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cRPG Vision - a guide to your recording

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F i n:
Hello dear Musicians!

Since there were many questions about how to improve recording quality and a general lack of ideas how to achieve that, here is some advice:

1). Your Mental State / A Solid Workflow

Do not overthink the whole recording. Just do it. You need to have a solid workflow though to not interrupt your artistic flow. So get your Equipment, Software and Room ready first.

Everyone needs to find his or her own "this is how i do it" - but as a first guideline, here's mine:

a) I set up my microphones and rig and see to have my room prepared - that means some chilling lights on, candles, fresh air... What really helps me sometimes is taking a cold shower just before i start working. Makes your Blood flow. Especially if your room is well heated you'll feel very comfortable - and that's the key to a good recording.

b) The first recording i do is my guidetrack. I usually just play it quick and dirty - just so that it feels right - the recording quality is not important at this point. This is my guide for all the following recordings. Even if it's only guitar + vocals - and even if you will onetake (record both singing and playing at once) the guide comes in handy as soon as you're not sure about how long a specific break was... or how LOUD that specific refrain should be played. 

c) After the guidetrack is prepared, i take a break, listen to it a few times and play through the single parts.

d) Now i start recording the single parts (First all Instruments, then Vocals) only on top of my guide track. And not just once! After a day of recording i tend to have 20 - 30 takes / Instrument. Eventhough i usually only use hole in one takes, you will really learn to love having alternatives... sometimes there's some weird backround noise going on in one take - in another one it's not. Having all the instruments and Vocals solo will enable you to mix the whole thing and set the volumes right. Usually if u just record yourself strumming a guitar and singing, your singing will be almost unhearable - a guitar is just much louder than you can ever be (except you're actually screaming).

e) Editing - you should have basic knowledge in how digital audio works. Cut your recording (according to your guidetrack), replace faulty parts with good ones and clean up the vocals (no coughing, barfing, vomiting). If you don't know what a waveform, a crossfade or panning is, you should do your homework first!

Good editing can correct pretty much any mistakes you did not notice during the recording. However that doesn't mean you should OVEREDIT - your song has to sound authentic - it has to be still your song. Not some Popstarcrap. Keep in mind, not to MIX your tracks at this point. It will only distract you.

f) Mixing. Don't be scared, if your recording sounds crap at first playback. It will sound much better, once you've mixed it. Mixing generally means setting volume levels and panning to increase the audibility of the single tracks. If you place them all centered and at the same volume, your mix will be pretty dull and ugly.

Usually your focus (especially in this kind of music) should be on Vocals - so place them centered. The instruments can be somewhere left or right. Using artificial rooms will make the instruments even more roomish, leaving more gaps for Soli or Vocals.

Example Unmixed Song, All tracks centered and at the same volume:

Comparison to the Mixed Song:

g) Mastering. not important for you guys. just put some Compressor/Limiter on the Master chanel (output) and click on export mp3.

Example of bad quality recordings, done right by good editing:

(click to show/hide)
Basically, what he does is having a very lame, handy recorded Guitar in the middle and some high quality vocals doubled (sung more than once) split over the whole stereo image. That creates that "oldish" touch, yet sounds very warm and natural.

What you could note down for you own recording is: Doubling always makes things sound bigger, better, more PRO :).

So record your guitar twice. Put one of the tracks to the left, and one to the right - and you'll see what i mean.

You can basically even test this with just one chord.

2) General Rules, technical info, Audio

- General Rules:

I)     Be proud of what you do during the recording. an unsure voice or guitar sounds like crap.
II)    Know your equipment.
III)   Get a proper editing software (links below)
IV)   Always record alternatives - even if you just had the perfect take!
V)    Have Frequent Breaks with absolute Silence. Go outside, watch some birds, what ever - u need fresh air and a clear mind or you'll go nuts.
VI)   Do not fuck your Voice! (click to show/hide)As soon as you feel any pain within your vocal chords you're doing something wrong. Take a break! And take it immediately - otherwise you might damage your vocal chords! That goes especially for loud, or screaming voices. The typical "metal scream" - for example in my crpgvision song - is not sung with the usual "vocal chords" but with the false chords - it does not hurt at all, when you're doing it right - and it really SHOULD NOT HURT. The best thing you can do to avoid any kind of weird sounding vocals is, to basically use your speaking voice as a basis. Don't fake any "feelings" (Christina Aguilerlealrasdlalfaseg etc...) you want to sound like YOU - not like NOT YOU. VII)  Have your Instruments tuned and have a spare set of Strings... Can be a real killer if one of your Strings explodes at 2 am...
VIII) Shit in, Shit out - that's the most basic rule. If your mum is vacuum cleaning in the backround you won't be able to have a good rec. so find yourself a nice and private / quiet room, where you can be loud.
IX)   Be strong. Recording is a very exhausting process. Especially for your ears and brain. Don't forget to drink and eat... i sometimes "wake up" after 8 hours recording noticing i've not eaten anything...
XI)   Try to do the Vocals on one day. Your voice sounds different from day to day - depending on what you're eating, drinking, smoking...
XII)  During the recording: MOBILE'S OFF.

