I recorded my CD "Mazja" in a semi-pro studio back in the mid-1990s. While some people now will use computer-based home equipment,  at that time the just the mic that I used (the engineer supplied a Neumann) was a $2,500 piece of equipment.

Glad to say things have changed since then. These days a cheap Chinese knock-off of that mic costs one tenth that price, and you'd need a pricey, tweeky playback system to be able to hear the difference.

I'm a little out of touch these days, but here's a thread where we can keep each other up to date on what we have already done, and what's being experimented with.

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I have used a local studio, owned by a retired rock musician, but he knows his way around sound and trying out different things to get the best.  In the mid-90's he recorded my first CD, this was about the time he had opened his studio.  He had one of the bottle-cap piezo pickups that Simon mentioned in another thread.  One thing that was a plus, was being able to move it around to find the "sweet spot"on the psaltery for the best and most even sound.  I found it to be just in front of the bridge and left of center.  One other thing he did was to also use a studio mic at the same time.  He seem to favor the mic being directly over the top of the psaltery, about 1 1/2 ft above.  This gave him two channels to tweak and blend, for the best sound in the mix.  The piezo is sensitive to any movement of the psaltery, repositioning hands, or rubbing against clothing, so a tripod mount is a plus.

One thing about the bottle cap piezo, use care when repositioning it, never pull on the cord to unstick the adhesive.  They are fragile.

On my last couple of recordings I did with him, he fed the piezo through a Sansamp Pre-amp.  I was so impressed with the improvment in sound I bought one.  It really smoothes out the sound and gives you a lot of adjustment through the level, blend, treble, mid, and bass controls. 

I have the Sansamp Acoustic DI -http://www.tech21nyc.com/archive/acousticdi.html that is designed specifically to work with the piezo pickups.  It has been discontinued, but they still pop up on Ebay. 

The new model is the Sansamp Paradriver DI -  http://www.tech21nyc.com/products/sansamp/paradriverdi.html   It is pretty much the same thing, but they a have added a foot switch bypass.  I think I would rather have it up off the ground in easy reach to be able to adjust it when needed.  I have been parking it on a chair or table next to me, but have been thinking about using velcro to attach it to my tripod.

Do you plan on overdubbing to add more parts?  That's where the fun begins.  Before we began, my engineer would record a click track for me to listen to.  It was a great help in keeping time.  He just used a drum machine and set it to whatever tempo he heard when I was doing a practice run through before recording, of course, that part was left out in the mix.

I did learn one thing about paying for studio time by the hour, it can really get expensive fast to not be prepared and have it all planned out.  That's the greatest value of a home studio, you can take all the time you need, without worrying about the dollar meter running.

I hope you have good luck getting a piezo pickup that is shielded properly, some are bad to have a buzz or hum.  You don't want that on your recording.  My engineer kept referring to the one we were using as being "quiet".  I didn't know what he meant, until I heard one that wasn't. 

Ah, the click track.
I didn't think I needed it, started recording without it, but quickly took a hint from the playback, which reported my rhythm as being all kinds of wonky. I hadn't realized that I had a serious issue in that regard, and the revelation was every bit as shocking to me as looking at a photo of myself and seeing the worlds weirdest attempt at a smile \;-+ ]
The engineer provided a track with a high pitched click, but his ultra-sensitive mics caught it leaking out from the earphones. He had to dig out some really well-padded phones, and we turned the track volume down to where I could barely hear it. And yup, it's right about that time that you really begin feeling your wallet dying a slow death as the studio clock silently plunges forward.
That was long ago, and I imagine more up-to-date click tracks with different kinds of sounds might be easier to work with.  
Certainly there are times when you want to use it. But, yes indeed Philippa, there are also those times when changes in tempo, pauses, and such, really breath life into the music. Fancy gear these days can snap everything to a digital rhythm grid, and auto-tune the loneliest of alley cats to sound like they're howling in perfect concert pitch, but most of us like the authentic sounds of real live people with wooden instruments in their warm little hands.
As for home recording, a lot of musicians will quite willingly trade off high-end audiophile recording quality for the ultimate meaning of music, the glowing vibe that's easier to find in a comfy home environment where the money-meter isn't running. One of my problems there is that I live in a city, where ambient noise is just a fact of life. So I would need to find a reasonably soundproof place. My other biggest problem is that even if I find a place like that, there's the question of room acoustics.
There's a movie about Buddy Holly that gives us an account of  a cricket's sound getting into a recording. While the movie version was made up, the story actually has roots in reality, and is interesting enough to recommend:
http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/crickets.asp

I think that's a very nice smile, LOL.

