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Interfaces, Microphones & Acoustic Guitars

Transcript
Hello, hope you’re doing marvelously well. Here we are, back with another FAQ Friday, which apparently is Frequently Asked Questions. I did actually have to ask, I didn’t know what it meant.

Please, as ever, subscribe, hit the notification bell down there, and you’ll receive a notification telling you that we have a new video up. Oh, of course, go to Produce Like a Pro and sign up for the email list, you’ll get a whole bunch of drum samples, free multitracks, videos and all kinds of fun stuff. A bunch of free goodies.

So let’s get stuck in. The first question we have might seem really basic to lots of people, but I want to answer it, because I get asked this in fifteen different directions in fifteen different ways, so let’s get to it.

Fantastic question, because it does seem like a very obvious question, because of course, if you have an IO, they come with mic preamps these days. Sometimes they have one, sometimes they have two, sometimes they have eight, sometimes they have more.

And yes, technology is moving fast. It’s moving rapidly. Now, I’m not going to say one of those mic pres on a very inexpensive IO is going to sound exactly the same as your several thousand dollar tube/1073 or whatever, however, it’s going to come pretty darn close. I’ve watched many videos and I’ve read tons of different reviews where people have done blind tests on mic preamps from a few dollars up to thousands of dollars, and in many situations, people have not known the difference.

Now, there’s going to be tons of professionals that are like, “No, sacrilege!” And yes, to a certain extent, we all know that expensive mic pres can add transformer weight, what it’s commonly known as warmth, but we’re going to call it weight, and it’ll give you that thickness.

And we know that tubes in a really nice mic pre can add certain amounts of distortion, which makes things sound more pleasant.

But, what comes in your bog standard, inexpensive IO now is pretty darn remarkable. It is streets ahead of where it was at five or 10 years ago. So your little Audient one or two input or whatever you have is going to sound absolutely fantastic.

So yes, you don’t need to use an external mixer. You might do, if you want to submix. So let’s say you’ve got a drum mix and you’re bouncing it with a pair of headphones on your mixer. You’ve got a four, or an eight, or whatever, up to 24 channel mixer maybe, yes. You’ve got all those mics going, then you might do a two track mix if your IO is only two inputs. Absolutely. Or more importantly, if it’s only four inputs, then you’ll want to go kick, snare, and then maybe stereo drums with the overheads, the room mics, and the toms in it. That’s quite possible, but otherwise, if you’ve got at least an 8 input, you’re going to cover most drum micing situations.

So no, you don’t have to have a mixer. Is it nice to have a mixer with all of those external pres, and EQ and compression and all of that fun stuff? Heck yes! It’s great to have it, but you don’t need to have it. You can now do all of that extra fun stuff inside of the mixer section of your DAW. There’s so many incredible plugins out there that emulate vintage sounds if you want, or just give you incredible reverbs, delays, compressors, all kinds of fun things, the tape emulations, that you don’t have to have a mixer anymore.

No matter how good the piezo pickup is in a bridge, it’s always going to sound different to a microphone.

However, there are actually designs that have small microphones inside of the body, but they tend to point towards the strings, and they do have a really good sound, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing better in my opinion than micing it either with a large diaphragm, say on the 12th or 14th fret, and we’ll put a link here to how to record acoustic guitars, and also, another trick that I love is the small diaphragm on the body.

Now, does that mean that you shouldn’t use a DI? Of course not. Primarily, DIs originally back in ye olden days of the very first Ovations and things like that that had pickups in them were designed specifically for live use, where you could plug in an get a lot more control, less feedback, more importantly, less bleed from other instruments.

Because putting a mic on an acoustic guitar live when the lead singer is moving around like this, you’re going to get tons and tons of bleed. So the DIs predominately were designed for live situations.

However, my good friend Dave Jerden, who did Alice in Chains, and probably more importantly for this instance, the Jane’s Addiction records, all the early really amazing Jane’s Addiction records, would always take the DI out and put it through an amp. He’d run effects pedals, and you’d get the most unique guitar sounds.

Sometimes, when you listen to those albums, and you hear this really incredible arpeggio, and you think, “Wow, that’s so fat! Such a big sound!” That’s because it’s done with an acoustic guitar with heavy strings going through pedals into an amp, and the amp is miked. So there’s many uses for DIs. Also, he’d mic the guitar, and he’d blend. He did it with me when I was playing guitar with him.

He’d blend a recorded acoustic guitar sound with the mic, with the DI going through an amp.

Should you not use a DI to record with? No, of course not, you can use it. Is it going to sound as natural and realistic as a microphone? No, but it can get pretty close. And there’s lots of emulation plugins, there’s lots of emulation stompboxes that can help you.

If this is the way that you want to make music, and more importantly, you want to get an idea down really quickly, just plug it in. If it’s going to take you ten minutes to plug in the mic, and put the headphones on and get it all figured out, and find the right position, and you’re just trying to get an idea down, you know, plugin the DI. Especially if you’re in an environment that’s kind of loud and noisy, because the DI might pickup a little bit of reverberation of the truck driving right past the apartment building, but nowhere near as bad as using a mic on the acoustic guitar.

Don’t rule out using a DI, but if you do have a choice of a nice microphone, it’s going to give you the most natural sound, but DIs have lots of great uses.

This.

[acoustic guitar]

Alright, what is it? It is — we’re not sure, it’s either a late 70’s or early 80’s Yamaha FG200. I had to look inside, because I haven’t looked inside in years. Why am I talking about that? It seems like a really good point to me, because when I’m being asked about what’s the one piece of equipment that I couldn’t live without, I make music. I cowrite with my artists, I play guitar on it, I play different instruments on it, but more importantly, getting away from that, my love of music is about creation. Creativity of music. So if all of this was to go away today and you just left me with the acoustic guitar, I’d be much happier than being left with a microphone, even if it’s $15,000.

