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Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook

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Lina Ma
Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 11:44:09 am

Hi, I'm trying to choose a microphone for my boyfriend who has been recording only via the inbuilt mic and iMovie on his MacBook Pro. He has strong loud vocals and usually record while playing the piano himself or recording separate tracks on GarageBand using usb plug-in keyboard (on headphones so no bleeding). The only problem with the keyboard is that the inbuilt mic would pick up on the sound of his fingers playing the keyboard.

I was initially looking at usb mics, specifically the Blue Yeti, but I was concerned that most of these usb mics are condenser mics for studio recording and might be too sensitive for a normal room with potential background noise? So I started checking out the Shure SM58 dynamic mic which I would need an XLR-to-USB adapter, was thinking of just getting the Shure X2U.

Right now, he would be more interested in recording over the piano so I would think he requires something that can pick up both the piano and vocals evenly. What would be your recommendation?

Also, would it be alright to place the mic on the piano itself (it's a baby grand) while he sings into it? Does he need to be 'eating' the mic as I've read elsewhere? Currently, he just puts the MacBook Pro on the piano and records video while he sings.

Thanks. Look forward to your feedback!

LinA


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Ty Ford
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 4:48:49 pm

Hello Lina and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

I suggest the Mic Pro Pro from Centrance. http://www.centrance.com/products/mp/

and this mic: http://www.pssl.com/MXL-SP1-Condenser-Studio-Microphone-With-Clip

1. Yes, he needs to work it closely; about six inches away.
2. Yes the room may be a factor. But it depends on what his goal is.
3. I'm confused. Is he playing piano or a keyboard?
4. My MacBook allows two USB inputs and I have recorded mic and MIDI keyboard simultaneously.

Recording audio well requires a certain skill level. It can be learned. As he may have found, successful recording are not plug and play.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide





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Lina Ma
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 5:07:04 pm

Hi,

Thanks for your quick reply! I'm kind of excited to get it ASAP so this is great.

He plays piano when he's at home but he's still at college, so he only has a keyboard there. I think it's a MIDI, its from the Apple Store. He has recorded with the keyboard on separate tracks for GarageBand before. Now he's recording while playing the piano so he uses iMovie to upload to YouTube.

The MicPort Pro is quite expensive. Is there much difference between that and the Shure X2U or Blue Icicle?
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001PPXFAG/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_3?pf_rd_p=1...

So I should still get him a condenser and not a dynamic mic? I was deciding between the Blue Yeti and the Shure SM58 before. How do they compare with the one you recommended? The Blue Yeti was attractive to me because it seems convenient. I would need to get a stand for the Shure or the MXL though the MXL price is very attractive right now.


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Jordan Wolf
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 5:05:21 pm

Lina,

What is your budget?

Wolf
<><


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Lina Ma
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 5:08:40 pm

Possibly below $200 for the whole set up - minus the stand I guess. As in either for a USB mic, or a mic + USB adapter.


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Jordan Wolf
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 10:46:07 pm

I have had great success with the Audio-Technica 3035. It's discontinued, but can usually be found for between $80 and $130. Sites like Sweetwater's Trading Post and eBay's Pro Audio Equipment section are great places to look.

Make sure to get pictures of the actual item(s) and insure your shipment. Use Paypal or money order to pay, if buying used, and make sure to find out what the return policy is.

Wolf
<><


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Jean-Christophe Boulay
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 5:23:20 pm

Hi Lina,

From what you describe, your initial hunch of looking at USB mics seems to me to be the right one. Other microphones would require a mic preamplifier, to amplify the mic signal to usable levels, and a computer sound interface, to bring the output of the preamp into the computer. The Shure X2U regroups the two. A USB mic basically has all this built in. Since the internal components are tailored to the particular mic, you get better sound quality for an equal economic investment, at the expense of versatility. For an investment similar to an SM58 and an X2U, you can get a USB mic that might well sound better. Don't get me wrong, the SM58 is an institution in audio, but not for its sound quality. It's a mic you can drop, step on, scream into, spit into, mix drinks with, hurl down stairs, roll over with your car... you get the picture. It is a tank, and you're looking for a family sedan.

To record voice, the vast majority of engineers prefer condenser microphones. They have greater sensibility and will pick up nuances that a dynamic mic of the same category might not. Your concern about picking up unwanted signals is entirely legitimate, though. This will be addressed with the polar pattern of the mic. The polar pattern basically describes how much sound the microphone will pick up from various directions. The word you're looking for in features is "cardioid", which is a pattern that picks up the signal from the front of the microphone while minimizing how much sound it picks up from the back of the mic. Sound bleeding into the mic is inevitable, but the voice will mask all of that while there is signing to be recorded. The silent parts can be edited out.

