Recording - Goals

Why record live, rather than going into a commercial studio?

In my opinion, there are two kinds of recorded music... Music that is played by real people on real instruments in real time, and "everything else". Don't get me wrong. I'm still developing, and I like "gadgets" too, so I've certainly done my share of overdubbed, multilayered, "one-man-show" sequences, etc.. Doing those kind of projects can be fun, experimental, educational, and entertaining. They also enable you to give your fellow musicians a recording of a previously-unheard tune, before a rehearsal. But it's not the same as live music. Live recordings are the "proof" of what we did while we were alive, and validate (or invalidate) what we think we are. Today, because of the many slick digital editing methods we all have access to, I'm never convinced about a musician's work until I hear it live. For me it doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be real.

So... These articles are aimed at those who prefer live, essentially-unedited recordings, and for those who want to do it a LOT. (meaning that you'd want to avoid the high costs of a commercial recording studio) I prefer this kind of live recording over super-produced, highly-edited, multilayered recordings, for the simple fact that they're more honest..even if they have the occasional error. At least you know then that what you hear is what you'll get, when you go that band's performance. So, in the following discussions, I'll rarely even mention commercial studios, except to make an example. So if that appeals to you, read on...

Why do it yourself, rather than going to a commercial studio?

One reason to do it yourself is that you have complete control. No commercial constraints, no "knob turners" telling you how to get the sound they want, and no personality issues that come from other kinds of interference. These things are important to me, and I'll give you a few specific examples of why, later. When you're finished, you have recordings that are honest and real, whether they're technically perfect or not. I'm not trying to fool anyone, so that means a lot to me.

Another benefit of recording your music live and often has nothing to do with marketing. It's simply the fact that when you listen to it, you'll find things to do better. That alone is worth the effort, even if you never sell a single recording.

In late 2006, I decided to start recording live a lot more, and to start planning a new personal recording project, some of which would be related to the "Drumming For Life™" DVD I'm working on. My first instinct was to look at digital video recorders, but for what I wanted, they were too expensive. Next, I thought about something like the "Edirol" portable 2-track digital recorders. But, if I was willing to wait, and save a little more money, I could have 24 tracks for the price of two of the 2-track units. (!) So, after looking at what was available, I finally settled on what I thought gave me the most bang for my buck, which is the Tascam 2488 mkII. It's a very nice unit, in the $1000 range, with a lot of helpful features. It has onboard phantom power, good mixing capability, onboard effects, MIDI, an onboard CD burner, and will export files via USB to the computer. I grew up using a variety of Teac and Tascam devices, and always had good results with them, so I trust the brand name and support.

My first additional purchase was an AKG (phantom-powered) "Perception 100" microphone, which has turned out to be a great choice. Most of the recordings on my Latest Recordings page were made with this simple setup. Check the specs of what you're buying... The only difference between the "Perception 100" and "Perception 200" is a switch on the microphone to allow it to be used in situations where the input is over 140 DB. If your band is consistently playing at or above 140 DB, you're probably too loud, so the "Perception 100" is a great choice, and costs half of what the "Perception 200" costs. (!)

If you're over the age of say, 40, then you will appreciate that we used to pay $1000 for a 4-track, analog tape recorder, and today, you can have 24-track digital for the same price, with all the features I mentioned above. Electronics are probably the ONLY thing that cost proportionally-less than "the old days". Take advantage of it, and have some fun recording!

- Mike James

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