Week 1: Improve your Recording Skills

Join me for an exciting two-week intensive designed to enhance your recording skills, regardless of your starting point or the equipment you have at hand. Whether you're using a smartphone or a professional studio setup, this series will empower you with practical techniques and insider knowledge to achieve the best possible recordings.

What to Expect:

  • Hands-On Experiments: Each assignment includes interactive experiments that focus on different aspects of recording— from mic placement to lighting. Learn by doing, and discover how slight adjustments can make a big difference in your final result.
  • Expert Guidance: Led by Martin Zimny, the nerd behind all European tonebase productions, seasoned musician and audio-video professional, these sessions offer personalized tips and tricks tailored to the varied equipment setups of our participants.
  • Community Interaction: Share your experiences, receive feedback from peers and your instructor, and engage in a supportive community of fellow music enthusiasts and aspiring producers.

No special equipment is needed to get started; just bring your enthusiasm and whatever recording tools you have—your journey to better recording begins here!

Timeline:

  • Sign-Up : April 26th
  • Course Period: April 29th - May 10th
  • Optional check-In via Zoom: May 7th

 

Assignment Week 1

Understanding your room, understanding your Instrument, understanding the ambiance and reverberance!

Conduct these three experiment with your recording system:

  1. The Position of the Instrument within the Room
    Record yourself in three  different positions in the room, move the recording device with you and keep it stable relative to yourself
  2. The relative position of the Microphone
    Stay in one position in the room, but change the position relativ to your instrument. Keep the distance between the instrument and the microphone/smartphone the same. Choose three different mic positions.
  3. The Distance of the Microphone to the instrument
    Stay in one position in the room, keep the relative recording angle, but change the distance of the microphone three times.
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    • Jim King
    • Retired
    • Jim_king
    • 1 mth ago
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    Here are my results of conducting the experiments in Assignment #1.  I also added a couple of extra experiments.  As for equipment, I used a Shure MV88+ Stereo USB Microphone plugged into an iPhone 15.  Once the videos were completed, I used DaVinci Resolve to trim the beginning and ending of each video and to convert the files to .mp4 format.  No other modifications were made to the videos.

     

    Normal Setup

    The following videos were created:
    Video 1: https://youtu.be/eiag_NNVJN8

    Video 2: https://youtu.be/dhEChEPw6zs

    Video 1 – Mic is set on my left 30 degrees, 2 feet from guitar, same height as guitar, mic aimed at 12th fret.
    Video 2 – Mic is set on my right 30 degrees, 2 feet from guitar, same height as guitar, mic aimed at the bridge.

    In the past, when I made a video, I would set up my microphone as described in Video 1.  When I compare the result with Video 2, I find the result to be similar, however, Video 2 has a slightly mellower sound.

     

    Mic Distance

    The following videos were created:
    Video 3: https://youtu.be/PBMdWtySsHQ
    Video 4: https://youtu.be/bC4ginBy42I
    Video 5: https://youtu.be/tRK5GN_Pobc

    Video 3 – Mic is set up on my right 30 degrees, 3 feet from the guitar, raised so that the mic angled down 20 degrees and aimed at the bridge.
    Video 4 – Mic is set up on my right 30 degrees, 6 feet from the guitar, raised so that the mic angled down 20 degrees and aimed at the bridge.
    Video 5 – Mic is set up on my right 30 degrees, 10 inches from the guitar, raised so that the mic angled down 20 degrees and aimed at the bridge.

    In my opinion, Video 4, where the mic is far away, the volume of the bass is comparatively low compared to the treble strings.  In Video 5, where the mic is close, the volume of the bass is loud compared to the treble strings.  In Video 3, the volume of the bass and treble strings is more in balance.  

    It would appear that distance affects the balance between bass and treble and that 3 feet (~1 metre) is a good distance for recording.

     

    Mic Placement

    The following videos were created:
    Video 6: https://youtu.be/_PNWI0mHryw
    Video 7: https://youtu.be/7OHzr50uWSM
    Video 8: https://youtu.be/ffnQBwd8z_c
    Video 9: https://youtu.be/HND7pMdI7E0

    Video 6 – Mic is directly in front of guitar at a distance of 3 feet, raised for a decline of 20 degrees, aimed at the sound hole.
    Video 7 – Mic is to my right at a 30-degree angle at a distance of 3 feet, raised for a decline of 20 degrees, aimed at the bridge.
    Video 8 – Mic is directly behind the chair and aimed at the chair.
    Video 9 – Mic is behind the chair but raised about the chair.

