NOOBS!!!BEFORE POSTING!!~READ THIS!! The Ultimate Newbie FAQ thread


Do it right or dont do it
Following the advice of one fellow here in the forum, I think that I should try to explain how a freaking compressor works with a simple language. Hope you find it interesting. I'm not a pro but I think this will give more light on this tricky subject. Let's start...

Lesson 01

Let me explain it with my own words. Compressor is a signal processor. You can find it in most recording software as well as rack units. A compressor reduces dynamic range. What does it do?

The compressor tames the highest peaks of your sound wave and allows the signal to be louder. Given that the sound waves are more even, your wave sounds more punchy and tight. overuse of compressor kill dynamics and that's the reason you must be careful and not over compress you tracks.


In these example you can see the track after and before being compressed. What you might notice first is that the weird peaks you fin in the original wave are less pronounced in the compressed track. Also notice that the overall gain (volume) of the new track is almost the same. How does it happen? Well, let's analyze my compressor setting.


That's the point where you signal processor start to work. When the signal surpasses -18.0 dB it starts reducing the volume. How much?

That's the reduction you're applying to the portion for the signal that past your threshold. I'm using a 3 to 1 reduction. It means that if I have 3db going past the threshold I'm gonna end with 1db. Any compression stronger than 20:1 is considered limiting.

Attack & release

To put in easy words that's thow fast or slow your compressor active and deactivate. In this example I've used a fast attack and faster release. You can experiment with these knobs. Depending on the kind of source your compressing, these setting could vary (metal kicks benefit from high attack and some cymbals sound better with slow releases)

It's called hard knee compression when the processor kicks in quickly and soft knee compression when it comes gradually as the signal rises. I've used a soft-knee compression to make it sound more natural.

So you reduced the overall level of your track. Now what? Well, you can apply some Gain to increase the volume until the compressed track matches the uncompressed track.

You can hear both examples in here:
Lesson 01

It would be nice of the experts to comment on this subject :D.
The usefulness or not of books is a non-starter of an argument; it completely depends upon the reader. I know people who are actually PROUD of the fact that they are 50 years old and haven't picked up anything more than a TV Guide since high school. I also know people who have 2 or 3 books that they are heavily into simultaneously every day and have been like that virtually every day of the year for the entire adult lives. There are geniuses and idiots in both groups (though there are more idiots in the non-readers ;)).

It's just like the argument about school; it depends upon the student. There are just some people who legitimately just cannot get much out of a teacher/student relationship (which is what you have with a book a well) and *have* to figure things out themselves. There are others who can muddle around on their own for years and not get anywhere unless/until they have someone explain and guide them either through mentorship or through teaching materials.

Most people, including the best people, know how to put the two together. One will never learn about gain structure, Ohm's Law, parametric sweeps, proper acoustic treatment, etc. etc. etc. just by experimenting on their own, and if they do, it'll take them years to trip across an Intro101 principle they shuold have otherwise learned in the first few weeks. OTOH, they'll never *fully* understand parametric sweeps, acoustic treatment, etc. unless/until they do it and hear the results for themselves.

So to the OP: If, of course, you have a history of not getting much out of books, then any book will be a waste of money. If you work well with books, however, then they can be an excellent investment, in which case what I would recommend for starters:

"Critical Listening Skills" by F. Alton Everest
"Practical Pecording Techniques" by Bruce and Jenny Bartlett
"Mixing Audio" by Roey Izhaki
"Understanding Audio" by Daniel Thompson

There are plenty more. Check out out and click on the "Studio Reference Book Catalog" where you can browse relevant book titles broken down into 9 different categories.

But books or no books, jeff is right that they will never replace hands-on experience.

The Ultimate Newbie FAQ thread

Here it is, the answer to every question you have about getting into recording . . . . except there aren't any answers here . . . yet!

I am creating this new sticky thread to accumulate all of the really good answers to common newb questions. We at HR pride ourselves as a welcoming home for the newb, so welcome! Many of our members started out here as newbs themselves. Some might ask, "mshilarious how do you know so much?" The answer is twofold: first, I have you fooled, and second, I have diligently read this forum for the last seven years (didn't register for about a year). Read my posts from 2003, and you will see exactly what I mean!

