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Starting out

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Starting out

Postby MattWeth » Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:02 pm

Hi all,
First post.
I'm about to set up a little (very little) home studio to have a bash at creating / recording music. I'm intending to use mainly soft synths / drums and my electric guitar at the moment.

I have a late 2013 MacBook Pro (SDD / 16Gb RAM) and unless anyone screams 'no!', I'm intending to buy a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface and a Novation Impulse 25 midi keyboard/ controller. I intend to take a line out of my guitar amp / pedal board obviously with some further processing in the DAW. I've not settled on a mic(s) suitable for acoustic guitar / vocals as yet.

I've also not settled on a DAW but the interface and keyboard both come with lite/trial versions of a couple which I can experiment with.

As will be plain, this is very much a 'budget' setup to start with but hopefully something I can build on.

I'm not completely new to sound and recording - I used to record and operate at a theatre back in the day (fully analogue - tape and a manual desk, although we had progressed to minidisc just before I left ;) ).

Any pointers or suggestions (and indeed screams of 'no!') gratefully received!

Cheers
Matt
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Re: Starting out

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:45 pm

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

I've approved your first post, so now hopefully you'll get lots of helpful answers ;)


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Re: Starting out

Postby The Elf » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:15 pm

Welcome Matt! :thumbup:

Looks a reasonable starting rig.

I'd perhaps question whether a 25-key keyboard is perhaps a budget-cut too far? I realise that not everyone aspires to keyboard wizardry, but given that the Impulse is semi-weighted and blessed with aftertouch, to then package that in 25 keys seems odd to say the least! :?

Maybe you could go for something even cheaper with 3/4-octaves, unweighted, no aftertouch and/or minikeys? Take a look at the M-Audio options, for example.

Stick around and let us know how you get on!
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Re: Starting out

Postby Folderol » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:29 pm

You've come to the right place :)
Lots of very helpful folks around here who know what they are talking about.

I also think you'll quickly find a 25 note keyboard pretty limiting. I have one myself that lives in my laptop bag, but only ever use it for demoing some software in constrained locations.
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Re: Starting out

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Jul 19, 2019 3:21 pm

Hi Matt, and welcome. It all sounds like a good place to start. That Mac is the same spec as my old one, and it should do nicely.

I assume you mean a new Focusrite interface? I just ask because I saw some caveats on the drivers for some older Gen 1 ones about issues with the latest Mac OSs...

In addition to all this, you need to think how you'll listen to it. Or rather, what you'll use to listen. Ie. some monitor speakers or at least semi-decent headphones. If you need that stuff (you may already have it...) let us know your budget and we'll see if we can steer you in the right direction.

Oh... and I quite like dinky little keyboards. They don't get in the way if your main focus is guitar. Yes, you might want to invest in a bigger one further down the line, but it's enough to get by and not take over the room!
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Re: Starting out

Postby MattWeth » Fri Jul 19, 2019 5:02 pm

Thanks for the replies - really helpful :)
Yes - I should have mentioned monitoring.
I'm intending to use headphones at least in the short term - I've got what I think are reasonable ones (Sony MDR 7506). My 'studio space' (i.e. 3rd boxroom bedroom ;) ) isn't the ideal space but I should be able to come up with a reasonable location for a pair of reasonable monitor speakers in the future. For certain tasks I've also got the ability to temporarily use the second bedroom which has soft furnishings and full width built in wardrobes which can be drawn back creating a quite 'dead' space - possible useful for vocals and other acoustic recording - I'll experiment!

Regarding the Focusrite Scarlet - good point - it's the latest gen2 which I believe is ok with the latest MacOS but I'll do some research.

Take the point entirely about the limitations of the 25key keyboard (something I've been chewing over myself). I might start with the 25key and if it all works out move up to something bigger - I'm attracted to the Novation Impulse because by all accounts it's one of the better budget keyboards and has quite a lot of extra ability to control the DAW (and I believe a pretty nifty arpeggiator). However it's quite 'chunky' and I'm a bit concerned about desk space (especially if I want to include a small mixer at some point) - the perils of using what sadly has to be a multifunctional space :)

Thanks again for the replies and advice - much appreciated!
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Re: Starting out

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Jul 19, 2019 5:20 pm

I'm a guitar player with very limited keyboard skills but personally I hate mini keys and have just sold my 2 octave (full sized keys) keyboard and bought a three octave synth with full sized keys (Akai Miniak) so would endorse getting a bigger keyboard (3 octaves is enough for my needs in this case as I have a couple of other keyboards with 61 and 88 keys otherwise I'd advise 4 octaves minimum).
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Re: Starting out

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:54 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:I'm a guitar player with very limited keyboard skills but personally I hate mini keys and have just sold my 2 octave (full sized keys) keyboard and bought a three octave synth with full sized keys (Akai Miniak) so would endorse getting a bigger keyboard (3 octaves is enough for my needs in this case as I have a couple of other keyboards with 61 and 88 keys otherwise I'd advise 4 octaves minimum).

