Help me make adequate music!

January 15, 2012 5:53 AM

I have a tenor ukulele. I have a Mac Air. I want to record myself playing ukulele on my mac.

I'd like to be able to record me singing and playing at the same time, but also me doing those things separately, so that I can back myself up? etc.... but I don't know anything about recording... what sort of starter things should I get? Is Garage Band the software I should deal with?

Bonus: I live in Seoul right now, so any Seoul-centric shopping tips would be grand (elsewise I have to have things shipped to a military friend which is slow)
posted by nile_red (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

1. Garageband will get you there
2. You can record using the Mac's built in mic but it is not great. So an external mic is a good idea. You can either get a mic and an audio interface which will turn the mic signal into USB which your computer can understand, or you can get a combined mic/usb thingy. Either way, to record vocals and uke, you probably want a condenser mic. This one is good and cheap and will work.
3. Other things you'll need -- headphones, mic stand, pop filter, possibly a cable. That's it!
posted by unSane at 5:07 PM on January 15, 2012

You know, the singer I'm working with is in the final stages of putting together an album, and on a couple of the tracks she plays uke, I'll check what mic she uses, the sound's great. She uses a set up like unSane recommends.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:57 AM on January 16, 2012

If you want to multitrack on a laptop, the MOST essential thing you will need - a pair of headphones. Otherwise you will get feedback trying to monitor and record at the same time. If you have headphones and a mac, you can record as soon as you're running software.

Headphone recommendations are pretty much impossible to make as everyone's head shape and comfort level is different. I currently have a pair of sennheiser hd280 pros. They suit me alright.

The built-in mic of the mac is fine for some sources and not great on others. I have gotten pretty good recordings of my nylon-string guitar, but I was trying for a really roomy, open sound and it suited the track well.

Microphone: That studio projects mic unSane recommended is a fine choice. You will have to have a preamp that supplies phantom power at 48 volts. That's "standard", so if the interface doesn't specify a lower voltage, it's most likely 48v. You will also have to have an XLR cable. You will probably also want a mic stand with a boom to make positioning the mic easier.

My suggestion for software: Garageband is fine, if you already have it. Otherwise, check out Reaper - an amazing bit of kit that's incredibly cheap ($60) and supported by a great community. I've just made the switch from Pro Tools to Garageband, after a decade of using PT, and i'm mostly happy with the choice. Still vexed by some key command stuff, and i wish the automation was different. but that doesn't apply to your situation.

Start out buying only what you absolutely need, and add other things as you find you can't live without them. The resale value on low-end recording stuff is very very low. Better to buy one or two quality pieces and stick with them. I would just get some headphones and Reaper, and start experimenting. Figure out what you like or don't like about that setup, then decide if you need a mic and an interface.
posted by dubold at 3:36 AM on January 17, 2012

nthing dubold and unSane's comments for sure, but allow to suggest an alternative idea...

Zoom H2 portable stereo recorder.

They're less than $150, highly recommended and rated, even more portable than your Macbook Air (crazy I know!) and you can still upload the files to Garageband or Reaper or even Audacity.

I have a studio setup with an Apogee Duet and Logic Pro and a closetful of mics and I'm still planning to buy one of these in the next week or so.

Also: warning be careful or you may turn into a gearhead like some of us around here
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:31 PM on January 18, 2012

I actually have the Zoom H2 too and it's pretty good, if flimsy. You can also use it as a mic and record direct into Garageband.
posted by unSane at 3:02 PM on January 18, 2012

Flimsy, you say? As in it doesn't stand up very well, or the sound itself is flimsy?
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:15 PM on January 18, 2012

The H2 is a real mixed bag. It has a load of good things about it -- ease of use, versatile mic setups, can be used as a standalone recorder or a USB mic. It doesn't sound bad at all although it has a fairly typical cheap condenser sound -- shiny highs and not much in the midrange --- which works well for recording band ensemble or acoustic guitar +vocal. It has a really cool little attachement which slots into a standard microphone stand.

The weaknesses are that it's physically flimsy -- the SD card cover snapped off on mine when I looked at it funny and that the recording sound is very light on the midrange. It feels flimsy in the hand.

But it is a really cool little gadget with a ton of uses and I have no problem using it to record demos.
posted by unSane at 9:41 PM on January 18, 2012

I use an H4n as interface/microphone/field recording device. It's great for this. I recommend it all the time. I also think that the 4track capabilities and extra bobs and whistles might be overkill for the OP's needs. Never used the H2 so I can't comment on that. but the mic on the H4n suits my voice alright. I usually put in a little high shelf at 9k onwards to decrease condenser sizzle.
posted by dubold at 8:30 AM on January 19, 2012

I hope this isn't threadjacking, but anyone any experience with the Tascam 8-track digital recorder? It seems pretty neat.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:37 AM on January 19, 2012

Ha, yes, I have absolutely no reason to get one of those but I do love the look of them. They occasionally show up for stupid prices too - $199 at B&H currently. Ridiculous.
posted by unSane at 8:45 AM on January 19, 2012

Too right, I have no real need for one...but, but SO SHINY
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:03 AM on January 19, 2012

if it sounded like a cassette portastudio, i would be all over it.
posted by dubold at 2:36 PM on January 19, 2012

This sounds great you guys, but.....any ideas for how to get these things in Seoul? Does anyone know someone here who's found this sort of equipment? Or should I just ship it through a military friend (takes weeks)..
posted by nile_red at 2:51 AM on January 25, 2012

Musicians Friend and B&H ship internationally.
posted by unSane at 5:15 AM on January 25, 2012

« Older Exquisite Corpse?   |   Third row, second from the right: that goddamn 9... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments