Mixtapes: Recording your DJ sets.
Before recording a mix, it is important you figure out what you will want to do with the mix once it's finished. While it is often easiest to just press 'record' and have a play, the more familiar you are with the recording process the easier it will be to keep your mixes sounding dynamic and professional. While there are tools in which you can make a recording sound more punchy and vibrant, there is no way to increase the quality of poorly recorded audio.
The most common reasons for recording a mix are:
- Professional Mix CD release
- Web mix / podcast
- Promo / demo CD for promoters
- Friends & family
- To critique your own style: listening and learning helps your DJing to grow.
Each of these may require different levels of quality, and the further up the list you go the more polished the recording should be. Even if you are making the CD for yourself, it is always a good idea to aim to get the highest quality possible, sometimes a poorly recorded set can be ego crushing.
When you record audio into a digital environment you end up converting the 'real' analog audio signal into a series of digital information. The process of conversion has limitations and is worthwhile taking the time to understand the process.
Digital recording takes the analog signal and turns this into digital information using an A/D (analog-to-digital) converter. The process scans the incoming signal and turns the smooth analog signal into a series of digital O's and 1's.
Digital recordings uses both sample rates (Hz) and word size (bits). The higher the numbers of each, the higher the quality.
Sample Rate: Anything with a sample rate below 44.1 kHz can be heard of as having a lower quality, although anything above this is not easily recognized by the human ear unless you are using high quality sound systems.
Bit Rate: The jump from 16bits to 24bits can be dramatic. Professional audio engineers now use 24bits, and it is worth while recording at 24 bits if you wish to edit your recording later.
NOTE: If you are giving out compact discs they are only able to handle 16bits, so you will need to convert (or dither) down to 16bits.
RECORDING GAIN & AUDIO QUALITY
Keep the audio at the highest possible quality throughout the entire recording process. Sound editing is destructive in nature, so each step you take in this process will result in a loss of quality. Some steps can cause a distinct loss of quality (ie. converting from a WAV file to an MP3) and should only be done once in a file's life.
DJ equipment: Make sure all your equipment is in good working order before you start to record, there is nothing worse than getting halfway through a good mix and realizing that your needles are dusty or your mixer is crackling.
Leads and Cables: Make sure you are using good quality leads. This may mean using shielded RCA cables, or using new leads for the mix. We recommend keeping all leads away from power sources, other cables or speakers.
Recording volume / Gain Structure:
- Keep your signal as loud as possible, without at any point going redlining or clipping the signal over zero dB into your recording device or soundcard. Redlining your channels can result in distortion or digital clipping.
- Keep an eye on how loud your transitions are, adding two signals together can push the overall volume over into the red, even if each track's peak is under.
- Ensure that you have done a test recording so you know your setup is working without problems.
RECORDING YOUR MIX
There are various ways to record depending on the hardware and software you are using:
SCRATCH LIVE (SL 1, SL 2)
Because the SL 1 and SL 2 only have Left and Right inputs, you will need to use audio program to record as the audio is mixed and blended outside of the software (inside your DJ mixer).
There are several recording programs you can use such as Audacity (free) or Ableton Live (paid, for more advanced options).
You will need:
- SL 1 or SL2
- RCA cables
- USB cable
- computer with line input (unless you have an external soundcard you wish to use)
- Stereo RCA to 3.5mm mini jack cable