I agree - 4 octaves I suspect is the minimum for most keyboard players, but if you play two-handed then five octaves will allow far more musical flexibility since there's then enough span to play a bass line simultaneously with chords or melody. I've always found 4 octaves too limiting , but have several 5-octave (6-note) keyboards for most playing, as well as a smaller 25-key one played just above my PC keyboard for putting in simple bass lines, a melody, even playing in drum parts.

So depending on space, perhaps you could start with a 25-key version and then expand to a larger one. However, buying 4 or 5 octaves n the first place will work out a lot cheaper overall.


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Re: Starting out

Postby The Elf » Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:14 pm

Frustrating keyboard spans are a subject I've been tripping over in recent times.

Roland's System-8 remains a major frustration for me. A fully-fledged, seriously powerful polysynth, that Roland themselves referred to as their 'flagship'... with a four-octave keyboard (without aftertouch). Ridiculous, but then Roland seem to have completely lost the plot, so not unsurprising, I guess. I was hoping for a System-16, but nothing so far.

Then we've more recently had the Behringer VC340 - a fabulously faithful recreation of Roland's revered VP-330, down to the finest detail... with an octave of keyboard sawn off one end and replaced with an 'octave up/down' switch. Facepalm. This on a machine that permits keysplits - leaving one octave of split. I would love to have been at the design meeting that came up with that piece of tomfoolery. If it weren't for the fact that it's otherwise a fantastic machine it wouldn't matter, but that last penny-worth of tar was kept in the barrel and my heart aches every time I play the thing.

Serious polysynths deserve 5-octave keyboards.

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Re: Starting out

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:42 pm

The Elf wrote:Serious polysynths deserve 5-octave keyboards.

I totally agree, and I'm just a guitar player...... A Minimoog and a C3/Leslie rig is my dream (but time, space, money and common sense leads me to suppress the urges). 3 octaves of monophonic magic is just about enough though the 44 notes of the Minimoog is better, play (attempt to play in my case) with two hands and 61 notes or more every time.

And have I mentioned mini keys?
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Re: Starting out

Postby Arpangel » Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:25 am

Not a lot to say as you've made some good choices, but I'd also highlight the short keyboard, I'm a keyboard player, no guitar, I have a four octave that I find limiting, I'd say a five octave is minimum if it's your main instrument. As for microphones, the choice is huge, but a pair of the entry level small diaphragm condensers by Rode should fit the bill, also, you don't really need to spend money on a large diaphragm condenser for vocals, it's a bit of a myth, maybe later on, but it's not a necessity now.
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Re: Starting out

Postby MattWeth » Sat Jul 20, 2019 8:08 am

Thanks for the input everyone.
I'll definitely try and work out if I can accommodate larger keyboard!
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Re: Starting out

Postby Logarhythm » Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:45 am

Just to be controversial - if space is very tight then I'd agree with your original plan to start with a 25 key and see if you feel the need for more :mrgreen:
For a while I used a scaled-down setup driven from a Novation Remote SL25 and yes it's certainly limiting if you're used to something larger, but to bash out a bassline or lay down a melody or a few chords it's fine.
Now I have more space I'm still using the Novation in basically the same way as Martin - it sits on my desk in easy reach for basic twiddling duties.
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Re: Starting out

Postby Arpangel » Sat Jul 20, 2019 1:26 pm

Logarhythm wrote:Just to be controversial - if space is very tight then I'd agree with your original plan to start with a 25 key and see if you feel the need for more :mrgreen:
For a while I used a scaled-down setup driven from a Novation Remote SL25 and yes it's certainly limiting if you're used to something larger, but to bash out a bassline or lay down a melody or a few chords it's fine.
Now I have more space I'm still using the Novation in basically the same way as Martin - it sits on my desk in easy reach for basic twiddling duties.