Technical Info / Advice:

Having a proper Audio Software is key. There's some free software out there, as well as low budget pro versions.

Set up your Project - adjust the recording quality and input ports! There are some settings u might cross during that process, so I'll explain them in a few words:

Khz - Kilohertz - that is your Samplefrequency. It tells you how many Samples are pulled out of the analog signal. Since low frequence sounds (Bass) have a longer periodic time and high frequences a short one, the higher your samplerate is, the "clearer" your audio gets.

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As an example:

Telephone sounds quite muffled - it's usually set around 8 khz.

A CD is sampling at 44,1 khz (with 16 bit depth) - and sounds much clearer.

So first, check if your recording device is set to 44,1 khz (which is a good number to go) - and then if your project records the same format.

Bit depth: That basically describes the quality of each probe - 16 Bit are absolutely fine for a good song recording.

Once you've done that you can set the routing. That means, telling the software which ports to use for recording, and which ones for playback.

If you're recording with your mobile, you can set the quality in most apps as well.

Recording with a Microphone and Interface (Soundcard - internal or external)

Once everything is set up you can start recording. If you're recording with a microphone, you have to place it correctly:

Vocals: Don't swallow your mic during the record. Having a good distance makes you sound much more like you do IRL. I recommend around 10-20 cm distance to the head. If you're not using any POPFilter, try to turn your head just a bit off, so you're not facing the mic straight.

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Guitar: For a deep, bassy sound go as close to the big, round hole in the middle of it as possible, give the mic a little angle, so that it basically points at the place where the neck begins. 

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But with the instruments you should try other angles and distances. For example, mixing a soundhole only track with a second recording of the same guitar - but with a different mic placement (for example 2 m away) enables you to change the timbre afterwards and adds much room and authenticity. Let me give you some examples:

Guitar - Soundhole only:

Guitar . Soundhole + Room Mic:

You see, adding a Room Mic makes it much "wider" - and that enables you to add more instruments:

In comparison the Same 2 tracks but without the room mics (Still ok, cus of a 800 € Mic and 20k equipment :D - but it gets much more messy):


If you're recording Percussion or drums, and you only have 1 mic - place it at a medium distance to the instrument ( 2-5 m ) - Basically all Instruments (especially percussion) was made to sound best at this distance. Those are live-instruments and they need the room to unfold their full potential.

Every pro recording of Percussion or Drums has at least 1 Room mic. Most of the time it's a Stereo setup of 2 same mics set in the room and additional mics close to the drumheads or body of your instrument.

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If you only have 1 mic - always choose the room variant. It might not sound as huge and as big as a close up mic, but it will be much more authentic. Also, you are free to record the same instrument again afterwards, placing the mic closer to kind of balance back to a more massive sound.


A piano is a bit more tricky since because of it's buildup the whole range spreads over the physical body of the piano. That means, if you put a mic to the left side of your upright piano it will be basically just the bass notes. Right side is only the higher notes.

The safest bet with one mic again, is to set it up at some distance.

Electric Instruments:

As soon as you have an instrument connectable with 7,5 instrument cables, you're basically good to go - as long as you have some kind of adapter or cable to turn it into a stereo mini jack (the ones your MiniDiskplayer headphones had back in the days) - if you have NO MIXER.

If you have a mixer, you should be good to go plugging it into the line in chanel and use the REC out cinch connector to link with your pc.


Recording Equipment / Different Budgets:

As one of the rules above already stated: Shit in, Shit out. So you really need some at least reasonable recording device!
When it comes to recording however, price means quality.

If you're really into making music and want to actually start recording in a good quality, you should not spend less than 200 €. The good thing is though, that with good equipment, you can record any time, for the next 10 years.

In my experience the cheap alternatives kind of either suck at audioquality or at durability. So either you have a good sounding mic for 6 months, or you'll have a very robust 10 year old but shit sounding mic at your hands. But if you're halfway able to work with a soldering station and you know how to use a screwdriver, you might be able to fix most of the problems occuring over the time - even with low budget stuff - that means, rather pick a plastic-case mic with a good capsule, than a fancy metal mic with shit interiour! Same goes for any type of mixer, etc...

