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

    Danke, Martin.

    I just got a Zoom H1n to get better dynamics compared to a smartphone. I'm looking for the right setup not only concerning sound quality but also to find an easy and quick way to listen to myself during practice. I'm less interested in video production. I think I'll have some time on sunday to do the 9 experiments.

    Best, Ingo 

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Ingo Wonderful, I'm looking forward to it!!

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  • [Reposting here as I posted here in the wrong thread - the first assignment - removed from there]

    Hi Martin, hello everyone, Francisco here :) 

    Martin, thanks for this course, I'm sure I'll learn a lot from you and the community! 

    I'm not a total beginner in recording, but also I'm not a professional. This my setup:
    * Motu M2
    * Rode NT1-A condenser mic
    * AKG K-240 studio for monitoring/editting.
    * I record usually with Logic Pro (on a mac)
    * My videos: currently my iPhone 14 Pro Max. 

    I have some video recordings already posted in the social media. The video I'm sharing here was  recorded this week.
    I have a very small room. The microphone stays attached to my laptop table with a movable rode arm. I have flexibility to vary the mic position between anywhere very close to the guitar up to 1,5-1,7 meters away from it. To experiment beyond that would be a lot of work screwing and moving the arm around.
    I usually place it between this range 1-1,5 meters, but each recording gets a slightly different position. I thought about making some marks to have it more consistent across recordings, but I guess I'm still experimenting :). Behind the mic I have a window with a heavy curtain (it absorbs some frequencies) and it's the corner of the room already, with a low cabinet. I also place the mic very similar to what was mentioned in the intro video, angle sideways, and also some front inclination (much like the camera positioning). As you can see, I sit on a couch (which has the perfect height for me to play/practice). The couch also absorbs some of the reverberation from the sounds that leaves the guitar towards my back/back wall. This helps.
    I usually put the gain of my recording interface around 50-60% - that usually prevents clipping and any adjustment in the DAW - I always do some forte strums to check for clippings. 
    My post processing:

    After capturing the raw audio on a logic track, I send it to 2 buses:
    Bus 1. Dynamics -> Compressor -> Stereo and load the "Classic Guitar" preset. The send level is around -2.5.
    Bus 2. Reverb -> ChromaVerb -> Stereo and load the "Guitar Chamber" preset. The send level is around -7.
    Then I add the video I recorded with my iPhone. I synchronise it very manually. Some videos I feel that the sync isn'g great. How do you guys do that? I often get 29,7 vs 30 fps mismatches between my audio project and the video recording. After sync I mute the original audio track from the video, recorded by the iPhone (I completely ignore it - but should I?) and "File -> Movie -> Export Audio to Movie". Logic then overrides the original audio and saves a new video. That's it.

    What I expect from this course? 

    I want to improve of course! What do you think of this video? Did you like the guitar sound? Am I using too much reverb? I'm playing in a small room, but sounding like a small chapel? (that was the original idea anyway haha). How can I synchronise professionally an audio track with a video recording?
    And also, I want to expand my video recording capabilities. I'm planning to invest on an additional camera and also in some video editing software this year. Although I have a small room, what would be my possibilities of different angles given the focal distance limitations? What could be  some ideas of light use? I love videos with 2 or more angles, like right and left hand close-ups, guitar fret close ups and etc.

    And what about you guys? I'm looking forward to hear from you all!

    Like 1
    • Francisco Portillo Very good sound with presence. You are making the most of your space. You seem to have a sloping ceiling which is probably good acoustically. 

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Francisco Portillo Hi Francisco, thank you so much for putting this together! It's super interesting to see your recording situation! Generally, I would experiment playing and recording on into the longer side of the room, it looks like your room is a bit narrow! Sound develops more naturally over the distance, that's why concert halls are usually built like a shoe box!

      For acoustically less ideal rooms, it's generally adviseable to record from a closer distance and then add some reverb there, so you are absolutely on the right track. However, the sound is a bit unbalanced, especially in the beginning around the D Major chord. Changing the position in the room (you're very much in a corner here, so this is emphasizing lower frequencies) and the angle of the microphone can do a lot here balancing the sound. And then from there on, we'd start to experiment with artificial reverb!

      Like 1
    • martin Thank you so much, I'll try your suggestions! 🙂

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  • Three microphone positions with a fixed distance of 60 cm. Height off the floor was 120 cm (to clear the music stand). 

    • First: Centre front
    • Second: 30° to player's right.
    • Third: 30° to player's left
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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Neil Macmillan Hi Neil, fantastic! The differences here are much more subtle, I would say something between first and second sounds good. The third one has a slightly thinner quality!

      Like 1
    • Neil Macmillan I like the second position but perhaps a different angle on the mic could improve it even morel 

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    • Anthony DiMambro Thanks for commenting. The possibilities for experimentation are limitless.

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    • Mladen Milojković
    • Master in Music Performance (guitarist)
    • Mladen_Milojkovic
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    Hi Martin, hi everyone

     I completed my assignments and found that experiment No.2 in the second position sounded the best to me. It gave my guitar a more natural sound. What do you think?

    I didn't adjust the sound levels in the DAW, so it's a little bit quieter.

    Equipment used:

    ·        Mic - Sontronics STC-2

    ·        Interface - Focusrite Scarlet 2i2

    ·        Classical guitar – handmade  by M.Sabljić

    ·        Camera – GoPro 10

    The software used for recording and video editing:

    ·        Reaper DAW

    ·        Premier Pro

    Best regards to all, Mladen

     

    Experiment No.1

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1acYK4GDjM63jvOYEc-4M4Ochp_uOMgcy/view?usp=sharing

    Experiment No.2

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1N93FrgC0l2p9Niv_EtQmA2GpCAGiZuIW/view?usp=sharing

    Experiment No.3

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fw90Z4KPafwm4vki6mQe1dNj4sQmR9uk/view?usp=sharing

    Like 1
    • Mladen Milojković Most of your samples sound very good. I have reservations about the mic behind you and also the farthest distance in Experiment 3.

      You seem to be in a fairly narrow room but you're getting good sound. Your Experiment 1 trials seem to have the mic at a fairly close distance.  So you have a lot of presence without too much room influence, especially in the first position. The corner position was nice.

      Good work!

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Mladen Milojković 

      Thank you so much for participating! 

      Position within the room: Super interesting; it feels like position one sounds a bit muffled and hollowed out, but I can't decide if I prefer position 2 or 3! From experience, position 2, it sounds like you felt perfect there!

      Distance of the Microphone: In a narrow room like this, I would stay closer to the instrument, as so many sound waves bounce all over the place, coloring the sound. It has a bit of this bathroom feeling where one instantly gets the sonic impression of the room!

      The relative position of the microphone: This is SO interesting! Positions 1 and 2 sound dramatically different. At first, I thought, "Hm, position 1 sounds very nice", but the position rendered much more than what I would expect from a guitar. There's much more clarity! 

      Like 1
      • Mladen Milojković
      • Master in Music Performance (guitarist)
      • Mladen_Milojkovic
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Neil Macmillan Thank you very much for your response. I truly value your opinion on this matter. 😁

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      • Mladen Milojković
      • Master in Music Performance (guitarist)
      • Mladen_Milojkovic
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      martin It was a tough decision to choose between positions 1 and 2. Perhaps a combination of both positions with 2 micks or something in between would work. Of course, I will experiment more. Thank you for your thoughts, I appreciate it.

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  • This is really an interesting experiment and I'm surprised at how such minor changes can have a dramatic impact. I do have a question about levels. When I start to introduce some distance between the guitar and mic, it might sound very good to me but my meter shows normal playing sits around -12db or lower unless I start bumping up the gain which introduces a lot of noise (by the way for this I'm using a pair of Rode M5's, a Focusrite 2i2, and Reaper). I was always under the impression that you had to record at the highest levels possible without clipping, so are these lower levels normal for classical guitar? And if so, is there way to increase the volume cleanly in "post"? Thanks for doing this. 

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 1 mth ago
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      Steve Price I know, right?? For CD recordings, it's sometimes just a few inches that change the whole sound!

      For the recording levels, I recommend keeping the peaks between -12db to -6db (unless you have a 32 bit float recorder like a Mix Pre II or the Zoom F2/3/6/8). For exporting, you would want maximum peak levels, but when capturing the sounds, you should absolutely avoid going close to that line because once you clip the audio, it starts to distort. It's a bit like looking (or filming) the sun. It will always be a white spot because the range of the information is too great for the sensors to handle. 

      What you would do: You record at safe gain levels, so that your peaks do not exceed -6db. Then you introduce in a post a few signal processors (for example, equalizers and compressors) and add a touch of artificial reverb if it suits. Then, you would add gain either through normalizing the final product or using a limiter (which is another signal processor at the end of the signal chain).

      I typically try to use as few processors as possible, as each step tends to color the sound a bit. And - of course - when recording a CD, you can't normalize all files to loudness because you want the pieces to make sense in relation to each other! Getting the loudness right is a subtle artform, and the art of mastering is a very specialized field in audio production.

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  • Hi Everyone, Thanks for doing this course. I am always looking at ways to improve. I have been creating Guitar videos for many years now. It seems that every video in regards to camera angles has always been a crap shoot. I haven't found a system yet that works. I would like your feedback and any tips regarding, Camera angles, video editing, Mic placement, and EQ. Currently I have a simple home studio with two cameras, two mics, interface and DAW. Here is a vid I made for the Carcassi Challenge last month but it took me longer to finish then the course was over. I am open to any feedback and/or comments. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/DZdOE6vIVCA

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    • David Trevors Unfortunately, I got a 'Video Unavailable' message when I tried to view. Maybe you need to look at the permissions you set on YouTube.

      Like
    • Neil Macmillan  Try Now I had it set on "private"

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    • David Trevors your video should be set unlisted to work.

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    • Blaise Laflamme should be working now

      Like
    • David Trevors not for me... still says it's private...

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  • Exercise with three microphone distances; approx 20° off to player's RHS in each case. An X-Y stereo pair configuration was used.

    1. 65 cm from instrument; 125 cm from floor
    2. 120 cm from instrument; 125 cm from floor
    3. 160 cm from instrument; 125 cm from floor

    GarageBand Screen captures show EQ and compression settings. A small amount of reverb was used.

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    • Neil Macmillan Very very interesting Neil. That set-up is sounding very good. 👍

      Like 1
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