes would like to hear a good player, case closed. You could rent a studio, or you could get a mic at Radio Shack, same thing.

I have heard 10000 tapes. I listen to the guy playing the fiddle. Fancy stuff is not going to matter, they are checking out who plays the fiddle good.

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I agree with Dave.

If you have a tape recorder, record on that. If you don't, borrow one from the school.

Keep it simple.

As a teacher, I've heard many audition tapes. I worked for the Center for Chamber Music at Apple Hill a couple of summers and heard hundreds of recordings. Don't get too technical or crazy with the gizmos. A clear-quality tape will be fine.

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Keep it simple: Go to a studio or use your minidisk and have a studio put it on CD.

I am in the process of putting together a simple home recording set-up. Computer, condenser mic with boom stand, software (Adobe Audition) and I am already into a considerable investment. Plus, it will take years for me to get proficient enough with the techniques of recording to have it all functioning properly - I call it a work in progress.

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Dear Crazy,

Fostex has been around for quite a while (I have a Fostex recorder that records 4 tracks on a cassette tape - cool.) They make a lot of solutions to home recording. But, in my opinion, you can do the most, have the most capability, and versatility by investing in a nice notebook computer or home computer with the latest system installed. Get some recording software and a good mic and you've got it made (for starters anyway.)

Here's a neat forum to check on, first hand users of not only Fostex, but all the other stuff you might want to know more about:


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Hi Ken,

I remain blissfully ignorant of most recording technology. However, it's my {extremely limited} understanding that the big advantage of Fostex over the traditional mini-disc recording methods is that it bypasses the problem described by DarylG:


Another option would be a minidisc recorder. The advantages of this are portability. The disadvantages of minidisc are that most consumer models can't upload from minidisc to your computer digitally. They are encoded to prevent this. Why I don't know. However, you can use the analog out to re-record onto computer but will lose quality. This combined with the compression a minidisc uses might not give you the results your after. They are great for recording lessons though.

The Fostex apparently will upload digitally. (We own a Sony mini-disc recorder and it is a *pain* to upload into the computer.)

As I said, I know less than nothing about this technology. That's why I vote for the school facilities (--especially when their recording studio is manned by someone other than myself!).


PS (a general comment)--I think that recording quality does create a positive or negative impression on the listener, no matter how "objective" he or she may claim to be. To my mind, an audition is not much different than a job interview: whether or not one chooses to bathe beforehand or wear fresh, even nice, clothes may have absolutely nothing to do with one's ability to do the job, but it nevertheless communicates something about one's desire to get the job.

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I should clarify slightly about the minidisc recorders. I was speaking strictly of the portable "walkman" style. You can upload to PC with some of the better home decks and with the pro recorders. The portables simply don't have a optical out. You would also need a soundcard with an optical in. That, combined w/ the fact that you have to upload in realtime with minidisc, seems like alot of work to get it onto a CD. I do really like mini-disc for lessons and practicing though.

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I agree with Kabal. The playing is the most important thing. And studios may be run by gear heads, and you don't need the pressure of a high hourly charge. However, to do it yourself, you may need to experiment a little so the sound isn't thin and tinny, or excessively noisy. You do need some reasonable fidelity.

There are lots of ways for us luddites to do it. I like the school idea.

Minidiscs and MP3's apparently aren't really bad, but I don't like the idea of all that compression. Reportedly, these would easily satisfy Kabal's criteria, and you could probably do well with a pretty inexpensive microphone if you can figure out which one. I forgot what instrument you are recording, but most microphones are not great for bass, and have a peak in the treble (for emphasizing consonants).

I personally use a cassette tape deck with an inexpensive, battery-operated condenser mike. Duct tape and a music stand, or a bookshelf works as well as a boom stand. Believe it or not, my recorder actually has a microphone jack! Imagine if you will, a recording device with a microphone jack! What will they think of next? I hate to endorse brands, but all tape brands except Sony and Maxell have given me scrape flutter with all the tape decks I've owned. Trust me, it can be subtle, but you don't want it.

The one time I tried it, I actually got better sound with a portable, monaural Marantz recorder on the floor, with built-in microphone.

You could buy an audio CD recorder ($250-$500) and either transfer from tape or record directly. Mine is also supposed to double for archiving LPs some day. Good luck finding one with a microphone input. Personally, I would run it through a tape deck, but you could use a Kitchenaid instead. Oops, wrong kind of mixer. The advantage here is that you don't have to put up with compression. You get real, uncompressed sound, and you shouldn't have headaches doing a digital transfer.

I understand there are good, high-fidelity computer sound cards ($100-200?). Mine is about average -- garbage.

Good luck. Go cheap. But not too cheap.

