Best Practices for Recording Line Level Instruments

I could (and will) google this on my own, but wanted to hear from my favorite forum on the topic of best practices for recording line level instruments like drum machines and synthesizers.

I am attempting to record basic loops and riffs to arrange and mix in my DAW.

All I know is to attempt to get a good, loud recording (with in reason) with as little noise as possible.

Am I correct? What else do I need to know or watch out for? My pre amps are nothing special focusrite Scarlett.

I’d use cables.

It should work.

That’s about the crux of it, but don’t be too obsessed about noise. Sometimes it’s going to happen and nothing can be done about it: example MS20 through an MD2; quite a lot of noise even when it’s not playing. You can always take out that noise in your DAW, but sometimes that will mess with the character of the instrument itself. Most the time the noise will disappear into the background providing you don’t have any really quite sections, but then you can always automate the volume in those bits to make it quieter.

When I first starter with hardware I used to record direct into a DAW, but after discussing this on an old forum that I was a member of, it was suggested to me, by someone who had a lot more experience than I to record into a digital recorder and then import the waves into the DAW. Can’t remember now why he suggested it, but I remember him saying that was how he worked. When I got my recorder, I ended up getting the R8, so I ended up forgoing the DAW altogether. Now most of the time I’m recording everything at the same time, so it’s more about having the mix right before I hit record. When I’m recording for myself it’s a matter of getting the best sound without clipping, but if it is for a forum release then I dial it back.

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While back I remember reading this thing by Steve albini and how he experimentally used microphones…basically he used a bunch taping them to floor the ceiling the walls and in proximity to the instrument itself in his studio space…but I assume you are on a budget…so…yea…i assume that if you have artifacts you could sample them and maybe phase cancel them out like how you isolate vocals or whatever from pop song when you remix…

I just do decent gainstaging, yeah. You could leave a handle at the start of every track to use as a noise print. And then with something like Edison in FL Studio or Izotope RX, you give it the noise print and they’ll do a pretty good job of getting rid of it. TBH, I have a Scarlett and the noise isn’t enough to bother me as soon as I have pretty much any sound over it. And I run everything through a tape sim on the master anyways, so a little noise isn’t going to bother me.

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Cool, yea I’m honestly not that worried about noise. I’ve not really used my Scarlett to record much yet, with their popularity I couldn’t imagine they’d be all that noisy and none of my instruments should be either.

Thanks for all the insight so far everyone.

@White_Noise pegged it. It’s all about gain staging. In a perfect world, you shouldn’t have to turn anything in your chain up past half way (that is, unless you’ve got a Neve 500 series that sounds bonkers when pushed, or whatever). It’s easy to add crud in later, much harder to take it out. Keeping your levels reasonable all the way through can really cut down on noise.

I can’t remember what all equipment you have on hand, but if you’ve got an amp and a mic, you might try some “live reamping” - playing whatever through the line out into the amp, and then capturing the sound of the room along with what you’re playing. It’s a pretty simple bit of routing that can really add some flavor to recordings (drums in the bathroom ftw).

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Right on. I just have a Scarlett 2i2 or something right now (it has two multi-jack pre-amp inputs and MIDI). So defo won’t be pushing that : ) And yea, I’m all about adding the crud myself. I want a nice clean recording.

I don’t have any kind of amp, but I do have a microphone I can use for that live reamping idea. Maybe something for the future : ) I’ve played with the idea before using various speakings and a microphone. Don’t remember if I ever got anything usable.

Having read many sophisticated posts from you before, Ill be surprised if you dont know this, but Ill add it just in case anyone stumbles upon this thread…

Right, gain stage properly.
But before that, one thing a lot of people dont know, in part because there is real inconsistency by manufacturers , is whether the line level outputs have ts or trs cables. Trs can save you some noise on some units if available.

Your Focusrite of course will take either.

Another noise contributor is dirty power. I have mostly had this live but it is an issue in spots that were not renovated in the 100 year old house I live in. They are all grounded, I checked, but there is just micro fluctuations. A Furman power supply meant for this helps.

Once you have noise low enough, you can just not spend too much time worrying about levels, digital has so much headroom. I aim for anywhere from -20 to -6 depending on how transienty the content is. Bit I dont spend a lot if time on the front end worrying about it like I did with analog or still do with my hardware peripherals

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This is great. Thanks. Ive honestly ignored cable type even though I know better. I do have a power conditioner bc we love in a pretty old house.

Like some other recent topics it is good to build up some basics to archive :slight_smile: Good info in your post.