Getting Started (a.k.a., Noobie Questions)

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KevinSwanner
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Hi,

I'm not totally new to music production, but I am also not very experienced in actually doing it. I've been to a studio and have seen how things are done. So, I am a semi-experienced noobie.

With that said, I'm wanting to setup a small recording studio, mostly for my own stuff and maybe to expand into controlling recording live performances. I need a little bit of guidance and maybe some education.

The first thing(s) I want to do is to get bass, guitar, drums, and vocals into a mix. I currently have a (junk) FastTrack USB with two inputs. I don't like using it and I'm simply trying to work around its limitations. It is a USB 1.1, so I know things aren't going to be fast. I don't have a preamp, so I'm forced to record at a very low volume and then normalize the track. This at least helps me get something to work with. Also, I'm able to put together a drum loop using one of the apps (Cow-something, I think...I'm not in front of the computer to see...sorry).

Arranging and editing are fairly simple. What I'd like to know is how do I get some of the effects plugins to work properly? For example, I'm using a simple 6-string acoustic guitar. I want to add maybe a chorus, reverb, or distortion effect. I understand that if I add it to the "pre", I will record the effect; and if I add it to the post, I will be able to change the effect without having to re-record the track. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this. I just don't know exactly how to go about routing these things into the different tracks.

I have a long way to go, as I have just started tinkering with the software. I need to get some better hardware, but I am on a very tight budget...especially if I'm just playing around. At some point, I want to be able to record drums, keyboards/piano, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, and up to 4 different vocals at the same time. I know it can be done, but I don't know what hardware interface I need to do it.

One last thing, can anyone recommend some good articles, books, and/or videos on using Ardour and it's various sub-applications and plugins?

I have a modest computer setup using an Intel 2.1+GHz CPU, 512MB RAM (I know I will need much more), and a 40GB HD (I will eventually be using an external HD for serious recording). I have Ubuntu Studio 11 with only the audio tools installed (no video or other stuff...lean install).

Thanks for enduring these standard noobie questions. I promise I'll not blather on next time. :-)

Kevin

paul
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@kevinswanner: have you bothered to read the tutorial manual? You will find the links at http://ardour.org/support along with several links to video tutorials and more.
seablade
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To add on to what Paul said in as far as reading the manuals etc. at the link he provided, especially the Introductory manual...

For example, I'm using a simple 6-string acoustic guitar. I want to add maybe a chorus, reverb, or distortion effect. I understand that if I add it to the "pre", I will record the effect; and if I add it to the post, I will be able to change the effect without having to re-record the track. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this. I just don't know exactly how to go about routing these things into the different tracks.

You are wrong;)

Pre and Post refer to the processing order in reference to the fader. In other words, if you insert a plugin PRE, you are inserting it pre-fader, meaning that the fader position won't affect the amount of signal sent to the processor, but it will affect the output of the last processor in the chain inserted pre-fader. This is typically, but not always, where you would place things like dynamics processors. Post fader on the other hand, the output of the fader would feed directly into the first plugin in the chain inserted POST fader, so generally(Again not always) you would insert things like reverb (Or sends to reverb, busses, etc.) post fader so that if you turn down the fader you get the sound of the reverb acting on the sound faded out, which sounds more natural.

All plugins are processed in realtime in Ardour, so record your sources dry typically and then insert plugins(Again there are exceptions) and you don't need to re-record anything to change plugins.

Seablade

kelleydv
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It also helps to have a working conception of the signal chain. For example, recording can be thought of as sending information this way:

Mic > analog/digital interface > software > hard disk

And playback:

Hard disk > software (Ardour) > interface > speakers

In Ardour, the regions you see in the user interface are representing what you recorded to your hard disk. It's the raw signal from the mic. When you playback, the data on the hard disk takes the above path. A track plays it's data and sends it through a master bus on my default settings (current Ardour, OS X, and JACK OS X). The master bus is the "last" step before output. Between your track and this master bus is where the fun happens. You can insert plugins along the path starting from the track to the master bus. Pre/post have different results depending on how you use your faders and other plugins. Good ones to start experimenting with are simply eq and a dynamics processor. You can also insert extra busses into the signal chain pretty much anywhere (don't forget to reroute appropriately, using JACK).

As for recording multiple sources; however many mics you find you need to record the band, that's how many inputs you need on your digital/analog interface (aka "audiocapture"). On the other hand, a common practice for recording live music is to take all of those mics into a mixer and output as little as two channels (stereo), then you'd only need a D/A interface with two input channels. The advantage of many inputs on the interface: you can do a lot of mixing in Ardour because the instruments are separated onto more tracks (if you have 4 inputs, you can record 4 separate tracks in Ardour simultaneously). The disadvantages: cost and higher hardware/computer performance demands.

I have a D/A interface with two channels, like yours, and use Ardour to overdub multiple tracks. You can record a full band this way too, and Ardour has many user friendly features to make the process of multiple takes more efficient (use the looper, zoom, and arm/record shortcuts).

I hope that's of use and not too pedantic!