In the low budget section bad workmanship on the outside means good stuff inside (if the prize makes sense that is....)

All the following Options are just examples - you don't have to buy the exact same thing. Depending on where you live, you might be better off buying something local!

Option a) 0 €, the "I don't give a dayum" Concept:

For those of you, who don't have any cash - and don't need your recording to sound any good:

Use your mobile. There's plenty of apps downloadable. I Reccomend the "Voice Recorder" app - it let's you set the quality and recording format.
That does not change the workflow though - except you just want to have a quick and dirty recording and don't give a fuck. :)

You'll still need an digital audio workstation (DAW) - such as Audacity (
That software is quite okay for low budget recording / mixing and mastering.

Just copy the files from your mobile into your DAW and start mixing / editing.

Option b) 50 €, the i want a bit more, but i'm far from being pro concept:

Get some condenser USB mic! Those are absolutely okay for recording in a medium quality. And are better than any headset you could buy. So you could also use them for your skypecalls, teamspeak etc...

Prizes range from 40 € - infinite - but they're all basically the same. So picking a cheap one is not at all a bad choice.

Don't expect you to sound like some pro studio though!

Software would still be Audacity.

Option c) 100 - 150 €, the "i am kind of serious about this and might record more songs than just this one" concept: 

Get a USB interface!

With an interface, you're able to record more than just one track. You can plug in your electric instruments directly as well as your mic.
That's a very basic setup for good quality home recording - not the best, but it does it's job.

You might add 1 or 2 cheap dynamic mics, or one condenser.

The soundquality of a dynamic mic will be worse than with a condenser mic, but dynamic mics are cheaper and can also be used live. 


+  OR  2x

Note, that you need cables and stands! I recommend getting a good interface rather than a good mic - you can always buy mics later and upgrade!

Audacity is your Software to go.

I would advice you to not chose this option if you're planning on doing recordings on a long term though. Cheap interfaces tend to explode after a certain time... 

200-500 €, the "It's getting serious" concept:

USB Interface! This one i am using myself for my private PC: It's a very basic interface - without fancy FX or lightshows... but you have everything you need - I've got mine for almost 5 years now, and it still works as on day one.

It's plug and play basically. So just connect it to your PC via USB and you're good to go.

Condenser Mic (Stereo Set)

1) - it's cheaper. And i know samson makes reasonable prizes for reasonable quality.     (109 €)
2) - the next bigger option. That mic is excellent. It's my backup pair in case my main mics (3)) are not enough.    (168€) 
3) - basically every song you hear me recording has them in it.  (298€)

But most importantly - your DAW!

using a proper software enables you to do all sorts of crazy things... i'm using Cubase 7.5 + lots of inbuilt FX. That kind of software is really expensive though... i think mine (including all virtual instruments, fx and samplelibraries) is close to 25 k.

But for a basic recording you don't need all that. There's lite versions of cubase available for around 100 € with which you can basically do all the things, the big one can. Just not as much simultaniously.

For example, you're not able to record 64 tracks at once. But since you don't have a 64 track digital mixer and are not recording an orchestra, you won't need in anyways.

So grab a copy of Cubase 7 Elements.

If you still have some more money in your pocket, you might as well go for Cubase 8. If you're a student, you have access to the EDU versions, which are less expensive.

(click to show/hide)Or you just raise the skull and crossbones flag and ask google for some advice.
However i recommend BUYING it. Steinberg's got a great support and many tutorial videos available for their customers.

There's also complete packages, featuring a steinberg interface, mic and cubase for around 250€. It's called Steinberg UR22 Production Studio. However, you need to be fast. Those things don't get produced anymore - and since there's cubase 7.5 and 8, they are outdated and sold quite fast - but that's a good bundle to start with. 

If you have any further questions, or need some help mixing / recording - just post here and i'll reply.

(click to show/hide)For the Audio nerds: Yes i know some of the facts are explained a bit sloppy, but i want everyone to understand it - not just the pros.
Note, that all of those Ideas and tipps are based on my experience i've gained over the last 8 years of my life as an audioengineer / musician - so you might find some things, that are not conform to what you have read in any books about recording.

Everyone's got his own way of doing things - recording has become a very artistic field.

And that's why i will close my lil tutorial with the following words:

What ever equipment you're using, and no matter what you're doing wrong : If it sounds good to you, it IS good.   

and now i'll have to continue recording after spending my whole lunch break writing instead of eating :D


Damn it fin, we need more of you

Absolutely terrified about what it will be used for, but great guide

this thread should be sticky

Time to sell my kidney.


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