    In my opinion, Video 7, where the mic is to the right, the sound is fuller than the sound in Video 6, where the mic is directly in front.  Where the mic is behind the chair, Video 9, where the mic is raised above the chair the sound has more bass compared to the Video 8, where the mic is directed toward the chair.  Also, the sound in both Videos 8 and 9 sound distant compared to Video 7.

    It would appear that the mic placement so that 30-degrees to the right aimed at the bridge is the best mic location for the best sound.

     

    Room Location

    The following videos were created:
    Video 10: https://youtu.be/DEi_TXQV8_4
    Video 11: https://youtu.be/OthOanPTbcU
    Video 12: https://youtu.be/_ToO9Q8zzWY

    Video 10 – I was located as close as possible to the center of the room.  Mic was on my left at a 30-degree angle, at a distance of 3 feet, raised with an angle of 20 degrees aimed at the 12th fret.
    Video 11 – I was located in a corner of the room facing center.  Mic was on my left at a 30-degree angle, at a distance of 3 feet, raised with an angle of 20 degrees aimed at the 12th fret.
    Video 12 – I was located beside a wall.  Mic was on my left a bit off-center, at a distance of 3 feet, raised with an angle of 20 degrees aimed at the 12th fret.

    This experiment was the hardest to do as there are limited spots within the room that I could set up playing and the recording equipment.  Video 10 approximates my normal set up for recording videos.  Video 11, which was done from the corner of the room, provided a fuller sound from the guitar.  Video 12, beside the wall, also provided a fuller sound but not as much as Video 11.

    My conclusion here is that the corner, and to a lesser extent beside the wall, provides a better sound than my normal position (Video 10) but the improvement in sound does not offset the additional effort needed to setup.

     

    My overall conclusion is to use the set up where the mic is about 3 feet from the guitar, on a 30-degree angle on my right hand side and raised causing a 20 degree angle.  I believe that this is the spot that Martin spoke of in the video for this assignment.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Jim King Very thoroughly executed, great stuff!

      I prefer the 2nd video a bit, I think it gives a more natural impresson of the sound!

      Regarding the distance, I think it's would be either video 3 or 5, I think we're loosing a bit too much when we go too far away!

      Interestingly enough, from Video 6-9 I prefer Video 6! As mentioned, there is never one only solution that fits every recording situation!

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      • Jim King
      • Retired
      • Jim_king
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      martin Thank you for the feedback and for doing this intensive.  I enjoyed doing this experiments and learning more about what works best for me. 

      Like
    • Jack Stewart
    • Retired
    • Jack_Stewart
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    These are my samples for the first 3 assignments.

    I recorded these onto my iPad Pro using a USB Apogee MiC+

    There has been no alterations or additions to the original sound recordings.

    Assignment 1    guitar in different orientatiuons

        1A     facing into corner ( my usual practice location).

        2B    middle of living room facing window

        2C    middle of living room back to window 

    Assignment 2 mic in different orientation ratio to guitar all @12' distance

        2A    mic straight on facing soundhole

        2B    mic straight on at eye level 

        2B    mic @ 30* at soundhole

    Assignment 3 mic @different distances    (volume adjustments for greater distances)

        3A    mic @ 12"

        3B    mic @ 24"

        3C    mic @ 48"

    I am afraid I am kind of burned out listening to the thesis first few bars of BWV 998mso my assessment will have to wait u until tomorrow.

      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Jack Stewart My early morning assessment (still on first cup of coffee) is in order of preference:

      1 C. followed by 1A, then 1B - all seemed pretty close to me with 1C being slightly more rounded

      2B, followed closely by 2A. 2C seemed noticeably thinner

      3A was the better in this group followed by 3B, 3C was much thinner but I may not have increased gain enough to compensate for the distance.

       

      From this preliminary assessment it seems to me that recording in front of a wall  (about 3' - 4') with the mic elevated to 3' and straight on has produced the fullest and more balanced sound.

      Most of the difference were pretty subtle and only setting the mic 30* off center was noticeably less desirable.

      I welcome other observations.

      (I apologize for the blaring lamp in 1C. it is on a timer and I didn't notice it had come on.)

      Like
    • Jack Stewart  Yep, a lot of recording. I agree with your conclusions. 1C, 2B, 3A seems to provide the best balance. This will be interesting to see Martin's comments.