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Okay, maybe I could sell that and buy more gear, but you understand my point. Take away the financial value, creativity is king. If it means I can pick up the guitar and write a great song, or practice some riffs, and play along with one of my favorite albums, I mean, all of that stuff, that’s creativity. As much as I love microphones and compressors, and EQs, and amazing plugins, and multieffects and stuff like that, the one and single most important piece of equipment to me is that guitar, because it’s all about creation.

When I’m working with an artist, I’m trying to get in there and get something out of them. I’m trying to get a performance out of them, I’m trying to get a great song out of them. I’m trying to get them to work on incredible parts to go over the song that they’ve written. That old Yamaha acoustic guitar is the one thing I couldn’t live without out of all of these pieces of equipment.

I’ve used quite a few of them over the last few years. You’ve noticed that I’ve used the Scarlett by Focusrite, and I’ve recently been using the Audient. I love them both. I do like the Audient, because I like the mic pres, because they have taken some of their more expensive mic pres and adopted it into the very cheap units. I like that because for me, for recording, I want to turn up at a situation with my laptop and just plug in a mic pre and record.

When I was making an album, I had to go and do a choir, and I just took a two-input and my laptop, and recorded the choir in stereo, and since then, I’ve been in many, many situations, like if I’m traveling, and I want to use a laptop or a one or two input device.

Now, I like the Audient. I think the Focusrite is great as well. There’s RME. There’s — UAD Apollo is obviously a little bit more expensive, but it’s all of these ones. I’m not going to tell you you have to buy one or the other. I believe that these days, everything from a Behringer, the lowest end, the most inexpensive up, right up to like, the most expensive input IO’s you can get, the Apogees, and all of the wonderful things, and the Antelopes, and all of these great companies that makes incredible IO’s. It just comes down to what are the feature sets you want and what can you afford, but frankly, the technology has moved dramatically in the last five or ten years that even the most inexpensive IO’s now all sound good.

There’s been tons of tests that you can see online, you can go and read different things in magazines, and they’re all coming back with it’s amazing how good the quality is in the cheapest of the cheap, cheapest sound cards out there.

So now, it’s about feature set for me. It’s like, what am I going to get? If you’re going to get a little two input, has it got a mic pre that has maybe a little bit of low end boost in it? Some fullness? Has it got some saturation when you drive it? Is there some little features on it that are really cool? That’s where I’m at now.

So if you’re looking at a little two input IO, start thinking about that. What’s the feature set? Because I guarantee you, the digital interfaces now are all of an incredibly high quality. So much better than when I started 20 years ago with this stuff.

So what’s the best one? The one you can afford that has the right feature set for you. That’s my answer.

The answer is yes, just use the USB microphone. The reason why I say that is not that a beautiful U47 vintage one, you know, is not going to sound absolutely amazing and give you warmth and sound beautiful and full, and all of the wonderful things that we like to say about microphones.

The reality is if what you’ve got is a USB microphone, and you’ve got a way to plug it into your laptop via USB and get to make music, that is absolutely fantastic. That is what it’s about for me. Don’t let budget hold you back.

I know I talked about this in my second ever video I ever did, and it was like, the five key ingredients of a home studio, and one of them was don’t let budget hold you back. If you’ve got a USB microphone and you’re going to start making music, then great.

The reality is, with cheap microphones, whether they’d be USB, whether they’d be you know, just traditional microphones with an XLR cable on them, a condenser, a ribbon, a dynamic, it doesn’t matter, some of the issues with the inexpensive microphones is they just won’t take the SPLs. The Sound Pressure Levels.

Meaning, you put it in front of a guy, and he screams, and it might just crap out basically. It might distort quite easily. It might not have sound pressure levels to be able to put on a drum, or a heavy electric guitar. That’s the only real downside with some of the inexpensive microphones that are out there. However, I have seen quality get higher and higher and higher.

As we were talking earlier about interfaces, now microphones are incredibly good at the lower price points. My feeling at about the $300, if you don’t want to go USB, the $300 price range now is crowded with a lot of amazing microphones. As you know, a few weeks ago, I got to use the Lewitt 440 Pure on a vocalist on David from The Workday Release, and it sounded absolutely amazing.

I was completely blown away by that.

Okay, so moving into this, we did recently just finish the vocals for Side by Side, the song we’ve been serializing on YouTube. So here’s a bit of David singing.

[music]

And you can now download those vocal files. So go and download those. You can also get some new guitars. I did some new guitars and I think I may have replayed part of the bass line.

Anyway, it’s all there. Go and download the files and you can mix this song, you can o your own production to it, whatever you’d like. The vocal is here. So go and download it on that link down below.

So thank you ever so much everybody for watching. I hope you had as much fun listening to this as I had doing it. I love these questions. Please leave a bunch of comments and questions below, give us your experience using interfaces and mixers, and USB microphones, this is really good. I love this stuff, because it’s not just for the beginner or the professional, it’s somewhere in between, because as a professional, I travel places, and I have to make music and capture music in many, many different environments that are not recording studios, and as some of the best records ever made were made in people’s houses, in bedrooms, outside, you know, we saw that thing with Eddie Kramer talking about recording acoustic guitars outside. You name it.

Have a wonderful time recording and mixing, please subscribe, hit the notification bell, go to producelikeapro.com, sign up for the email list and get a whole bunch of free stuff, and I’ll see you again very soon.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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