How to record your band (rehearsal)

It doesn’t matter whether you are just a bunch of people jamming together on a somewhat regular schedule or if you are in an ambitious band project, recording yourself will help to improve and motivate you. With recordings of your rehearsal sessions you can review the mistakes or the awesome parts you’ve played. You keep track on your progress over time because you have previous recordings as point of reference. You’re also able to create your own jam tracks for practicing at home and on the fly you might just as well create your first demos which can open all kinds of doors for you or your band.

Many books or instructors tell you to record yourself but you have to do it at least once until you really understand why. Some might say that they don’t want to record themselves because they think they are not good enough yet and they will feel embaressed and make peoples ears bleed. Do it anyway! Listening to your mistakes will give you a huge motivation boost to improve. You will take a shortcut finding out what rocks and what sucks. Its an immediate feedback loop.

I went to the same process and I thought it might be helpful to some people to describe the setup I’m using for our secret little band project, which I’m extremely happy with.

General Setup

We have two guitars, one bass and one drum kit. We record with 4 microphones through an 8 channel audio interface which is connected to my laptop.

Mics

We are currently using Shure’s SM57 for recording the guitar amps and the drum kit and an AKG D 112 for the bass. The SM57 is a professional but reasonably priced dynamic microphone which is very versatile. You can use it for all kinds of instruments and even for recording vocals. It is rock solid and its likely to last decades. The SM57 is commonly used for recording guitar amps and parts of drum kits.

Recording the drum kit with only one microphone is good enough for now. We put the mic about 30cm in front of the kit, about 1m above the ground, pointed down about 45° towards the kick drum. For now that is good enough but I will keep experimenting which position is best for the single mic setup.

The SM57 and the AKG D 112 are put directly, as close as possible without touching, in front of the speaker.

Audio Interface

We are using a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 as audio interface with 8 microphone preamps. I chose the Saffire Pro 40 because I think it offers the best value in its price class. The 8 preamps sound fantastic, it has two headphone outputs, great built quality and enough flexibility for our needs. Look up some reviews on the web and you will come to a similar conclusion.

Software

Right now I’m using Reaper on my MacBook Pro to record. First I tried GarageBand and it is actually a pretty decent tool to start with but its limitations annoyed me pretty quickly. There are not many affordable alternatives out there. ProTools from Avid and Cubase from Steinberg are industry standards but they cost quite a bit of money.

Logic from Apple is also an industry standard and more affordable but there was no demo version and I didn’t feel like investing 179€ for a piece of software without trying it first.

People on twitter recommended to give Reaper a try which is available for OSX and Windows. There is a fully functional 60 days demo version and they offer a fully functional discounted license for only 60$. I was so happy with Reaper that I bought the discounted licence way before the demo expired.

Eventhough the UI may not be as nice and polished as in other DAWs (digital audio workstations) it is capable of delivering professional results.

An even cheaper approach

Instead of buying a 460€ audio interface, 4 mics for another 400€ and some software you can have a much cheaper, decent and quick solution for recording your band.

Just buy a Zoom H-4N. Its a portable 4 channel recorder with 2 built-in mics and 2 XLR jacks for 2 additional mics, like the Shure or AKG.

You can then put the recorder in the middle of the room and just record stereo. This alone will be sufficient for what I have described in the first paragraphs. The two additional mics can be used for lyrics or whatever else needs special attention. Its less stuff to carry around and to set up.

Conclusion

It does not matter if you use the same setup I have described or something completely different, just record yourself!

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