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      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Andre Bernier Thanks for the comments Andre. I find it very difficult to set preferences on any of these. After each listen I perhaps hear a difference but I don't necessarily find one better than the other (with some exceptions). I have listened to most, if not all, submissions but I feel some what lost in trying to evaluate them. I have noticed that about 10" - 15" is probably sufficient to compare.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Jack Stewart This is sooo interesting! My opinions are almost the same, I am abit undecided about the first experiment. I really preferred 2b, which is interesting, as it's not pointed at the guitar. Maybe the mic attenuates some harsher frequences when it's not pointed directly onto the sound source.

      Regarding the distance, i prefered B! It still has a beautiful intimacy, but doesn't translate all the noises a hand and a gutiar makes while playing, haha!

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      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Martin Thanks for responding, Martin. To me as well as everyone else!!! You are a monster of conscientious efficiency! This has to be one of the most well attended TWI, at least from what I can see.

      This experiment has been very very interesting and informative. I will review my videos and compare them to your comments. In fact, I have listened to all of the submissions (though I have been remiss in my lack of comments) and read all of your comments. I will go back over them to try to learn better how you hear them. Hopefully, that will help train my ears. I will try to be more mindful of this information on future recordings.

      Thanks for holding this excellent session. I will be out of town for the next 4 days so I won't have a chance to participate until I am back, but I will follow the thread.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Jack Stewart Glad you're enjoying it!!!

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    • Debbie
    • Debbie
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    martin Hello Martin and everyone! Wow, you are busy this week Martin. The assignment was time consuming for me and you have to listen to nine recordings from everyone! 

    I have attached 8 mp3 files and one photo that shows my room. 

    Equipment: playing on not so great a guitar Kremona hybrid cutaway. I'm waiting on my new guitar that is currently being built 😄

    I kept the recordings very short for you. It's enough for the experiment. 

    Pair of Rode NT-5 > Scarlett 18i8 > Logic Pro X

    I turned off EQ, Comp, Reverb, limiter, etc, so it's just the dry signal with no color. 

    All the recording info is on the photo. You'll notice the third assignment has only two recordings because I already did 1 meter distance in Pos 1 Behind Desk. This also turns out to be my favorite in terms of sound with a nice guitar. But on this guitar I think half an arms length sounds better (3.1)

    Thanks Martin! 

      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Debbie martin are students who post over the weekend too late to get feedback? Sorry I'm usually too busy during the week so I have to wait for weekends 😢

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Debbie Haha, yeah, very busy! 

      Position: I am not 100% with the position. First I thought that I really didn't like Pos 2, because the bass is doing something I can't quite figure out. But then I kinda liked, it moves a bit! But I think, Pos 1 or 3 would be the safest option for me!

      Angle: I think 2.2 sounds very balanced! 2.1. accentuates a lot of the bass frequences, so I can't make out anything silvery and airy in the higher frequences. And 2.3 is of course interesting, but not usuable for a recording!

       

      Distance:  I'd probably find something between , maybe around 80cm or smth like that! I think half a meter is a bit too close for this position in the room!

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      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      martin thank you for taking the time, Martin! We seem to concur! Position 1 is the one I always use. And well it’s easy because I have my desktop and recording equipment right in front of me! I will continue to experiment with the distance and try between 80cm and one meter to find the sweet spot.

      Like
    • Ingo
    • Coach
    • Ingo.1
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    Here are my recordings. WAV 96 khz with a Zoom H1n
    1) living room corner
    2) smaller bedroom in the middle
    3) same bedroom to the wall
    4) mic to the right, knee high, 1m
    5) mic in front, chin high, 80 cm
    6) mic in my back
    7) mic sound hole high, a bit to the right, 30 cm
    8) same with 1m distance
    9) same with 2m distance
    Looking forward to your feedback. My goal is to find a good and easy setup to record and replay myself during practice.
    Thanks!

      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Ingo Hi Ingo, and thank you for your submissions!

      Experiment 1: I really like 0002, it sounds just very clean and balanced to me!

      Experiment 2: I would go either with 4 or 5, in this case, I might even prefer 5! I'd recommend trying 4 again, but have it on eye level, so it looks down to the bridge, kinda through your hand!

      Experiment 3:  30cm is very close, you capture a lot of noises that would typically vanish even at 80-100cm away. Noises get reduced to half their amplitude if you double the distance, so you can gain a lot of clarity! I'd experiment going to about 80cm!

