Archive for the ‘Recording’ Category

Tash Sultana

Melbourne’s Tash Sultana and her incredible talent as a busker on the streets of Melbourne

Bringing fans into her home studio with a series of self-made live recordings was the first step, broadening her audience from whoever happened to be stopped in the street by her ridiculously varied skillset, to people across the globe.  Tash found the time to start up her own label and release her debut EP.

Now, with her name on every festival bill you’d care to mention, and her management Lemon Tree Music Management joining to take her to the U.S., it’s only going to get bigger for Tash in 2017.

Beyond all else, it’s Tash’s sheer breadth of talent and incredible showmanship that’s allowed her to make her mark this year. In a live setting especially, Singulary Tash blows the majority of other acts off the stage – and does it all solo. Her voice is outrageously versatile, dulcet one moment, sharp and rapid-fire the next – and her toolbox of instruments is similarly crammed. Shifting effortlessly from one to the next, Tash can elevate a short burst of pan-flute beat boxing to become just as enthralling as her searing guitar solos, all delivered with an unwavering joy.

Advertisements
One of the best ways to improve as a musician is to record your own playing. Sure, it can be frustrating and disappointing when you hear that you’re out of tempo, out of key, or out of tune. But knowing your weaknesses is the first step to improvement, and hearing a well-played number is its own reward.

I can remember when decent-quality recording was complicated and expensive, but today inexpensive flash-memory recorders—at most every price point and with any feature set—are capable of remarkable fidelity. Every music recorder I’ve researched can capture in so-called high-resolution formats, using sample rates and bit depth greater than the CD standard of 44.1 kHz and 16-bit depth, although it’s hotly debated whether these formats offer any improvement in audio quality. All of these recorders can record compressed audio using the MP3 format and uncompressed audio in WAV format. Compressed formats take up less room and are handy for passing around on the internet, while uncompressed formats provide higher quality and are preferred if you plan to process your recordings to create audio CDs or add such effects as equalization, reverb, and compression.

In addition to sound quality, you’ll also want to consider ease of use (the navigation of settings can vary considerably), storage capacity, and battery life.

The Memory Game

The devices discussed here all use solid-state memory in the form of standardized flash cards. Flash cards come in three sizes: CF (compact flash), SD (secure digital), and micro SD. The capacity of these cards has increased over the years, along with improvements in read and write speed. The original SD card had a maximum capacity of only 2 GB (gigabytes). The SDHC (secure digital high capacity) standard increased the maximum size to 32 GB, and the newer SDXC (secure digital extended capacity) can reach a maximum of 2 terabytes, or 2,000 GB. Some recorders are limited in the class of SD card they can use, so check carefully when purchasing a recorder and flash card. (Manufacturers generally provide a list of confirmed compatible cards with the documentation for their recorders.)

Large capacity cards are great for video and even high-end photography, but for audio recording, even the smaller flash cards store a lot of music. CD-standard WAV files take up about 10 MB per minute, so a 2 GB card will hold more than three hours of music in uncompressed WAV format. Compressed MP3 formats are even smaller, and the size can be adjusted by selecting different compression levels, specified as bit rate in kilobits per second (kbps). For instance, five minutes of music would create a 50 MB WAV file, while a 128-kbps MP3 file would be only 5 MB; at the highest bit rate of 320 kbps, the compressed file will be about 10 MB. There’s a quality tradeoff for smaller file sizes, of course. In general, the 320-kbps MP3 is audibly the same as a WAV file, while the 128-kbps file may have audible artifacts.

Budget Constraints

With so many recorders and a wide array of features available, finding the right tool for your job can be a challenge. Your first step in filtering the choices is to determine your budget, then evaluate the features you need for your recording goals. Most of the recorders have built-in mics, but most also allow you to attach external microphones. Most portable recorders have a stereo 1/8-inch jack that uses a microphone powering system called plug-in power, and there are a wide variety of mics that can be connected in this way; however, the usual stage and studio mics will not work with this connection because they require an XLR input, and condenser microphones additionally need phantom power to operate.

The least expensive recorders designed for music have a street price of less than $100. Both Tascam and Zoom make high-quality, affordable flash recorders in this segment that record in stereo using built-in mics or external mics through the 1/8-inch stereo jacks. The Tascam DR-05 offers features including a limiter and clip editing, while the Zoom H1 is equipped with directional mics for an improved stereo image.

If your budget extends to $200, the choices really expand. In this range, you can find recorders like the Zoom H4n and Tascam DR-40 that support condenser mics requiring XLR connections and 48-volt phantom power. Only a short time ago, these features were limited to professional studios, but today they’re in the palm of your hand. Other features in this segment include overdubbing and multitrack recording, although the user interface for such features in a compact recorder can be a bit challenging. Zoom offers surround recording in their H2n with a combination of XY and mid-side mic arrays, while Tascam has recently released the DR-22WL with Wi-Fi control and file transfer using your smartphone.

When you look at the next segment, up to $300, there are some very interesting tools. The Zoom H5 lets you swap attached mics among XY, mid-side, and shotgun modules, along with two XLR inputs and four-channel recording. TheTascam DR44-WL adds Wi-Fi control along with four-channel recording using attached stereo mics and dual XLR inputs. The Sony PCM-M10 is known for its amazing battery life and low self-noise.

Above $300, you get to some real powerhouse recorders. The Zoom H6 andRoland R-26 are six-track handheld recorders, great for capturing small groups. The Marantz PMD661 MKII, Fostex FR-2LE, and Sony PCM-D100 capture two channels of pristine audio. Only the Sony includes built-in mics in this group, but the other two are worthy of the finest external condenser mics and offer XLR inputs and phantom power to operate them.

