Assignment 1: Recording

What we’re trying to do

What to turn in

You will be graded based partly on whether you achieve good recording levels, neither too low, nor too high (clipped).

The basic process

There are several steps involved in making a good recording in Room 304.

How to go about it

Here are detailed steps you should take to do the assignment.
  1. Turn the room power on — just press the switch once. The equipment will come on in a preset sequence, with delays. Note that the computer is the exception: power it on manually by pressing the power key, which is on the left side, in back.
  2. Zero out the mixer, if it hasn’t already been done: working up from the bottom of the mixer, pull all the faders down; leave the pan knobs set as they are (odd channels panned hard left, even channels panned hard right); set all EQ to center detents; set all Aux knobs to their leftmost position; set all Gain (i.e., trim) knobs to their leftmost position. Make sure all buttons are up, that is, disengaged.
  3. Set up one AKG C414 microphone on the mono mic stand:
    • The mics and cables are in the top drawer of the left filing cabinet that’s under the desk next to the door. Place the mic stand close enough to the mixer so that you can operate the mixer controls while speaking or otherwise making noise into the mic.
    • Plug the male end of the cable into input channel 1 on the mixer. The XLR jacks are on the top of the mixer.
    • Carefully twist the bottom of the microphone shockmount (counter-clockwise, when looking at it from below) so that it’s “open” and ready to accept the mic. Bring the other end of the mic cable up through the shockmount and, while holding the mic above the shockmount, plug the mic cable in to the bottom of the mic. (Just a reminder: the silver screen is the front of the mic, and is the part you would talk or sing into; the black screen is the back.) Now lower the mic into the shockmount. Twist the shockmount closed (clockwise from below) so that it holds the mic securely.

      CAUTION: Please be gentle with the shockmounts — they can break easily!

    • Turn on the mixer’s phantom power switch. (It’s next to the mixer’s power switch. Press the bottom part of the rocker switch to turn it on — to the position marked with a dash.)
    • If you are recording vocal sounds, including speech, you should use the pop filter. Otherwise, you will get a better sound without the pop filter.
  4. Set the microphone switches appropriately.
    • Pattern — choose between cardioid, hyper-cardioid, omni and figure-eight. Usually, you’ll want cardioid.
    • Pad — set to 0 dB for speech and softer instruments, -10 or -20 dB for trumpet, percussion, etc. Without doing this, you might make a recording that sounds distorted, even though the meters on the mixer and computer do not show clipping.
    • Bass roll-off switch — Set to 70 Hz or 100 Hz to reduce mic stand vibrations, popping from voice, etc. The only time you will turn this off is if you’re recording low sounds: anything that has a pitch below the G string on the cello.
  5. Set the mixer controls so that you get an optimum sound level coming into the mixer.
    • Engage (push in) the input channel’s SOLO switch; the “rude solo light” will blink.
    • Push in the MODE switch in the output section (LEVEL SET(PFL) mode) — the LEVEL SET LED will light.
    • Speak or play an instrument (whatever it is you want to record) into the mic.
    • Adjust the GAIN control so that the display on the meter stays around 0, with occasional excursions to +2 or +4 dB. (Only the left meter is active in this level-setting procedure.) For speech, the GAIN will probably be at about 2 o’clock; for trumpet, maybe 12 o’clock.
    • Disengage that channel’s SOLO switch.
    • Disengage the MODE switch.
  6. Set the mixer controls so that the mic signal is routed into the computer for recording.
    • On input channel 1, where you connected the mic, raise the fader to unity gain, and engage the 1-2 button. This routes that input channel to the 1-2 “sub outs” in the mixer’s output section. You will notice that those are labled MOTU IN 5-6. This means that the sound goes to those channels on the MOTU Traveler audio interface in the rack.
    • Note that the pan knob on input channel 1 should be all the way to the left.
    • In the output section, raise the sub out 1 fader to unity gain.
    • In the SOURCE section, engage the 1-2 button. This meters the signal arriving at the 1-2 sub outs. (To listen to the sound with headphones, raise the CTLROOM/PHONES knob.)
    • Make sure the L/R fader at the far right, controlling the level of sound for the front speakers, is all the way down! Otherwise, you could generate painful feedback!