For positioning, I'm really not a fan of eating the mic for singing. It boosts low frequencies are gives people that "OMG! Listen to my voice!" feeling, but sounds too shut in, in my opinion. Sound, especially musical sound, needs a little space to develop before being captured. The mic should be at least 6 inches away. It should be less than about two feet away, though, as you're really asking for trouble over that. When you're eating the mic, your head has to stay perfectly still while recording, which is hard when playing the piano with any kind of expression happening. Placing the mic on the piano should work, but there is the possibility of the vibrations of the piano's body being communicated to the mic through the stand. If that happens, a small folded blanket or pillow between the mic and piano would decouple them and get rid of the problem. You can also get a decent mic stand for around 40$, which will give you pretty much endless flexibility in mic position. A pop-filter could also be a good buy, to tame the "p", "b" and "t" sounds. The new mic itself will be a big improvement on the current setup, so you can build up as you find the weaknesses in the new setup.

I'm not in a position to comfortably recommend particular models you should be looking at, as my mic investments usually entail a visit to my banker, but BLUE, AKG, Audio-Technica and Shure are all companies with good reputations that make USB mics. I hear good things about the Audio-Technica AT2020 USB.

IHTH. Good luck in your hunt. If any of my incomprehensible tech-jargon has filtered in here, just raise a flag.

JC Boulay
Technical Director
Audio Z
Montreal, Canada
http://www.audioz.com


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Lina Ma
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 5:33:39 pm

Thanks, JC. That was a very informative reply!

OK I think I should settle for a USB mic then since it should be sufficient. Am worried that he might get frustrated by all the contraptions and possibly lose the adapter too! Can consider an equipment upgrade in the future.

I might get the Blue Yeti but I'm not entirely sure if that might be too advanced for him because of all the settings! I've heard AT2020 is great too but seems like a lot of people online has complained about it regarding latency problems. I'm not sure if he would find that an issue since he tends to record the whole song before playing back. But I thought I want to get the best possible with what I can afford right now, right?


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Ty Ford
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Jan 26, 2011 at 5:46:30 pm

Lina,

which is why i said the MicPro Pro. It has a headphone jack. Much lower latency.

and he can use any mic in the future he wants to.

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide





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owen gibbins
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Feb 9, 2011 at 2:40:56 pm

Hi,

I suggest one of these:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170599154893#vi-content

And one of these:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/stupid?src=3GADN

$100 setup. That gives him leway for the future where he can buy another mic suitable for the piano. peeps usually use two so to get best live piano results, so he can record piano first then track the vocal over it.

He can also plug the keyboard into the other input to record the onboard sounds. Or use it midi mode to trigger a midi track. thats if he wants to do both vox and keys live etc.

The Maudio software will probably come with half decent midi piano samples. (they usually come with basic VST instruments)

So the cheapest/fastest option would be to record the vocals with the mic I suggested, and use his keyboard to trigger a VST instrument.


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Satpal Chander
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Feb 23, 2011 at 3:03:12 pm

Hi,
I'm really interested in this as we currently have M-Audio PreUSB connected to our MacbookPro 13, with a Shure SM58 mic. The problem is that the audio level that comes through to Garageband is Really low. We had the same problem when we used the PreUSB on out windows laptop. I'm a little dissapointed as when you increase the volume of the recording it introduces noise(hiss).

I have been looking at the recommendations mentioned here. I was thinking about getting an apogee one
and resuing our sm58 or would the quality of a condenser mic be that much better that we should just buy a condenser usb mic, as we'll just be doing vocal recordings.

Regards
Satpal


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owen gibbins
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Feb 23, 2011 at 3:44:45 pm

It sounds like you have a levels problem, not a hardware problem. What you have is perfect for recording vocals. I personally love the sounds of an SM58 for vocals.

You should go to a garageband forum to ask about selecting inputs, adjusting the levels etc.


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owen gibbins
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Feb 23, 2011 at 3:51:06 pm

Also things to consider:

Faulty cable (doubt it)
Drivers (possible)
Obvious but you never know: You are cranking the gain controls etc on the M-Audio Pre?
Mic broke (doubt it)

Plug headphones into the front of the pre and see if it is still quiet after tweaking the gain knobs etc while talking into the mic.

You don't need phantom power for an SM58


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Satpal Chander
Re: Mic for Beginner Vocals+Piano Recording to MacBook
on Feb 24, 2011 at 6:58:43 am

Hi Folks,
Thanks for the super quick replies. I will head over the garageband forum and pose the question on there.
In the mean time I will also check the level using headphones whilst playing with the gain.

Was having a play last night i couldn't believe how loud the internal mic on the mbp recorded audio, compared to the sm58 threw preusb.

Thanks Again
Satpal


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