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Recording onesself?

Jeremy Osner

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I'm kind of interested in making some recordings of my playing,

both for the sake of listening to myself to find out what needs

work, and for e-mailing to my mom. What is involved here? I

 have a pickup mounted on my bridge (I know, sacrilege -- I

play with electric musicians and cannot be heard without

amplification, and  a pickup was a lot cheaper than a

microphone) -- I was thinking if I got an analog-to-digital

converter, I could just plug in to the back of my laptop and create

mp3 files. Have any of you done this? How steep of a learning curve

is it? And how much am I looking at needing to invest for a decent

analog-to-digital converter?

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The following combination of stuff used with my lap, works

beautifully. The software is free.  Audacity works













James Boyk's "http://www.performancerecordings.com/tohear.html">To Hear

Ourselves As Others Hear Us (see his homepage: 



) has great ideas about how to listen and record yourself.

 You don't at all have to get the hardware he suggests,


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A few weeks back, Selim asked the very same question. You should be able to still find his threads by going through the past threads.

Normally when recording instruments that use pickups...

You mic their amp with well..a microphone.

One reason for this is because the amp is a large part of your sound...another reason is because recording a direct pickup feed usually sounds pretty nasty.

If you were going to take a feed directly from your pickup, the chain would look a bit like this...

di box->preamp->recording interface.

Some preamps have di boxes built-in.

The recording interface depends up to you. It could be a sound card, or it could be an external converter that goes via usb/firewire into a computer, or it could be an hd recorder (or some type of digital recorder)...or analog tape...or...etc.etc.etc.

If you were open to recording your violin acoustically with a microphone you could go that route as well...which is how most violins are recorded anyways.

microphone->preamp->recording interface.


Seabird's solution is about as inexpensive as you're going to find.

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I recently got into the recording thing. I'm finding out that the biggest issue is the room and mic

placement--I'm still very far from getting the max out of the tools I have. I bought a couple of $$$ mics,

and a fancy interface, and mostly they've made things worse, because they reveal more. As far as

software--Audacity is fine, and free.

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For sure the violinist, violin, room, and mic placement all play a CRITICAL role.

Most mics out there have a presence peak which just spells disaster (in varying degrees) when recording a violin.

One often overlooked item which also contributes a LARGE portion of the sound is the mic preamp...many focus on the mic when the mic preamp is just so important as well.

Here is an example of a violin recording made with some budget mics (mxl 603's) that were modified to sound better.

mxl 603 thread

at first listen the modified mxl mics may sound ok, but then compare them to some schoeps. (there is no comparison). attached is an mp3 recording made using some schoeps mics...sorry for the size. i wish i could give credit to the original engineer that recorded the mp3...but i have since forgotten. the mic position imho is not exactly how i would have liked either...the violin sounds a bit etched in this position. but anyways...

while the mxl 603 recording has some processing on it...the schoeps recording is done straight without any processing. i know its not exactly a fair test, but both are examples of the recorded violin that are easily accessible.

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If you are using a laptop for recording you can only record mono from the mic,since most laptops only have a mono jack.

If you want to record stereo you can get a pcmcia sound card from "creative" which has a stereo jack.Its a 24 bit instead of the 16 bit basic laptop cards.it also comes with a nice recording software.

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First off string instruments should be recorded with a condenser mic. You pretty much get what you pay for. A Shure SM-81 is a good example of a decent mic. Mic placement is very important. The closer to the instrument you get the more it will enhance the bass and reduce the shrill treble. A good starting point for placement is off to the side facing the instrument. An alternative is to actually mic from below and behind the violin facing the back. Violin recordings generally need to have some EQ applied in order to prodece a decent sound. The EQ can be appied via a hardware equalizer inline after the Mic and preamp of applied through the recording software. The advantage to the software EQ is that you can test the effects real time in a non-destructive manner. When you use a hardware EQ device the effect is irreversable. Some starting point EQ suggestions for EQing a violin are +1 or 2 db in the 500-700hz range. -6db in the 2-4 khz range. -6db in the 6-10khz range. If you want to record a really good signal you will need a preamp and a good soundcard. Presonus makes a fairly decent TUBE preamp for about $99. The Tube will have a warming effect upon the recording. Presonus makes a really great external soundcard called the Firebox. This comes with 2 built in preamps. M-audio also makes some fine external soundcards for DAR (Digital Audio Recording). I know that this seems a little involved but recording a violin can be a real challenge. This info should serve as a good starting point. Experiment!