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The thing to keep in mind when trying to make a home recording with some fidelity is that, for the most part, the signal chain will be weaker than the recording format. Meaning the microphone and the preamp will have a greater effect than the medium and its resolution. Minidisc does use a compression scheme and compresses about 6:1, but with a clean signal going to the minidisc the quality is very good. If you use your minidisc to make “mix tapes”, which is basically what minidisc and MP3 players were originally designed for and then do the “pepsi challenge” between the original CD and the minidisc, you’ll find that you have to listen very closely to hear much difference. That’s because the CD is providing a very clean signal for the minidisc to record, the same will hold true if you have a clean signal when recording with a microphone. There are some really good little mics that plug directly into the minidisc that would provide a recording quality that would easily surpass most portable tape recorders. BUT, if your goal is to make a CD from your recording then minidisc might not be the best route. It is possible but not conveniently. What I personally like about minidisc is that they fit in your case, have good quality plug-in mics available, and use a re-recordable media that is cheap enough that you don’t have to upload stuff to a computer if you want to keep it. You can also separate your recordings into tracks, like a CD, so if you record your lessons you can have a track for each one rather than having to rewind and search around for stuff like with tape. The portable voice recorders, like the one Ken Nelison recommends, are great for lessons too! The difference being that you have to upload to your computer to save things rather than putting in a new minidisc, you are also limited to the built-in mic and the generally lower recording quality.

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Daryl is right - minidisc compression isn't very problematic. Minidisc is capable of making an extremely clear and accurate recording of a quality that is only minutely distinguishable from CD. You will hear every mistake and tonal subtlety, and every good thing, too!

I have used a high quality portable for several years and have successfully made audition recordings with it (voice, with various keyboard and stringed instruments). I use a Sharp, as I have found that it is better adapted to on-the-fly adjustments during live recording than some other brands. Quite a bit of track editing can be done on the portable itself as well.

It is important to have a good soundcard & digital editing program, though, to turn the recording into a finished CD - or find someone that can do this for you, like I did at first.

There is really a wealth of ways to approach the recording issue, but what's most important is to find one that you are comfortable with. All equipment takes a little getting used to at first, just as all performance spaces do.

(By the way, thanks to all the truly knowledgable contributors to this thread - it has been a real read & learn experience!)

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Rainyann, here is my simple answer to your direct question:Get a good microphone (about $150) of the types mentioned here (I have a cardioid condenser mic which works great. It uses an AA battery and is self-powered - it's all you need.) Get an editing program where you can chop up and re-arrange your sound clip. It will show the sound wave on-screen and you can modify it there. (I use Adobe Audition - a program even the pros use with great results $249) That is all, Plug the mic into your computer start the editing program, adjust your sound levels and hit record. When you are done recording you will have a great recording that you then can add a little reverb to - to make it sound like it was recorded in Carnegie Hall. Then burn it onto CD. That's it - very simple and good.

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Reverb can be very nice, and I'm still enjoying the novelty myself but I'd avoid it in this case. For an audition recording I'd suggest that you need to use the technology to give as honest a representation of your playing as possible, not to enhance it. It will be very obvious to experienced listeners if you've done anything fancier than just plug the mic in and hit record.

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I did some research on this stuff a while back.

Minidisc may compress but a good minidisc recorder does better than the previous generation high-end consumer-grade portable recorder -- which was the Sony Pro Walkman with Dolby C. The key word here is "good" minidisc recorder. Minidisc were originally invented by Sony as a way of dumping music from your computer or another device onto a small portable playback device. Sony portable minidisc recorders do that well. They do *not* do a good job of live recording. Their microphone preamp sections just aren't up to it. If you want a portable minidisc recorder for recording live music, you want a Sharp minidisc recorder, not a Sony. It can be difficult to get Sharp recorders, though. Their U.S. distribution arm is apparently incompetent from what I can tell. Many people who want Sharps in the U.S. wind up buying Japanese models from grey-market importers. Or you can use a Sony but you'll need a pre-amp for your mic that will boost the microphone signal to line-level so that the Sony won't have to use its on-board microphone preamp.

To get better than minidisc, you'd need to step up to DAT or CD recorders. DAT is nice but bigger and more expensive. Portable CD recorders draw so much power that they're really not very practical unless you can count on being near an electrical outlet all the time. They do make battery packs for them but they weigh a lot and the recorders and battery packs aren't cheap either. All this stuff is considered professional-level gear so they make it nice, sturdy, and expensive .

I have a Sharp portable minidisc recorder. If I were going to step up, I'd probably go with DAT (seeing as neither DVD-A nor SACD are available).

Now if I could just get my hands on good, relatively unobtrusive mics for stereo recording. The real problem isn't so much the mics (there seem to be some decent suppliers out there) but easy-to-use mounting options. Most non-professional live recording these days seems to be folks surreptiously taping live rock concerts. If you want to mount mics onto eyeglasses or hats, you have lots of options .

Good places on-line to research and/or buy minidisc (+ related) gear include www.minidisc.org, www.minidisct.com, and www.minidisco.com. (I think I have more bookmarked but those are on my computer at home. These are enough to get you started.)

- Ray

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