I'm writing this article while on the road in Lynchburg, Virginia. I've been here for the last few days writing songs for an album that I'll be producing later in the year. I love to travel, but I also love my home studio. Writing at home is convenient because I have my instruments, my microphones, my gear, etc... Because of modern technology, even when traveling I am able to carry a mobile recording setup that is capable of getting amazing results. This article is going to focus on building your mobile rig! Pack your bags. Here we go!!!!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
Your mobile rig can be as simple or as advanced as you want to make it. If you've poked around the Woodwind & Brasswind website you already know that you could spend millions of dollars on gear. For our purposes here I'm going to recommend gear that packs a punch at a low to moderate price point. After all, we want to get you in the game NOW! The music industry is mobile and you should be too!
Your mobile rig will consist of the following:
– DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
– Microphone Stand
– Audio Interface
– Cables and Accessories
– Carrying Case
My rig is built around my specific needs and yours should suit your needs too. For me, my setup is geared towards songwriting, recording vocals, acoustic guitar and trumpet and audio editing. I am a mac user so my rig is based on a 13" Macbook Pro which is fully capable of running sessions full of tracks and plugins. Your choice in laptop is up to you. We'll not spend time talking about computers... on to audio!
The debate over which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) reigns supreme is just about as passion as the debate between Mac or PC. At the end of the day, it's all about personal preference and finding out which software works best for you. You should try them on for size and find out.
I have been working on Pro Tools since I began working in music. I am glad I did. I think Pro Tools is a fantastic piece of software. For those of us who work more heavily with audio than midi, Pro Tools is especially powerful. PT's editing capabilities are unmatched. I have also spent a great deal of time in Logic which excels at midi and software instruments. Other DAW's like Digital Performer and Cubase have great strengths and should be considered as well.
If we were choosing gear for a home studio I would tell you that choosing a good pair of references monitors would be your most important decision. You gotta hear, right? Since we are trading a studio space for a hotel room, your studio monitors are now your headphones! Buy a quality pair of headphones. You must be able to discern what you are recording. Here are a few great options!
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro - I use these headphones and I love them. Great low end and smooth highs... I don't get fatigued very easily with these headphones.
Sennheiser HD280 - In the last few years these headphones have become very popular. A great pair of headphones. Though not my main phones, I have a few pairs of these in my studio
Sony MDR-7509HD - Another great headphone choice. Legendary producer, Phil Ramone carries a pair of these everywhere he goes.
For the road I would choose a durable moderately priced microphone to have with you at all times. I might even recommend it NOT be a tube microphone so you don't have to worry about power supplies and extra cables. A large diaphragm condenser microphone like an Audio Techica 4050 or an ADK Hamburg II-AU would be a great choice!
I won't say much more since I've covered this topic a different article about how to choose a microphone for horn players. Take a look at that piece for some help and advice on choosing a great mic.
Your microphone will need a stand. If you are a wind player I recommend something like the Hercules MS300B microphone stand. It is short, compact and would sit easily on a desk or table. If you are a vocalist and need a full microphone stand you may need to get creative and be sure you have a way to pack a normal microphone stand in your luggage. K&M's Tripod Microphone Stand with Boom Arm would be an excellent choice.
You may feel like you have a million options when looking at mobile interfaces. That's probably because you kind of do. There are a LOT of good interfaces on the market. Because of this, I think you can get a great one with GREAT sounding preamps for a relatively low cost.
The things to consider when choosing an interface are...
– The number of the preamps - I recommend having at least 2 quality preamps so you can handle stereo mic'ing if you ever decide to do so.
– The quality of the preamps - The goal is a clean and accurate preamp that accurately translates the character of the source.
– The quality of the A/D converters - Your converters "convert" the analog sound to digital code so that it can be processed by your computer. MOST current respected interfaces should have a decent set of converters.
Here are a few interfaces that rise to the top and are compatible with most major DAWs.
PRESONUS FIRESTUDIO MOBILE - Presonus has made a wonderful name for themselves offering gear designed with the user in mind. It seems that their products are always well thought out and very useful, even at their extremely low price point. This interface offers 2 clean sounding preamps, nice converters and comes with a lite version of Presonus' recording software, Studio One.
APOGEE DUET - This is a sleek and stylish Fireware powered interface with 2 preamps and an easy to use design. Apogee is known for their converters and this unit sports some great ones. This is a great unit.
FOCUSRITE SAFFIRE PRO 24 - Where Apogee is known for their converters, Focusrite is known for their preamps. This is a really nice Firewire interface with 4 great preamps!
Lastly, I recommend keeping your rig in one place, nice and tidy, and ready to go when you've forgotten to pack and are rushing to get out the door! You don't HAVE to do this, but if you forget your microphone cable or your interface please don't blame me! I told you so, right?
M-Audio Portable Studio Backpack - This is a great case for carrying your gear. I found out about this bag while on the road with my friend Justin Carpenter, who plays keys for Plumb. He carries his rig in this bag and really loves it.
Mono EFX Series Bags - I have to be honest. I think Mono Case makes the coolest bags and accessories on the planet. Super cool and stylish. Anything from their EFX line is designed to house your gear and a lot of personal stuff too. I particularly love the "Producer" bag.
The only other things you'll need to create your rig would be any necessary cables (Firewire, Microphone Cables, etc), and perhaps a few hard drives (yes, a few. Back up your work EVERY DAY!). With a mobile recording rig like this you should be able to record great tracks on the road. Who knows, maybe your first Grammy will be recorded in a hotel room!!! If in fact that actually were to happen and you bought your rig because of this article, be sure to email me and let me know. I'll think that's pretty cool!