I am still amazed when I record myself with no one else playing, my timing, and phrasing of tunes can be way off.  I don't even notice until listening to that recording, and then I spot it right away.

I did depend on the click track when laying down the first tracks.  There were times when I would let the engineer know where I would need him to fade it out, and it seemed to work well.  That would be hard to do when recording alone.

Your mention of ambient noise brought back a memory of my engineer having to call the neighbors a few times to ask if they would take their barking dog inside.  Trains were a problem, he was close to downtown Knoxville, but was able to work around it.  I wonder just how much that dog and the trains cost me.

Love the story on Buddy Holley and the Crickets.  Wonder if the Beatles knew how close they were to not being known by that name.

This is a little off topic anecdote but I feel for Greg's problems with city noise - when I lived in London I was right next to one of the busiest roads in the city, so if I was recording I would have to keep all the windows in my flat closed - and I had no air conditioning so in summer I roasted for my art!

I also have problems with click tracks leaking out into the mic, but unless my click is really prominent in my headphones I invariably drift away from it :( My sense of natural timing is crummy.

 

Oh, and I have also recorded a perfect acoustic guitar take and just as I hit the last note my cat walks into the room and gives a cheery "miaooww!"

I am just getting into recording with an older tape version (not digital) tascam 4 track recorder.  It does a great

job really, and it was free, so I'll make the best use of it.  Wondering about instrument placement (how far from walls and other things? What kind of room works best in a house?)  also wondering what others are finding about mic placement on amplified psalteries?  Rick mentioned "halfway between the amp and psaltery and Dave Holeton suggested ABOVE and not to the side of the psaltery.  Also,  Rick mentioned taping a clap to start to help line up tracks later.  How do you know to clap at the same time on each track?  Just try to clap at the same time and the 2nd track figures out the reaction time lag?  Silly beginner questions probably, but I really want to learn this and avoid any mistakes I can by learning from those others have made.  I've recently purchased a Korg tuner with metronome and hope to use the metronome with earbuds to help with the timing issue.  Wouldn't know about setting up click tracks.  Is there a free app for that???  :)  Just recently won a used SHURE SM57 mic too and need to learn working with that.  All this thinking is making my brain hurt.  I'm not a technical kind of gal.  

Hi Terry,  The clap I was referring to was for syncing up video and a separate audio track.  This way you can see and hear the clap for syncronizing the two.  Similar to the clap board you see them using for movies.  For audio only you will need to record a click track and a verbal count in two measures before you intend to start playing.  The one measure before you would be silent and count it in your head.  This would use up one of your four tracks, but you could make yourself a clip of this on Audacity and then monitor it when recording, this would let you keep all four tracks on your Tascam for parts.  To help sync the rest of the tracks do the verbal count along with each recorded track and, of course, a silent count for the one measure before.  You would have to monitor the click with an ear bud in one ear and then  headphones over that to monitor the track you are recording.  A little tricky, but can be done.  

 

You can add more tracks by doing a mix onto two tracks and that will free up two more.  I believe you have to bounce two tracks at a time so you don't lose stereo.  You lose individual control of those first tracks, but that may be the only way to have more than four tracks using this recorder.  This is called bouncing tracks.  Google "four track cassette bouncing" for more detail on that.

 

You will be able to monitor your mic placement through the recorder with headphones when getting set up.  The recorder will let you hear when you put the recorder in ready mode, before actually hitting record.

 

You can record a click track straight from your Korg metronome.  Someone may be familiar with a metronome app online.  I know there is a smartphone metronome app available, but I don't know if it's free.

 

  

I'll work with 4 tracks to start and progress to "bouncing tracks" later.  Too technical for my brain to process quite yet.  Baby steps.     Right now, though,  I MUST finish the quarterly magazine for the SIBAA (Ships-in-Bottles Association of America).  Otherwise my boss might fire me. (I'm the boss)    Nearly finished thankfully.  I'd rather be playing psaltery, though.

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