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regarding the edirol. well, stuff like that is a one-trick pony. if you like what it does, great. if you like the portability, great. i've heard recordings with marantz's

more expensive version...it sounded usable for what it was.

however, with both items you're sinking your $$$ into something with no upgrade path. if you don't need that ultra-portability,

i'd get a more convention system that will offer you more options later down the road.

in regards to "creative labs" stuff...i wouldn't touch that stuff for any type of serious or hobbyist recording. skip directly over to more

prosumer stuff like maudio, echo, etc.etc.

shure sm81 is a decent mic yes. is it a decent mic for recording classical violin? imho no. it is a colored mic which may do well for jazz, rock, fiddler

styles which may benefit from the coloration. however if you're spending that kind of money for a recording mic you have lots of other options.

which i'd look into first...in the end if i was making a purchase i wouldn't even consider an sm81.

as for eq...NO NO NO NO NO. the rule in recording is to get the basic sound you want without even touching any eq. you get your basic sound with your mic choice and placement (and preamp, etc.)

listening to the violin sound and then pulling -6db TWICE in your upper mids/hi's means that there's something fundamentally wrong with the current recording setup...even if it was for a multi-track

pop recording where heavy handed eq is sometimes used.

listen to the examples i posted above. those are flat, no eq.

if you're close-micing a violin for a pop setting in a dense mix...well then the eq and mic choice you

use depends on your mix...no cookie-cutter general "eq" settings are going to help.

david, from looking at the settings you mentioned...if you really find yourself using that type of eq...

you might be better served buying a warm mic like a beyer m160 and then using some proximity effect till you get the sound you want.

the curves will then look a bit like what you're suggesting...without using any eq.

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I have found a really low noise but high signal recording technique using a Sony stereo microphone ECM-MS907 (AA cell), a Sony mini-disc recorder on standby as a pre-amplifier (AA cell) and then a Flash memory i-Audio solidstate wave recorder (1GB storage 44.1kHz sampling).

There are no moving parts and no mains electricity for noise on sound cards. The low voltage DC cells provide a clean microphone signal that is then boosted to line-out voltage by the mini-disc on standby with manual recorder volume levelling. The flash wave recorder allows storage to .mp3 or .wav directly to the USB memory without the need for a laptop or computer

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That's a GREAT idea! Especially since I have a half-dead MD recorder and the Audio-Technica version of the Sony mic, already,

AND a mp3 recorder that takes line in. I should have thought of that--about a year ago I had an ear problem that stuffed my

ears up for about a month to the extent that I could hear almost nothing. About half-way through I figured out I could use the

MD recorder as a hearing aid, just as you're suggesting, with a set of phones plugged into it. (That was a verrrry scary couple

of weeks, not knowing what was happening to my hearing, but antibiotics cleared it up, eventually.)

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I am glad the ears are in full working order, ears and eyes are vital in this business.

I found the MD really useful for collecting samples of noise signatures from rotating machinery etc. in the field for later analysis back in the office. The portable equipment even now is far bigger but it can be used for an on-site calibration. The ANNOYING thing about the MD is the lack of digital upload, I have the optical interfaces but they are deliberately one-way because of Sony's other music business interests. The ATRAC format compression would not be read too conveniently anyway. The quality of the headphone output when on standby is really good and taking a look at a signal generator-fed input compared to the output shows clean amplification of up to about +30dB.

It is probably just as well to find this use; you can barely give the MD's away nowadays since the kids find them too big, too complicated to use and a pain to share files (maybe that was the SONY plan).

