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Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

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Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby john@franklinroadstudio » Mon Dec 16, 2019 12:27 pm

Over the last eight months I've developed a way of being able to store countless individual tracks within one project on my handy little Zoom R8. Not, I might add, virtual ones either. Real ones. If anyone's interested to hear about it I'll post details. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing this would also work on other brands apart from Zoom.
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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:07 pm

Hi John, and welcome to the SOS Forums! 8-)

Yes, I know lots of people here have portable digital recorders (I still occasionally use my Zoom H4n), so I'm sure there will be interest in your methods.

Fire away!


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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby john@franklinroadstudio » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:01 pm

Hi Martin

Thanks for replying.

I'm typing it up as a Word document so I can copy and paste it straight in when it's presentable.

Won't be too long.
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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby john@franklinroadstudio » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:54 pm

This involves using a PC with audio in and out.

Before we get to the Zoom I recommend downloading Audacity (or similar, you can’t beat free!) and familiarise yourself with the basic functions of recording and exporting tracks as .wav files.

Create a new folder on your computer named as the song/piece. Within that folder create others labelled Instrumental Tracks, Demos and Masters.

Now to the Zoom. First and most importantly, set the metronome on the Zoom to the desired bpm of the song. Allow four bars of silence after hitting record before starting to play. Record all tracks dry. Transfer to the DAW of choice in real time including the metronome over the four bars of silence muting the metronome just before the music starts, adding effects of choice either from the Zoom or wherever in the signal path en route to the computer. Export the audio as WAV to the Instrumental Tracks folder. Cut any silence before the first metronome click, so that the metronome plays immediately when you hit the Play button. Save the Project as the name of the song in the folder of the song and close.

Repeat this with track 2 up to the point of having exported to the Instrumental Tracks folder. You can then close Audacity without saving. Open the saved Audacity song project and drag and drop the audio for the second track into it, again cutting any silence before the metronome. The two tracks are now perfectly lined up. In Audacity I can do this to a ten thousandth of a second. But that’s just me.
You can then repeat this until all eight tracks on the R8 are full of dry takes and you have a folder of eight audio files with added effects in your PC and all the tracks in Audacity are perfectly lined up.
Then select tracks for a “guide” mix, which might be just drums, guitar/keys and vocals, muting surplus ones but including the metronome part from at least one track. Export an audio file of this mix into your Instrumental Tracks folder and save it as “Layer 2 root”.
Suppose your song is 3 minutes 27 seconds and you’re absolutely certain it’s not going to end up much past this point, set the time code on the R8 to 4 minutes, turn off the metronome and record the “guide mix” including metronome onto track one of what we will now call Layer 2. If there is any doubt about the duration of the track, give it more space before starting the next layer.
Be meticulous in starting every new track at the correct time for that layer or else you risk recording over your original tracks
You now have seven more tracks available and your metronome is a part of the guide mix so be sure to mute the “guide” track after the metronome when recording future tracks into Audacity.
I’ve only so far needed to go to Layer 3 but there could be many, many more.
Your dry tracks can be used as many times as needed to get the right sound.
All mixing is done in Audacity. When you're happy with a mix, export a wav to the Demos folder. Then drag and drop it into a new Audacity project and apply final mastering using Audacity's built in EQ, limiter and normalise. Export the audio to the Masters folder and close without saving.

Hope someone finds this method useful.
I hope it makes sense.
I've tried to keep it simple but accurate. Feel free to ask questions.
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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:09 pm

The old analogue multitrack idea of bouncing-down a guide mix to a second tape and overdubbing additional tracks ... but transferred to the digital domain. Simple but effective. Nice one.
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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:27 pm

Why not just record straight into the DAW though?
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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby john@franklinroadstudio » Tue Dec 17, 2019 9:58 pm

Hi Sam

Fair comment, I suppose.

I bought the Zoom R8 three years ago. Its versatility quite grabbed me; home, sessions in the garden and local park, on-board effects, three power options - battery, USB, mains. Did some work on it which was okay-ish but somehow never managed to get the USB into the computer set up as a proper DAW. (I suspect it's an age thing.)
But I did like it a lot, so much in fact, that I talked my line manager into buying one for me to use at work.
This is a hospital setting with no internet ( I look after the music room) and had been using a Zoom HD16 for about six years. Even allowing for deletion of projects after patients were discharged it was nearly full ( the hard disc held 70GB). Needing a replacement, the idea of just buying a succession of 32GB memory cards seemed perfect. Since then I've done hundreds, if not a thousand or more, recordings... BUT... always limited by the eight tracks, losing takes after bouncing, all that stuff....I couldn't use Audacity because of a ground loop from the substation next door (the interference was horrible).
However, earlier this year, I did further checks, got to thinking and came to the conclusion that the noise was coming off the desk, which I bypassed and suddenly my signal into Audacity was clean.
The idea I've outline in the main post slowly emerged whilst working with a really talented and creative person.
I'm no computer whizz and, so far, getting ( Ithink) great results.
You could take it to the extreme and have 128 tracks...
But as George Harrison said, "You wouldn't have wanted to hear Sgt. Pepper recorded on 128 track.
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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby john@franklinroadstudio » Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:01 pm

Sam, by the way...love Django!!
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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:57 pm

Hi again John,

Thanks for your detailed explanation - I'm sure plenty of people will benefit from the different way of working.


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Re: Expanding the capacity of smaller digital recorders.

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Dec 18, 2019 10:53 am

:thumbup:

I definitely get the concept of recording on hardware rather than on a computer, I reverted to hardware for 12 years before getting a Mac and Reaper (though I did have 24 tracks at the end of that period) and loved the relative simplicity of it all. But, I may be misreading but you still need a computer/DAW for housekeeping? Still might work for me mind you, I like to keep the playing/tracking part separate from the Computer/DAW part of the process.

Gypsy Jazz is great, yeah, love it. Django was the Jimi if his day. :D
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