UnTunes:Support/0

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Endless anal details for Step 0 - Inspiration, Basic Tech Requirements and/or the Bloody Obvious.

edit Getting Ideas

So, where do you get ideas for this stuff? Puns on titles or lines are common starter places, or your lame buddy Dirk might be singing some tune all wrong and making you piss yourself laughing. Or check the request line.

edit Tech Stuff

RTFM. Learn how to use your hardware (and software!) inside out and backwards. Google for as much info on your equipment, and general recording practices as you can digest.

edit Hardware

We're assuming you're using a computer to record. Here's what you'll need, hardware-wise:

edit Newer PC

A 286 ain't gonna cut it. Depending on how complex your tune gets, you might have to work with dozens of tracks, which takes a bit of processor-muscles. You're going to need a few gigs free to save audio data, and the more RAM you've got, the better. Some useful other bits to have in your PC are:

edit Sound Card

I will confess right now that the machine I've used for UnTunes thus far is not especially tricked out for audio. My sound card is a basic SB Live! 24-bit which gives me only 2 channels (L&R) in and out, and a fairly basic midi synth onboard. But since these are essentially solo productions, I don't need a whole whack of inputs, just one to plug in a mic, bass, or guitar. The synth is quite flexible, once you start tinkering around under the hood: Different soundfonts can be created and loaded into it, and various other properties can be tweaked. The sound card also supplies a mixer utility, which you use to control what gets played back, and what gets recorded: You need to be able to separate these so you can play audio to sing along to, and record your vocals without the backing tracks.

edit Microphone

You don't have to break the bank, but a decent quality mic can make an amazing difference. Go to a music store, not a big box or home electronics store. Music stores generally have a better selection of better quality stuff at better prices. Consider getting a breath screen while you're at it, or your recordings will sound poppy.

Mics used and recommended by UnTunes contributors:

  • Shure 57
  • Shure 58
  • The mic that comes with Rock Band (really, they are good)

Mics merely used by UnTunes contributors:

  • Sony F-V220 (Good: it sounds fairly decent; Bad: it's made by Sony)

edit Software

Look for these fine products at your local intarwebbs:

edit Sequencer/Digital Multitrackers

The all-in-one solutions.

edit Digital Multitrackers

edit Sequencers

edit Samples

edit The Bloody Obvious

edit Recording Process Overview

  • Record bed tracks
Generally one instrument per track, counting "grouped" instruments, such as drum kits, string/horn sections and the like, as one stereo track. The source of the audio is your problem. Could be a midi sequence, you playing your piano or whatever, or grandpappy farting in the shower. Your choice.
  • Rough mix
Adjust the volume and balance of each track so you can hear everything. Don't fart around too much with it at this point. Once the vocals and effects are factored in, you'll have to remix it. What you want here is something to cut the vocals to.
  • Record vocals
May be one track, may be many. Depends how many background vocals you're using. Again, one track per vocal, so you can mix them all together later.
  • Final Mix
It's best to do this is short sessions over several days. After a few hours of listening to the same tune over and over and over, your ears get "tired" and things don't sound the same. When you go back to it the next day, it'll sound completely different. Play with it. You want to be able to hear everything. Try moving things back and forth in the balance, tweaking volumes up or down, changing the EQ or effect parameters or order (A flanger feeding a distortion box sounds different than a distortion box feeding a flanger, for example.) Listen on headphones, little speakers, big speakers, at high volumes, low volumes, and everywhere in between.
  • Mastering
Once everything's mixed to stereo, a final pass of (usually) compression, EQ, and subtle effects is done. This will put the final sparkle on your tune.

edit Glossary

Attenuate 
Turn the mofo down.
Breath screen 
Condom for microphone. Protects it from blowjobs.
Channel 
A physical, electronic input or output. The jacks on your soundcard.
Effects 
Process the sound in different ways.
Chorus 
Makes one bad singer sound like many.
Compression 
Evens out the volume. Almost a must for vocals.
Distortion 
Makes it crunchy, even in milk.
Echo 
Echo, echo, echo.
EQ 
The tone control.
Flanger 
That "swooshy" noise.
Octaver 
The same thing, ony higher or lower.
Phaser 
Bastard child of flanger and chorus.
Reverb 
Fills empty space, spacially speaking.
Ring Modulator 
Instant dalekization. EX-TER-MI-NATE!
Patch 
An instrument selection for a synth.
Real-time 
Done on the fly, rather than pre- or post-processed.
Sequencer 
Software that plays a synth.
Soundfont 
A set of noises to load into a synth. Everything from full-on symphony orchestras to techno bloops and bleeps are available.
Synth 
An electronic gizmo what makes sounds what sound like other sounds.
Track 
A virtual channel of audio. Most multitrack software allows hundreds of tracks.
Velocity 
Midi-ese for volume.
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