OK, here's what I need all of the helpful old-timers to do: when you post or read a post that's a really good answer to a common newb question, press the "report post" button (the caution triangle with the ! in it, at the upper right of each post) and ask me to copy that post into this thread. The original post will stay in the thread where it was posted, there will just be a copy here.

Because copied posts appear in a thread in chronological order of original post date, I am only going to move new posts into this thread. Sorry, I know, there is a 10 year knowledge base of old posts I am neglecting, but that's just the way it's gotta be.

This thread will remain locked so only reported posts will be copied into it! Trying to maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio here!

PS Signal-to-noise ratio is the difference (in decibels) between the "nominal" level of a piece of gear (for microphones, that's a 94dBSPL input; for preamps, it's usually either -10dBV "consumer" or +4dBu "pro") and the noise floor of that unit. The unit's maximum level will be higher than nominal level; the difference between nominal level and maximum level is called "headroom". The difference between maximum level and noise floor is "dynamic range", which is thus larger than "signal to noise ratio".

For more on decibels, read these articles:

That is my contribution!
My obligatory standard reply-for-newbies that I keep in Wordpad so this is just a paste (I don't want to re-type this all the time):

First off, immediately get a good beginner recording book (spend $20 before spending hundred$/thousand$) that shows you what you need to get started and how to hook everything up in your studio:
Home Recording for Musicians by Jeff Strong - $15
(Wish I'd had that when I started; would have saved me lots of money and time and grief)
You can also pick up this book in most any Borders or Barnes&Noble in the Music Books section!

Another good one is: Recording Guitar and Bass by Huw Price
(I got my copy at a place called Half-Price Books for $6!!)

And you can get a FREE subscription to TapeOp magazine at

Barnes&Noble or Borders are great places to start --- they have recording books and you can go get a snack or coffee and read them for FREE! Don't pass by a good recording book --- this is a VERY technical hobby and you REALLY want to start a reference library!!!

Good Newbie guides that also explains all the basics and have good tips:

21 Ways To Assemble a Recording Rig:

Also Good Info:

Other recording books:

Still using a built-in soundcard?? Unfortunately, those are made with less than $1 worth of chips for beeps, boops and light gaming (not to mention cheapness for the manufacturer) and NOT quality music production.
#1 Rule of Recording: You MUST replace the built-in soundcard.
Here's a good guide and tested suggestions:

Plenty of software around to record for FREE to start out on:

Audacity: (multi-track with VST support)
Wavosaur: (a stereo audio file editor with VST support)\
Other freebies and shareware:

Another great option is REAPER at (It's $50 but runs for free until you get guilty enough to pay for it...)
I use Reaper and highly reccomend it...

Music Notation and MIDI recording: Melody Assistant ($25) and Harmony Assistant ($80) have the power of $600 notation packages -
Demo you can try on the website.

And you can go out to any Barnes&Noble or Borders and pick up "Computer Music" magazine - they have a full FREE studio suite in every issue's DVD, including sequencers, plugins and tons of audio samples. (November 2006 they gave away a full copy of SamplitudeV8SE worth $150, November 2007-on the racks Dec in the US- they gave away SamplitudeV9SE. It pays to watch 'em for giveaways...)
I'll admit - We (almost collectively) have cute nicknames for some programs - T-Wrecks, HairBall, Blow-Zone, etc.

It's not that the programs are inherently evil (although you can completely screw up a perfectly good mix in almost record time by using such "miracle cures"). Many of those are about marketing - not mastering. Maul-the-band compression (rarely used in mastering), "tube sound" garbage --

Take Ozone - Very cool tool if you know exactly what you're looking for - but so easily abused, and so much rope to hang yourself with, that even experienced engineers can get carried away with it if they're not careful. I know a few guys who use it for dithering, a guy who uses the EQ. I still have no idea what a "Mastering Reverb" is. Then there's T-Racks - They seem to have discovered MS processing (which any decent tracking engineer can tell you all about - It's so secret that 90% of mid/side-mono/stereo-sum/difference processing is done at the tracking level) [/sarcasm]. So know, instead of getting a dozen e-mails every week from people asking me "Is it true that (band X) used multi-band compression on (release x)?!?" Now I get e-mails that say "Is it true that all mastering engineers use mid-side processing every time they pour a cup of coffee?!?"

Start out with a simple parametric EQ and a simple compressor - Then do what the mix tells you to do. If you need such other processing, don't worry - The mix will tell you. If you don't hear what the mix is telling you, you shouldn't be working on it in the first place.

