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PLEASE NOTE: When your tracks are finished, upload the wave file of each track to www.yousendit.com. When they ask you where to send the tracks, use my email address email@example.com.
Get rid of noise sources. Turn off the furnace or air-conditioning when you record. Maybe record in the basement -- it tends to be quiet because it's surrounded by earth and cement blocks. Wait for trains and planes to pass. Seal cracks under doors with towels; maybe cover windows temporarily with plywood sheets. Have an electric guitarist rotate or move around to find a spot where hum stops.
Improve room acoustics. Hang some mattress foam, packing blankets, sleeping bags or comforters on the walls or on mic-stand booms. Put two rolls of fiberglass insulation in each room corner to act as a bass trap. Or buy some pressed fiberglass panels and put two across each corner. One source is www.atsacoustics.com.
Mike fairly close. If you place a mic or stereo recorder too far from the instruments, it will pick up lots of muddy-sounding room acoustics which can't be removed in the mix. Try to stay no farther than 1 foot from each mic.
Use a pop filter on vocal mics. To prevent breath pops, place a hoop-type pop filter a few inches in front of a vocal mic. You can improvise one: try a coat-hanger wire curved like a shepherd's crook, with a nylon stocking stretched over the loop. You might use a foam windscreen as a last resort.
Don't clip the signal. Check the recording levels not only during regular playing, but also during loud accents. Aim for -6 dB maximum level on peak-reading level meters. Some keyboard patches are louder than others -- try all of them when setting levels.
Monitor the recording. Put on headphones and listen to what the mics are picking up. Often you can hear background noises much easier with headphones than without. Play back recordings to check balances between instruments and vocals.
Turn off effects. Some recorder-mixers automatically insert compression or other effects when you record. Make sure they are disabled.
Avoid ground loops. Connect recording equipment, keyboards and instrument amps to the same outlet strips. First make sure that the outlet's circuit breaker can handle the current of all that equipment. With electric bass or synths, use direct boxes between the instrument and the mixer, and flip the ground-lift switch to the position where you monitor the least hum.
Use good mics. Borrow or rent some if you don't have any. A basic mic collection includes a cardioid dynamic mic for guitar amps and drums (like a Shure SM57), a small-diaphragm cardioid condenser mic for cymbals and acoustic instruments, and a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser for vocals.
Minimize leakage. In other words, try to make each mic pick up only its own instrument. To do that, mike close with cardioid or supercardioid mics -- about 8 inches away or less. Record bass and keys direct. Overdub quiet instruments and vocals after recording the loud instruments. You might place the band members in a circle so that adjacent mics aim away from each other.
Solo and export each recorded track starting from time zero. That way, all the tracks should line up when imported into the studio's mixing software. Disable any effects plug-ins when you export the tracks. Export to a 24-bit/44.1K wave file if possible.
Name each track's wave file by the song and instrument. For example, "Road Runner Blues-lead guitar.wav". Or "Soul Spice-high harmony 2nd chorus.wav". That avoids confusion in the mix when it comes time to sort out the tracks.
Use effective mic placement. Refer to articles and books about that topic such as Practical Recording Techniques 6th Edition.
Click here to see suggestions on mic placement.
Suggest that the drummer remove the front head of the kick drum, put a pillow or blanket inside, and use a hard beater to get a tight, snappy beat.