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The Audio compression method "ATRAC (Adaptive TRansform Acoustic Coding)" ATRAC3:LP2 stereo and LP4 stereo; this all means too much messing about to get the sound suitable for using elsewhere. (IMO)

Also note that Sony "mp3" players write in "Sony-ONLY mp3" format thus requiring transfer software for every operation.

There are plenty of line-in recording mp3 players now with excellent performance and capacity for less than $100 without the Sony inconveniences.

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If portability is a factor I highly reccoment the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96. a true 24 bit stereo/mono recorder that fits into your pocket. It comes with built in phantom power and pre-amp.

Even comes with a decent little stereo condenser mic. The device records directly to compact flash cards for easy transfer to computer. It can record in wav or mp3 format. It can be had

for about $350.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The M-Audio flash recorder thingy  would be fine as would the

Marantz flash recorder.

When one begins to learn recording it is always exciting. After a

while it is hard not to seek a better recorded sound and that's

when G.A.S. happens - Gear Acquisition

Syndrome. Watch out for it!

The entire signal chain is important. Mic, cable, pre-amp, and A/D

convertors all contribute greatly to a quality recorded sound, as

does mic placement, but good gear can be quite expensive.

Player, instrument, and room are where it all begins and people

with G.A.S. always will need to come back to these


The cheapest recording gear will basically give the audio

equivalent of the cheapest violin kit - it will all depend on what

you are after.

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Con-ritmo, I'm interested in your mic recommendation, if you have one that's

not in the price range of a used car. Under $200 would be especially nice, if also impossible. :-)

I just got one of the M-audio MicroTracks. It's a fun thing, but the phantom power isn't.

It's 30V, and regulation is 48V. Some mics will run on it, but in theory mine won't. I'm

getting a separate power supply--they're not expensive, but it's just more junk to buy.

And more cords. The included mic with the MicroTrack is not nearly as good as my good

mics running on insufficient power. Essentially, though, I'm more and more getting the

point that the weak link in the system is my experience level, not the toys.

The good reviews of the new Edirol are interesting, inasmuch as it hasn't been released yet. I've

seen them, too, but it would be nice if the people who'd written them had actually had a chance

to use the thing that they're recommending. And the release date, which was supposed to be

around this week, has now been pushed back to August. Obviously something's not working

as it should.

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Any great suggestions for mic placement with an ensemble (quartet-->small orchestra)? So far, whatever we seem to do, the recording is dominated by the players nearest the mics, regardless of venue. (The most balanced recording occurred in a large church.)

We record with Oktava mics and a Fostex digital recorder (flash card). The Fostex system is pretty cheap basically ($229) though adding in mics, mic cables, and flashcards adds up.

(Digital flash recording is the way to go, imho.)


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One way to prevent the 'distance effect'  might be to raise

the microphones higher. The mics need to have a 'clear line of

vision' to all instruments. Moving the mics farther away can also

create more blend, though you need to be careful to get a balance

between direct and reverberant sound - it requires some listening


If you are doing coincident micing using x/y [90 degrees] cardioids

then you could also try ORTF technique  or other 'pointing

away from each other' type of stereo recording techniques. Visit

DPA http://www.dpamicrophones.com/ for much good info

on stereo micing.

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Originally posted by:
Michael Darnton

Con-ritmo, I'm interested in your mic recommendation, if you have one that's

not in the price range of a used car. Under $200 would be especially nice, if also impossible. :-)

for around $200 i'd shop the used market.

look for a dpa 4060 used...they go for around $200 all the time...make sure it's one which has a microdot connector on it...and not some connector for a specialized wireless unit.

you will need to purchase a special dpa microdot->xlr adapter to go with it though.

4060's go for around $375-400. that mic makes a decent recording mic, and a great live violin mic. so you'll have both ends covered.

dpa stuck the 4060 capsule into their new 4091 mics which go for about $550...

another option is any earthworks that you can find for the budget you're looking at....

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