The problem is that if you're working on your own material, in all hope, the mix told you what to do while you were mixing...

In any case, overprocessing is the first (and worst) earmark of Rookiedom. Presets are the quickest route to overprocessing.

Listen, analyze, do. If you know how to listen, it's a very simple concept. If you don't, you can spit into the wind for months trying presets on processors that are doing more damage than good.

(Granted - This is all only about the processing portion of the mastering phase...)
Tweakhead is a good starting place...........

Follow this link. to[/url] cheers!

Just a few are so right about reading stuff at he has some really good advise about tech stuff and also what to buy and not buy.
When in the chain NOT to use compression...

newby here,
I thought it might ought to be mentioned that if you're new to using it, keep in mind it will kill a reverb/delay effect, so it's important not to use it in the chain after reverb/delay is added. It will sound like crap, and if you're using compression for the first time you might think to yourself "wow. i hate compression. I'm never using it again! why does it even exist?" ;)
I apologize if this was mentioned. I didn't see it when I glanced at the posts.
Compression is great for an instrument like acoustic drums to limit transients (spikes) and fatten the sound captured by the mics going into the console. If you're new to compression, this is a good way to hear what a great tool compression is. The signal is pretty unexciting without compression. Once you record drums with compression you'll not want to record without it imho. It makes the drums sound fat and warm in comparison to a non-compressed signal. Other instruments are good with compression, too, and it's sometimes used as a sound effect (listen to the sound of snare on old recordings of the late 60's for instance. you can hear it pump and breathe heavily on some records).
One thing Newbies might need to learn is that, unless your DAW let's you bounce down to an MP3 at a selectable bit rate, then conversion software is needed that allows you to convert other files, like WAV files, to MP3, and that will permit selection of the bit rate, especially 360 bit rate.

It can be difficult to find free software that can do all of that without ever requiring an upgrade, but I did manage to find this one Free MP3 Converter/Encoder

That one works on most older PC operating system, and I got it working on Vista too. It might work in Windows 7 (perhaps using compatibility mode, if necessary) and/or run on Mac using a PC emulator.

Perhaps some others can link similar software designed for Windows 7 or Mac.
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Follow this link. Its going to take a little time to read everything.....BUT I PROMISE YOU WONT BE SORRY!!!!

Tweak's Guide to the Home and Project Studio



Tweakz has some great tutorials and general information.

My contribution to a newbie thread would be this:

Don't confuse Mixers and Audio Interfaces.

Find out the difference before you buy a mixer. You may be very disappointed if you buy something you don't actually need (a hardware mixer) instead of something that you do (a decent audio interface). If you have a DAW then you already have a software mixer that you can operate with a mouse and keyboard. You don't need a plastic box of knobs and sliders to do the job, especially a cheap crappy one. Here's Tweakz on mixers. Note that he says that you probably don't need one. "Even many professionals are mixerless now." (He means no external mixer).

Mixers at Tweakz

In general, learn a bit first, then buy, then keep learning. :)

Good luck and have fun.

If you're looking to have a good read about anything having to do with recording, mixing, or mastering, here is a compiled list of some of the books that other members at Homerecording have found really helpful and informative! (ISBN numbers included when available!) A simple copy and paste should get you where you need to go.

Behind The Glass (0879306149)

The Sound Reinforcement Handbook (0881889008)

Recording on a Budget: How to Make Great Audio Recordings Without Breaking the Bank (0195390423)

Mixing Audio, Second Edition: Concepts, Practices and Tools (0240522222)

Mastering Audio, Second Edition: The art and the science (0240808371)

Guerrilla Home Recording, Second Edition (1423454464)

Critical Listening Skills for Audio Professionals (1598630237)

Acoustics and the Performance of Music (0387095160)

Mixing Secrets for the small studio (0240815807)

Home Recording for Musicians for Dummies (0764516345)

Modern Recording Techniques, Sixth Edition (0240806255)