      This happens because the sound coming out of the speakers enters the microphone, which comes out of the speakers, which enters the microphone, etc., at each stage reinforcing the amplitude of the signal.

      Always make sure the speakers are off while recording!

    • Make some noise into the mic, to make sure you see level in the meters.
  7. Record your first sound in Adobe Audition.
    • In the Mac’s Dock, click the Audition icon to launch the program.
    • Click the red circular record button in the Transport panel.

      A dialog box appears, requesting that you name the sound file and choose the sample rate, the number of channels, and the bit depth. If you’re using one mic, record in Mono. Change the bit depth from 32 (float) to 24.

      After you press OK, recording begins immediately.

    • Make some noise into the mic. While Audition records, watch the levels on the meter in Audition, and set your recording level. To control the level of signal reaching the computer, use the sub out 1 fader (labeled MOTU IN 5) on the mixer.

      Aim for peaks no higher than about -2 dB in Audition. It’s okay if your peaks are mainly above -12 dB. If they are much less than this, your level is too low. Or you’re recording a sound that is inherently soft, such as whispering or pins dropping. These guidelines are just rough rules of thumb.

    • Once you have a good level, stop recording. (Press the space bar.)

      Choose File > Undo to remove the recorded material.

    • Press the record button again to record for real this time.
    • Save your file now (using File > Save, but don’t play your sound yet!
  8. Listen to your recording.
    • On the mixer, make sure you have the mic channel muted (MUTE button) while playing back your sounds!

      This is to prevent nasty feedback between the mic and speakers. (Do you see how this can happen?)

    • The sound will come from the computer via the MOTU Analog 1-2. Look for the mixer input channel strips that are labeled MOTU Analog 1-2 — they are channels 9 and 10. Raise both faders to unity.
    • On those input channels, engage the L/R buttons to assign the signal to the main mix (i.e., “Speakers L/R”).
    • In the mixer’s output section, raise the “Speakers L/R” fader at the far right.
    • Play back your sound in Audition. (Press the space bar.)
    • Before you resume recording, turn the speaker fader down all the way, and unmute the mic.
  9. Record more mono sounds.

    To record into a new file, choose File > New > Audio File.

    Try different positions of the microphone switches. It can be helpful to record your voice, and mention the settings you’re using.

  10. Try stereo recording.
    • If you’re feeling sure about recording in mono, then try it in stereo.
    • Use the other mic stand, with the stereo bar and two shockmounts.
    • Mount the two AKG 414 mics in the X/Y coincident arrangement (mics close together and pointing 90 degrees apart).
    • Route mic cables to channels 1 & 2 on the mixer.
    • Pan the channels to opposite sides: channel 1 all the way to the left, channel 2 all the way to the right.
    • Don’t forget to set the trim for the second mic.
    • In Audition, use a stereo, instead of mono, file.
  11. Tidy up! At the end of your session...
    • Turn off phantom power, then disconnect the mic(s) from the mixer.
    • Coil cables neatly, and return everything to the file drawer.

      Practice coiling cables, using this video as a guide.

    • Zero out the mixer.
    • If no one is waiting to use the studio after you, please power down the studio. Choose Shut Down from the Apple menu. Turn the fluorescent lights on first, or else you’ll be left in the dark! Then press the “Turn Studio On Here” button once. Everything will power down in the proper sequence.

Manuals

Like most of you, I don’t really enjoy reading manuals, though they are sometimes essential. If you find you need the Mackie 1604 mixer manual, or the manual for the microphones, PDF copies are in the Manuals and Demos folder on your Desktop. For more detailed help with Audition than the assignment guidelines provide, consult the manual.

©2009-2017, Alicyn Warren, John Gibson, Christopher Cook, Jeffrey Hass