Maybe you you should have told the OP to be controversial :) it's true, big keyboards tempt you to play in conventional ways, lots of notes etc, so a short one may be a good thing in a way. I'm a keyboard/pianist, and I'm not actually using any keyboards right now, and I'm still making music, be interesting to take the same approach if you're a guitarist, but I don't know how? Things like this give you an edge.
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Re: Starting out

Postby awjoe » Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:06 pm

My situation and conclusions are really similar to Mr Spoons, apparently. I'm not a keyboardist, but I've acquired three keyboards mostly for overdubs on my stuff - an 88-key Roland, a 49-key MIDI keyboard, and a Novation Mininova. After using all three, the promise I've made myself about anything I get in future is 'nothing less than 49 full-size keys with good action'. And if for some reason I started spending more time playing keys, that number would change from 49 to 60. In the past, I've found changing from playing an alto or tenor recorder to a descant (do you say 'soprano'?) comfortable - the fingers are happy with the shift. But changing from full-size keys to mini keys is a harder adjustment.
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Re: Starting out

Postby Martin Walker » Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:33 pm

awjoe wrote:My situation and conclusions are really similar to Mr Spoons, apparently. I'm not a keyboardist, but I've acquired three keyboards mostly for overdubs on my stuff - an 88-key Roland, a 49-key MIDI keyboard, and a Novation Mininova. After using all three, the promise I've made myself about anything I get in future is 'nothing less than 49 full-size keys with good action'. And if for some reason I started spending more time playing keys, that number would change from 49 to 60. In the past, I've found changing from playing an alto or tenor recorder to a descant (do you say 'soprano'?) comfortable - the fingers are happy with the shift. But changing from full-size keys to mini keys is a harder adjustment.

Hi awjoe!

I'm totally in agreement, but your last comment about mini-keys can also be hugely dependent on your hand (and finger) size. Some musicians can manage with mini-keys (my Korg MS-20 Mini for instance has a reasonably sensible 86% scale keyboard that is just about usable, but any smaller than that and people with 'fat fingers' can end up playing two or three notes simultaneously by mistake ;) )


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Re: Starting out

Postby Funkyflash5 » Sat Jul 20, 2019 9:54 pm

Not that I do a lot of keyboard stuff, but I have extra large hands and find that doing any more than getting a reference note from a keyboard with mini keys is a total fiasco. I'm happy to use a 25 (full sized) key controller for doing note entry for horn or string arranging or jotting ideas, and if I need more I have the old 88 key digital piano I learned on on the other side of the room where it can be connected by a 25ft midi cable or stereo di.
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Re: Starting out

Postby MOF » Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:19 pm

I'm about to set up a little (very little) home studio to have a bash at creating / recording music. I'm intending to use mainly soft synths / drums and my electric guitar at the moment.

I have a late 2013 MacBook Pro (SDD / 16Gb RAM)
Have a go with Garage Band, I use it on my iPhone when out and about and then import it into Logic, its bigger brother, which has lots of very good plugins of all types (instruments and effects) to do more work on tracks.
I can also recommend Native Instruments Komplete software which has lots of good plugins but no sequence/arrange facilities.
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Re: Starting out

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:19 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
awjoe wrote:My situation and conclusions are really similar to Mr Spoons, apparently. I'm not a keyboardist, but I've acquired three keyboards mostly for overdubs on my stuff - an 88-key Roland, a 49-key MIDI keyboard, and a Novation Mininova. After using all three, the promise I've made myself about anything I get in future is 'nothing less than 49 full-size keys with good action'. And if for some reason I started spending more time playing keys, that number would change from 49 to 60. In the past, I've found changing from playing an alto or tenor recorder to a descant (do you say 'soprano'?) comfortable - the fingers are happy with the shift. But changing from full-size keys to mini keys is a harder adjustment.

Hi awjoe!

I'm totally in agreement, but your last comment about mini-keys can also be hugely dependent on your hand (and finger) size. Some musicians can manage with mini-keys (my Korg MS-20 Mini for instance has a reasonably sensible 86% scale keyboard that is just about usable, but any smaller than that and people with 'fat fingers' can end up playing two or three notes simultaneously by mistake ;) )


Martin

I think I probably have average sized hands but, with my very limited, keyboard skills anything that departs from the norm, i.e. not standard piano sized keys does not sit well. Happy swapping from weighted Roland A90 to the synth action Juno-D or Miniak (both of which feel pretty nice compared to some) but mini keys simply don't do it for me. Maybe if I was a better keyboard player I would be able to adapt, I can happily go from Mandolin to 41" scale upright bass via 24", 24 ¾", 25 ½", 26 ½" and 34" basses and guitars.
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Re: Starting out

Postby MattWeth » Sun Jul 21, 2019 8:14 am

Thanks again for all the input - much appreciated.

One thing in the Novation Impulse keyboard's favour is that all versions do have full sized keys.
I'm currently torn between the 25 and 49 key versions (I just don't think I've got the space for the 61 key model).
I'm no keyboard player (although I do have fantasies about becoming a better one!) and I guess a 49 would at least give me the opportunity to actually 'play' rather than just pick out melodies and fire midi at a sequencer...
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