In this golden age of compact recorders, you can buy an impressive device for the price of a nice instrument case—one that fits in your hand and captures every nuance of your playing.

The Guitar Gear Harts Couldn’t Live WithoutBACK TO BASICS
My essentials would be my guitar, so I’d probably get an electric guitar, my keyboard would be a Korg R8, which is a kind of virtual analog synthesiser, and some sort of loop machine, like maybe a Boss loop machine, with multiple inputs, so I can loop the keys, play bass on the keys and loop the guitar over it.

I would probably also bring a drum machine as well. I’m not sure exactly what type, because all of my drum machines have custom samples on them anyway, but maybe a laptop with Addictive Drums on it or maybe EZdrummer, something with more of a live kind of sound.

THE AXE
I play a Squier Stratocaster, which is the cheapest guitar on the market. The reason why is because I got it painted by a friend of mine, this particular guitar, and I really loved the paint job that he did on it, so I wanted to play it live, and it was a Squier Strat.

To be honest, a lot of people ask me why I play Squiers and not Fenders or why the cheaper models. It’s just kind of what I’ve gotten used to. I never could afford a Fender when I started, so I just got used to playing the cheaper ones and learning how to get the best sound from those cheaper ones.

Learning what you can get away with and more importantly what you can’t get away with on those cheaper ones was an important part of my development.

It’s as is. It’s a Squier Affinity Strat, with the fat headstock. I don’t think they make those anymore, but I bought it a few years ago. There’s no changes, it’s stock standard what you’d probably go into a store and buy for about $150, $200.

GETTING AWAY WITH IT
In my opinion, the neck pickup — and this might change depending on the actual make of the Squier — but the neck pickup is really good and I think you can get away with making it sound like a Strat with the neck pickup and actually the bridge pickup, too.

But the middle pickup is not so good and the changes between the neck and the middle and the middle and the bridge, those switches don’t sound good at all. So it’s more about finding the right setting and knowing you can’t really go onto those other settings even if you wanted to, and to be honest I don’t really need to, because the Stratocaster is so versatile.

EXPERIMENTATION
I had a traditional pedalboard with all the different kinds of pedals that I need for my sound, but just the logistics of taking that on planes and things like that [was too difficult].

I already have a whole bunch of equipment just for my own live show, I was paying so much for excess baggage, it’s changed now that I have some deals with Virgin, they give you musician baggage allowance, but before I didn’t really know about anything like that.

So I really had to simplify my setup and find the right gear that was really light and that’s able to travel and not break. So I’ve changed from pedalboards to multi-effects units. So I use Zoom Multi Effects units and with the right amount of tweaking, I really like them.

They’re clones of the Big Muff and Buzz Fuzz and compression pedals and digital delays, and it sounds really good if you just spend the time tweaking it. It’s so much easier to set up at a gig when you’ve only got 10 minutes to set up.

GEAR VS SONGWRITER
The gear doesn’t really influence the songwriting, because the songwriting doesn’t really rely on my gear. I just kind of go with what I’m feeling for the song or what I have in mind. I don’t really loop anything. I play bass or drums or keyboard and layer it down like a traditional band would.

That doesn’t really influence my songwriting, but it does influence the recording process, because you can’t change the sound of the guitar that much. You can always process it, add you fuzz and delays, but essentially the sound is coming from the same source, so the recording process is limited to what instruments you have and what you can use to make sounds.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE
I think a lot of it is just people knowing how to mic and amp properly, because a lot of people that I see, they just stick an SM57 (mic) in the middle of the cone.
There’s nothing wrong with that, you can get away with that, but if you’re going for like the big tones or the fuzz that I like on my records, the really wide fuzz that covers the whole spectrum of the recording, you really have to experiment how to get really bassy tones or how to capture the stereo field of that amp.

And you don’t necessarily need two mics to do it, it’s just in how you go about using your gear.

FETISHISING EQUIPMENT
When you’re first starting out, you’re always looking for, “Oh, what else can I do or get?” instead of actually learning the instrument. You’re kind of more focused on what cool stuff you can do, and there’s so many pedals out there these days that can make your guitar sound like whatever you want.

You can even add MIDI pickups to your guitar and play keyboard with your guitar, there’s so much you can do. And I think maybe some of the people starting out get caught up with what you can do instead of what you should do, which is learning your instrument. But I understand it, because it’s cool, it’s cool what you can do with your guitar.

THE PROBLEM SOLVER
I always have to use a lot of noise suppression and noise gating on my guitar signal and sometimes on the bass signal, and that’s another problem with the Squier, actually, it feeds back a lot.

So you kind of really have to gate it if you’re driving the amp and the fuzz really hard, because that’ll come back in your monitors on stage and that’ll go through your guitar and everything will start squealing. So a lot of noise gating and noise suppression helps me get a really clean fuzz tone and helps tame the monster.

logicpro

Logic Pro has been a staple of Apple’s software library for a long time and for good reason: It gives you a lot for very little money. While it’s simple enough for those looking to make the leap out of GarageBand, it has enough depth and features to satisfy those with more know-how. Intuitive smart controls, virtual session drummers, and EXS24 sampler are just some of the awesome features included.

focusrite2i2

For home recording setups. The most popular interface is the Apogee Duet, but for those not wanting spend $400 – $500 on an interface, the Focusrite 2i2 is a great option. It easily links up with Garageband, ProTools, Logic, or Ableton via your computer, or connect direct to your iPad with the camera connection kit. Can’t go wrong with this price point.