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Help with backing tracks
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MrYikes
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December 1, 2017 - 9:26 am
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I need help getting soft and hard ware to record tracks to create a "backing track". I will be using my Hp laptop with MS Os and possibly my Nikon if I decide on a video, but my concentration will be on having the ability to layer several instruments, up to 15, into one final product. I will also need a better mic. I am faintly familiar with audacity but nothing else. Any and all help or comments will be appreciated.  And I will apologize now for being unintelligent about this, so sadly you will have to baby talk me through it.

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Ferenc Simon
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December 1, 2017 - 10:40 am
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Well, in terms of software you need a DAW (digital audio workstation). Although Audacity 'can' be called a DAW, it lacks some midi capability and some other stuff compared to commercial software.. but if you're looking to record your own instruments mix them and add some post-processing it should work just fine.. so in terms of software I'd say it's all you need for this.

Now when it comes to several tracks and high quality recordings your CPU might get a decent hit, so it might be a bit cumbersome to do that on just 'any' old HP laptop, but you can generally manage even if it's slow.. the final export will be what matters anyway. (Common problems will include difficulty playing back in the software after adding effects.. etc, since it's processing the sound in real-time) 

Depending on the mic you use or any electric instruments that can be plugged in, you will probably need a USB audio interface.. the cheapest one, which is very old at this point, but still 'does' the job is probably the lexicon alpha.. you can probably pick a used one up for $10 or so on ebay at this point.. If you get a condenser mic though that will require phantom power which the alpha cannot provide, so in that case either get something a bit more advanced if you plan on recording stuff in the future.. Focusrite makes some really aswesome ones atm. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is their cheapest / smallest one which should be more than enough for what you need it to do... it outputs really high quality audio and has a 48v phantom power to run condenser mics.. The good thing about these is that you can direct monitor your input and they are also actual external sound-cards so your software can use them for processing sound instead of the onboard one which is usually lower quality (especially in laptops). Now if you only want to record acoustic instruments.. you can also get away with a USB condenser mic, that has it's small 'interface' built in.. a really good one in that category is the Rode NT USB.

Furthermore whenever you record pretty much anything... you need to make sure the room you're recording in doesn't have too much natural reverb, otherwise every single source of sound is going to create a muddy background buzz by reverberating in the room.. As much as a bathroom can sound nice when you sing in it :)) you generally want to be able to control the amount of reverb, hence it's always best to do a clean recording and add the amount you want via software.. not to mention all the frequencies that get altered by bouncing back and forth in the room... So you either need to find some small room where you have a ton of cushioning (carpets.. clothes.. pillows... anything that can absorb sound) or you need to treat your room acoustically..  (You probably saw my videos.. and you noticed I have some acoustic foam behind me... well that's lovely and all, but that's just what you can see on camera.. in reality almost the entire room is covered by either home-made panels or that type of foam - here's a random picture I just took of the corner that's not even near me https://drive.google.com/open?id=1bXqtuqMFPtC63Suo_1Iv3rlmydU7i0Kw just so you get the idea). You want to create that 'fancy hotel-room' type of 'silence' where your ears can actually feel the lack of reverb. Of course... if you're lucky you might just get away with a random room you have.. in case the reverb there is just fine 🙂 

Anyway... hope this helps.. 

Cheers

Ferenc

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BillyG
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December 1, 2017 - 11:47 am
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I use a Samson USB stdio mic for single instrument recording - although I also use a phantom power version through a mixer/preamp box for live mixing...

Although not actually classed as a DAW, I use the NCH VideoPad editor.  It has the ability to mix both video and audio tracks.   I don't know what the useable limit would be, but for a recent project I used it to quite happily mix-down 12 audio tracks - no sweat....

In VideoPad, a certain degree of audio post-processing can be done (and of course un-done) on each track separately, which is not the same as real-time live-audio processing available on a fully featured DAW.   Of course, if you really need to do something "tricky" on the audio, you can split out the audio anyway, take it into Audacity, do what you want there, save it back and import into VideoPad

I was assuming you would be recording each instrument / part separately and then mixing-down..... but I could be mistaken

Below is a screenshot of a mix under-way on my recent YAMS project.......

The NCH VideoPad software is not free - I think it is around $50 or so - I got it about 3 years ago.  It has been pretty resilient over the years.

yams-mix-panel.JPGImage Enlarger

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I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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MrYikes
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December 1, 2017 - 4:39 pm
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Thank you both, that really helps. Bill you are correct that I want to record each instrument and put them all together. It sounds like audacity will do that. So all I need then is a mic that will plug into the laptop through the usb. Thank you again. I will record a couple, try it out and see how it goes. Hope it doesn't take away toooooo much time from making music.

And Ferenc, not only have I not seen your videos, I couldn't even get your pic to load. Ahhh, the joys of livin' in the woods. I am on 3k download dialup. I go to the library once a month to get videos, but even then I forget to get all that I want.  Thank you for taking your time to help me.  I do appreciate that.

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Ferenc Simon
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December 1, 2017 - 5:35 pm
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MrYikes said
Thank you both, that really helps. Bill you are correct that I want to record each instrument and put them all together. It sounds like audacity will do that. So all I need then is a mic that will plug into the laptop through the usb. Thank you again. I will record a couple, try it out and see how it goes. Hope it doesn't take away toooooo much time from making music.

And Ferenc, not only have I not seen your videos, I couldn't even get your pic to load. Ahhh, the joys of livin' in the woods. I am on 3k download dialup. I go to the library once a month to get videos, but even then I forget to get all that I want.  Thank you for taking your time to help me.  I do appreciate that.  

Good thing I didn't make a video about it then... haha 😀 

Anyway, just in case you were curios here's the picture resized and with some compression.. should load even for you 🙂 picture.jpgImage Enlarger

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MrYikes
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December 2, 2017 - 7:54 am
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Looks very nice. Artistically done. The walls and floors of my house are what they are. They will add to or take from sound quality, but in the end the sound will be mine at least. And the way I play, anything that distracts from what I'm doing is a good thing. I'm not above having a pic of dancing cats while I play.

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