Best Advice For Recording Analog Hardware Synths

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2017/12/15 00:34:05 (permalink)

Best Advice For Recording Analog Hardware Synths

So I recently decided to upgrade my studio with a few hardware synths.   Having never really recorded with hardware I am having difficulty when it comes to committing to audio.  With VST's I may have say a bass sound that sounds great, but then after adding other elements I really, hey maybe the bassline needs to have a different attack or something, so I am able to go right into the VST and alter it.   

With analog hardware gear, once I dial in a setting and hit record, I am committed (unless I never touch the synth and don't change any parameters).  This is especially rough with modular gear.  Never gonna get the same sound twice.
Another stupid thing I did was, I played some of these parts by hand... no MIDI track saved.  I guess I should always record MIDI, then out to the synth and back in....  is that the typical work flow?
Any help in regards to workflow with hardware (and virtual) synths would be very helpful!

Thank You!

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    Re: Best Advice For Recording Analog Hardware Synths 2017/12/15 03:53:42 (permalink)
    You already figured out my #1 tip: always record the MIDI, even if you don't think you'll need it because you're simultaneously recording the audio.
    Another tip: if your synth has S/PDIF, use it. Some of my past synths had noise that had to be manually edited out. Recording them digitally solved that problem. But for a long time I ignored the fact that the option even existed.
    When I was recording all analog synths, I took detailed notes. Something we all used to have to do back in the day. Track sheets to completely document every track assignment, patch cable, compressor setting, and console fader positions. And of course, synth patches. Before programmers came along, I'd spend an hour trying to duplicate a previous patch. Sometimes I'd improve on it, sometimes not, and only once in a great while I'd nail it. "Close enough!" was what I'd repeatedly hear from everyone else in the room.
    The main thing is to let go of your computer-based preconceptions. We are so accustomed to being able to tweak everything down to the individual sample, that we get into the mindset that anything can be fixed later. Fix it in the mix. Fix it in the mastering. Frank Zappa used to joke that they'd "fix it in the shrinkwrap". Meaning you should go for it now rather than deferring decisions. If that means something less than perfection, so be it. Think of your recordings as, well, "recordings" - authentically capturing a live performance in real time. (Of course, Zappa was also famous for being a perfectionist who did not tolerate mistakes by anyone in the band - except him.)
    Honesty: I talk a good talk, but honestly I've been so sucked into the computer world that I don't know if I'd have the stones to go back to that way of recording today!

    All else is in doubt, so this is the truth I cling to. 

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    Re: Best Advice For Recording Analog Hardware Synths 2017/12/15 06:29:29 (permalink)
    Yes, record MIDI, if you can.
    For my Roland JP-8000, Oberheim OB-12 and Novation Nova I don't bother changing and saving presets "on board." Instead, I choose a preset/patch/program and then use MIDI messages within SONAR to get the sound I want. That way, I never have to worry about backing up my hardware. Some Peeps say, "but what if I want to use that sound for another project," and my answer to that is, I never usually use the exact same sound across projects.
    For any projects using my hardware I sometimes start at the second bar and the first bar is used to get all those MIDI messages across, in the right order.
    I also have a Eurorack modular system. This is a different kettle of fish...
    Although I can drive it with MIDI, I do not often bother, preferring to record the audio performance "as-is." I have a Beatstep Pro, which I use to sequence my modular, and I also have a Metropolis sequencer in the rack but I have been frustrated trying to sync them up to SONAR that I will sometimes just go ahead, record the sequence, and then manually drag the audio to match up to other stuff in the project. Doesn't sound great, but it's better, IMO, than faffing with sync'ing up SONAR. Perhaps I need to seek advice on that myself...
    So, yeah, love the modular, and it does take me back to when I had a Juno, SH-101 and Multimoog... Lots of notes, as Dave says, and it was just a matter of making decisions and getting it onto tape. Of course, we can do a lot more now, in terms of recording and post processing.
    As for taking notes, for the modular... I honestly don't bother any more... Once I have used a "patch" I rip out all the wires and start again... Quite liberating in a way...
    All that said, I'm quite lazy and therefore don't use my hardware as much as I should... I need to address that, considering how much I paid for the stuff!
    Okay, not that much help, I know... Good luck with your hardware
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    Re: Best Advice For Recording Analog Hardware Synths 2017/12/15 08:10:28 (permalink)
    Yes by all means recording the midi also is a nice safe back up plan ...
    Since you are now using hardware synths , don't underestimate the power of sending your synths into some pedals , hardware effects , and amplifiers while recording VIA a microphone  .. 
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    Re: Best Advice For Recording Analog Hardware Synths 2017/12/15 09:08:25 (permalink)
    If you are recording midi at the same time as playing the same synth you do not feed that midi back to the synth. Just record the midi and do not echo the input signal back. If yo do the synth will then use twice as many voices and you may get double notes etc...
    However if you are using a controller to play the synth, then you will need to echo the midi signal from the controller into the midi track and then back to the synth. 
    Unless the synth has a single mono output, it is always a good idea to record it in stereo. Especially if the patch is stereo.

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