Thanks to rimisrandma, AL P, soundchaser59, grimtraveller, moresound, Capt Hair, GazEcc, and John Willett for helping to compile this excellent list!
tips to help new recordists

i am a newby of 1.5 years recoding with an 8 channel firewire audio interface. been recording years earlier though. here are a few critical things you need to know/check on when recording and mixing. if someone would have told me these things at first i would have had it much easier. you wont have to wade through 2 hours of posts and maybe still not know whats wrong. some of this may be causing you problems as it was me. i bought a mackie onyx blackbird 8 pre unit. i thought my interface had to be terrible because i was geting what i thought was lousy results when recording and mixing. it wasnt the equipment!
this may be long but take a read this will help a newby.
check these basic things

when recording drums i had multiple phase problems. for instance (and especially) the snare drum. if micing top and bottom there will be phase problems and cancelation. youre snare will sound like crap and will sound non dementional and flat like a wall in the mix. either use an adapter on the xlr cable or change it in the interface software. most interfaces have the feature. the difference is outstanding when you do this. not only is the snare this way, but the other drums have to have attention too. there are several ways to mic a kit so this makes a difference too. i was using two overheads and single mic per drum and top/bottom for snare. i later went to single overhead and single room mic with single per drum and top/bottom for snare. i finaly realized i needed to change phase on the overhead also. this made all the difference in the world. even though it was above the snare and other drums, it makes a difference.

drums sound flat like a wall in the mix?
i added a room condenser mic and added a reverb plug in and carefully mixed it in. now it sounds like you are in the room with the kit. they have a round sound and feel 3 dementional in the mix. thats how i remedied the problem. there are other ways i am sure. this is only a suggestion to help a new recordist get a sound that is not total crap.

most of these posts dont have this information.

guitar micing......
i am not an expert but i can tell you one thing. all these videos and posts that say just place a sm57 in front of the speaker and go to the inside for brightness and outside more for darker sound are good and all, but things are left out. i kept having nightmares getting all the high end out of the track. i had so much of it that you just could not do anything with it. and i dont load my setting up with too much excess high end on the amp settings. i found that the videos and posts leave out that you must cut some of the high frequencies down. for me i adjusted the presence on the amp to 5, i already had treble turned down considerably. this wasnt too bad. the guitar/amp rig still sounds good this way without too much compromise in your playing sound. you will still have to remove some high frequency for sure, but it is much better this way and managable. the mics are really sensative and pick up high frequencies like mad. there are other ways to remedy this but this is what i had to share.

mixing guitar and bass......
i also noticed that i could record a guitar track, copy track, pan both hard left and right, add a delay to one wet only and didnt notice a problem. i changed phase through my software(i can on any track in my DAW), and there was a noticable difference just like the drums. i was shocked. i only copied track, not actually record it with another mic to close. it does make a difference. the guitar sound is much more round and 3 dementional now.

mixing in general......
i also have found that when using EQ you will almost always be removing instead of adding something. i know, i know, you will add to shape the kick sound or not and toms, etc.... but removing something offensive to the mix is 90% of what you will be doing to make it sound good.

300 to 500......
i got a tip from a sound engineer i talked to. i was having horrible drum tracks and couldnt figure out why. i just hadnt learned that you have to get rid of some of the 300 to 500 range of frequency. i wont go into exacts but be certain, you will be getting rid of some of these frequencies to make your kit sound right. these are muddy and they make the track sound muddy. you have to have some, but it has to be shaped and cut right to have a kit that doesnt sound like total crap.

experiment! its how you will learn alot with just some friendly tips from soeone who spent a year finding out this stuff when someone could have posted all this beginner stuff.

recording rate 44khz,48khz,96khz,etc.... 16bit,24 bit?....
i scoured the internet to find one answer at a time it seems. i read some advice from a producer who said to record at the highest bit rate and khz that you can like24 bit, 96khz. the last step is to render the song to the lesser 44khz, 16 bit like for an audio CD or 48khz. so you do everything with the higher settings and render/mix down last to the lower rates.

its a great feeling when you get a little beginner knowledge and your recordings go from crap to sounding halfway decent. and there is so much more to learn. so many techniqes to try. i am only beginning. i hope this helps your recordings.:D
hi there. i cant afford professional quality gear, and i dont really want it either. but i dont want my music to sound like a demo either. if anybody here knows how the strokes sound, well thats sort of how i see my music sounding in general. not amazing studio quality, but good. heres my question:

i think i can acheive this sound with a Cad U1 mic, a ThinkPad T61 (one of the best-processing pc's in the world), and Beats Solo HD headphones. DO I NEED A MIXER/INTERFACE/SOUND CARD???