HOME RECORDING with the BOSS BR series – A STUDIO IN A BOX.
In simple language, by Tony Floyd Kenna.
Boss produce a range of compact Multitrack Digital Recorders, full of magic.
Magic? You say. Yep, you get lots of really good effects, virtual tracks for alternate takes, built in drum machine, cut & paste facility and lots lots more. Plug in your microphone, guitar, keyboard and you are on your way to making a very very acceptable fully finished recording. Once you’ve made a mix there are even pre-set mastering programmes. So, once you master, transfer off and make your play list you can literally drop into your nearest CD factory and order your next album or E.P. But, you say, it can’t be that easy. Of course it can! When it comes to home recording there is far too much technical talk and uninformed comment. If you can sing and play fairly well there is no reason why you can’t get a good result. Sure, it will take a little practice and experimentation, learning by doing.
And, if having produced a great backing track you want to then pop into a studio for the added edge you might get on a vocal, well you can. It takes a little time, but you can download a stereo mix or individual tracks and head off on to Hits Studio Unlimited. Equally if someone sends you a part you can simply convert it to wav format and download it to your machine.
But what if I have a Band? Well, you might need one of the higher spec machines
with more tracks like the BR 1600. 16 tracks and lots of exciting features. If you like to use a lot of mics on a drum kit just run them all in thru’ a sub mixer. Although I believe four tracks on the BR are plenty, and you then have the option of mixing the kit as the mix progresses. Or, record a bunch of drum tracks onto the Br and then sub mix. The possibilities are vast. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon was recorded on 16 track. They didn’t have the unlimited tracking and editing facilities now available in the likes of Studio spec Pro tools. They worked out the arrangements, made basic decisions on sounds and effects at the input stage and
then played as best they could. Some tracks such as Money simply had to have a
‘live’ ensemble backing onto which overdubs could be made. They speed up a bit
from beginning to finish, it suits the song, it sound amazing.
Or, if you don’t actually need to compete with The Dark Side Of The Moon you can just record a gig with the inbuilt microphones!
if you get the positioning right the results are really good.
But, back to basics. A lot of MT members will simply be recording just themselves or maybe one or two others with them, at home. You are going to have to make decisions at the recording stage, sometimes you’ll get it wrong, so what!
Sometimes as the track evolves you might decide that the huge echoey guitar
doesn’t fit, just do it again. Once you’ve got your recorder you can record at your leisure limited only by your own time, imagination and yours and your friends’ ability. The sky really is not the limit. Simplest thing for good sound, separation and mix choices is to record a guide track of you and your main instrument first. Then , re do both the vocal and instrument parts separately. Having done that you can sit back, listen and smile in awe of just how good you sound!
Talking of mixing and playback, what’s best? Whatever works. I personally use a good set of headphones, fairly loud, for final mixdown (although I’ll often do overdubs listening thru’ monitors). With experience I know when what I mix is going to sound equally good on my big stereo, in the car, on my little ipod headphones or even on the computer speakers. Some people prefer a set of monitors. Experiment and find what works for you and your music.
And for those wondering, here’s a little about me. Apart from the songwriting
and playing I worked for several years as a studio engineer/producer back in
the days of tape and razor blades (for editing). We started out with 8 track and then progressed to 24 with a 32 track desk, miles of cables and stacked racks of effects and processors. A lot of the time we didn’t use all the tracks. Just a few tracks played well with passion, feeling and a good vocal can make a great recording.
Any advantages on ‘a studio in a box’ as against pc or mac based software?
Portability, so easy to bring anywhere, anytime. Record your rhythm guitar and
vocal over a drum track (for timing even if not intended for mix) and then head over to your friend to get her to lay down some lead guitar fills. Sounding good? Maybe on over next to a few of those guys in the local choir for some backing vocals… The sky is not the limit. Speed, once you’ve mastered the machine there’s no reason why you can’t record, mix and master a simple track in just a few hours.
Any disadvantages? You’ll need to make more decisions as you record, can take a bit of time to transfer individual song parts to your pc/mac software (if you so desire). Cut & paste not as fine as software based. No problem lifting a chorus, but just a word? not really. Lots of plugin options? No, but do you really them? there is
so much built in. You’ll need to play the parts correctly, in simple terms you’re
not going to be able to shift a slightly out of time guitar strum (on the machine).
Let’s look at a few examples. I have one of the older BR 600s, now superseded by the 800. It has eight tracks (4 seperate and two stereo pairs) plus stereo drum tracks. ‘Heart In A Box’, one of my newest songs was done on it. It has one vocal track, one bass guitar, three rhythm guitars, one lead guitar and stereo drum machine, that’s just 6 tracks plus drums. Any guitar effects were applied during recording, the vocal was recorded dry (no reverb) thru’ the in built compressor. At mix stage pan and reverb were applied and also a little tweaking on the eq. This is the best way to get everything heard in the mix, not volume! During the mix you have to physically pull and push the faders although you can minimise this by deleting unrequired parts of a track and setting the fader to the required mix position.
An example, where the final recording and mix were done in a studio, is ‘Don’t Mean Maybe‘ with Ciaran Brennan. I recorded a live guide of vocal and guitar (over a drum track for timing) in a cafe one evening (portability). Took this home and put down a couple of guitar parts, bass and programmed the drums. I then uploaded all the individual parts on to my pc, ‘cleaned’ up the tracks a little on the free download ‘Wavepad’ and took them on a USB stick to the studio session. The engineer popped them into his pro tools programme, recorded
Ciaran’s final vocals and acoustic guitar with his impressive mics and then we
just mixed the lot, home and studio stuff! This is a hell of a lot quicker, cheaper and more relaxed that arriving in the studio to start from scratch worrying about the mounting bill, musician performances and the pressures of time.
Here’s an example recorded by Wanman on a Boss Br 900 –
performed by Wanman & Floyd.
If you think a ‘studio in a box’ might suit your requirements the best thing to do is to drop into your local equipment store and have a look, ask questions, try one out if possible.
I look forward to hearing some great recordings!
Tony Floyd Kenna.
Roland/Boss link http://www.roland.com/
Link to Ciaran Brennan’s article on the day in the studio – http://musicianstogether.com/magazine/2012/07/11/from-the-bedroom-to-the-studio-ciaran-brennan/