Once upon a time in the not too distant past it was only possible for musicians to hear their own creations within the confines of a commercial recording studio. Before creating the final versions of songs intended for commercial release bands would often record rough takes of new songs while they were still being worked on, either captured during live performances, in dedicated demo studios or recording studios themselves. This was quite prohibitive in terms of cost and opportunity, however thankfully developments in portable digital audio technology now mean that artists can easily record themselves wherever and whenever they like, be it at rehearsal or during a show. This is important as these recordings can then be used to help crystalise material, arrangements and ultimately help you to become a much more focused act. In this week's Sound Advice we look at how to conveniently create decent sounding recordings on the cheap.
With your smartphone comes a plethora of recording apps, many of which are free, as well as a bunch of specifically designed external mics that deliver professional quality field recordings.
For iOS, Rode Rec couples broadcast quality audio with user-friendly real-time waverform and non-linear cut/copy/paste editing controls. Similarly, Multi Track Song Recorder offers four-track recording and exceptional flexibility when it comes to looping and duplicating audio tracks.
Multi Track Song Recorder | Shure MV88
Worthwhile multi-track recording apps for Android include the Hi-Q MP3 Voice Recorder – renowned for its high-fidelity 44kHz audio sampling and input gain settings, which is useful for recording loud sound – and StudioMini, which is distinguished by low latency input monitoring and its use of WAV audio files for multi-platform flexibility.
These apps can be paired with an external mic to really push the quality of sound to another level. If you’re willing to invest in an effective long-term option the Shure MV88 for iOS is a digital stereo condenser microphone housed in a robust metal chassis that can take a beating. With EQ, compressor and limiter functions, it’s designed for loud sonic environments.
Blue Microphones Mikey
For a cheaper option that can still stand up to the rigours of rehearsal run-throughs the Blue Microphones Mikey can absorb up to 130dB of loudness, and boasts three different gain modes for good measure.
Field recorders are designed to capture sound in testing and often, unconventional environments, which makes them perfect for recording multiple instruments at the same time.
When tossing up options it’s hard to go past the Zoom H4N. An updated and improved version of Zoom’s ever-popular H4, the H4N offers 24-bit/96kHz recording through a coincident stereo pair of mics, both of which can be rotated to accommodate your rehearsal room and band setup. With features like an LCD screen and built-in preamp, it’s definitely one of the pricier options, but well worth the hit to the hip pocket for great demo recordings.
Yamaha Pocketrak PR7
For more budget-friendly, pocket-sized options, the Zoom D1 and Yamaha Pocketrak PR7 both deliver 24-bit/96kHz quality recordings. The latter equipped with five preset modes that can get the most out of rehearsal and songwriting sessions, as well as an on-board tuner and metronome.
ALL-IN-ONE MULTI-TRACK RECORDERS
Stand-alone multi-track recorders combine everything you need for recording, mixing and producing, all in the one package. In doing so they go beyond the simple function of recording your band rehearsal that are in many cases limited to the simultaneous recording only two instruments. Their greater editing and multi-track versatility make them a great option for songwriting sessions and smaller bands.
The Tascam DO-006 can record up to six tracks, and with two built-in condenser microphones it can also record without the need for extra equipment or the complications of a time-sucking setup.
In a similar fashion the Zoom R8 offers the simultaneous recording of two tracks and built-in condenser mics, but with the ability to mix and playback eight tracks, while other useful features include a rhythm sequencer with 472 preset rhythm patterns, and versatile range of effects to choose from.