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      • Ingo
      • Coach
      • Ingo.1
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      martin Thanks a lot for your feedback, Martin. I'll try your suggestions.

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  • This is has been a very healthy experience for me personally as I really never record myself, but also in line with this intensive, I learned much about more nuanced listening as I went through many adjustments around a room and the differences of mic placement and distance.

    On these recordings however I don't hear much less difference on room position than I do live. This could by mics or my ears (or my brain!). Mic placement seems much more noticeable to me.

    Been so focused on "ME" I have not yet got around to listening to others that much but will!

     

    First recording is room positions (center towards a window, side, and two different corners)

    Second is all about mic position and distance (the video shows mic position and distance kind of. Either 1 or 2 meters away approximately)

    Recording completely dry with little focus on perfection. Being new to recording made focus near impossible : )

      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Harry Dubiel I am super happy to hear that, glad that you are learning so much!

      I have the same feeling regarding the room position! Sometimes, rooms are just very uniform!

      In the second room, you should be careful of your gain levels, it sounds like the audio is distorting quite a bit. If you have an option to meter your input, you wanna have your peaks between -12db to -6db, to give enough head room for post production. 

      But man, that's a powerful Gran Solo there!

      Like
    • martin thank you Martin!  that is very helpful. yeah I was aiming for -5db, for some reason, but probably peaking past 0 I am sure. Especially after hearing it again now with fresher ears! (overwhelmed a bit when recording. with all the new to me, dial spinning and mic/ room options, etc. : )  

      A general procedure question if I may bug you on. If trying to get set to use Davinci for video and Reaper for audio, is it best to record/ render all audio in reaper; with all video captured separately; and then move the rendered video and audio into Davinci for a final video with audio output ,using Davinci to modify any video and add any text?

      Like
  • It took me forever to make my experiments as I had to return the microphone I purchased. I just received the new one yesterday and finalized everything last night and this morning.

    I used 3 positions in my recording:

    Position 1 - Sitting at the table looking at the patio door.

    Position 2- Sitting in the middle of the room still looking at the patio door.

    Position 3- Sitting close to the corner with the back to the window.

    I made a recording for each position with the Mic. at about 2 ft from the guitar and pointing to the bridge.

     

    After these recordings, I came to the conclusion that the 3 positions had very similar quality (at least for my inexperienced ears 😂). I will then continue the experimentation with position 1 which is the most convenient for me and offers the best background. 

    I made 2 more recordings in that position:

    Position 1 - Mic to the right - 3 ft away

    Position 1 - Mic to the right - 4 ft away

     

    With all these experiments; I think that the best choice for me is Position 1 with the microphone at about 3 feet from the guitar and pointing the bridge.

     

    Do not hesitate to let me know your comments.  

     

     

     

     

     

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Andre Bernier Hi Andre! I don't hear a ton of difference, just that I think that Position 1, 4ft away seems a bit too far for me in this room! (but I prefer position 1 a bit more, I think!)

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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Stéphane Hi there! Thank you for participating, this is a great set of recording submissions, making them very easy to work with! What would be your preferences?

      I think I prefer the back wall and 60cm distance!

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      • Stéphane
      • Stephane.1
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Martin It is not obvious for me yet to find which one I prefer maybe the middle of the room one or the 30cm. But not sure to identify what I really need to take care in the sound to identify the best recording configuration. And I also have the impression that the sound change depending on the device that I use to listen (more than when I listen to music that I don't record myself).

      Does it exists some guidelines to know, what is useful to play to be efficient ?

      Here I tried just to have the lower note and harmonics. But is it enough to define recording configuration ? Or is it needed to play with dynamics or timbre play ? Or those parameters has no effects on recording configuration ?

      So there are open questions that I'm asking myself:

       - what to play to be sure to capture the relevant range of information,

       - on what device to listen (I listen on my Mac some record seems ok and on my phone ... not at all),

       - what is to observe when listening a not transformed recording ?

       

      (I'm new on tonebase, it was my first post, but I already view some of your videos they are always interesting, so thank you !)

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Stéphane Usually, we are very quick when we are assessing the technical properties of a recording! Everything that you know how it should sound is usually a good place to start when recording and experiment with different settings!

      Your listening device has a huge impact! I am attaching a technilca graph of a 14" mac book pro speaker here:

      What you can see here is that lower frequencies are very low compared to frequencies above 100 Hz. Knowing that the lowest string of the guitar is around 80Hz, you can see that the 6th string will be super low in volume on that specific Macbook!

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