Recording an Electric Violin

Though the basic equipment used for processing and manipulating the sound is pretty much the same, as when performing live, you do need some additional equipment for actually ‘registering’ your music.

When you are on a tight budget may think about how to split your resources between sound manipulation, processing and amplification equipment and the actual recording gear such as microphones, recorders and mixing boards.

Computer based or stand-alone

Nowadays most people record directly on a computers harddrive. This is a good and affordable option if you own a reasonably recent computer.

Alternatively, there are a number of standalone digital multitrack devices on the market today. They are worth considering, especially if you prefer not to be dependent on a computer, if you want to be mobile (though laptop recording is nowadays a great option as well), or if you don’t own a decent computer.

Analog options are a bit outdated, though playing around with analog recorders can be great fun and may yield excellent results. High-end digital recording is now more affordable to anyone than ever before.

Audio interfaces

If you want to start recording using your PC, the most important purchase you have to make is the audio interface.

This is a unit, either in the shape of an external box or built-in in the computer as a soundcard, that converts the analog electric sound waves to a digital signal that can be streamed directly to a harddisk. A number of parameters determine the price of the audio interface.

Sampling frequency starts at 44 kHz and goes op to 96 or 192 kHz, though often 44 kHz is enough for professional quality recording.

The bit depth determines the dynamic range: 24 bit is recommended (16 bit is cd quality, but it is better to have some headroom left in the early stages of recording).

The number of channels is an other factor: do you want to record multiple instruments simultaneously? Most units have at least two channels.

Even if you record only one electric violin simultaneously, it is always nice to have at least two channels: you may want to record the dry / clean signal in one channel, while recording the signal picked up by a microphone in front of an amplifier cabinet on a second channel.

This will later give you far more flexibility in the mix. Other features are theinterface type: is it connected through firewire, USB or PCI? How fast is it?

An important question is whether you need built-in preamps: the line level signal of an instrument or microphone is generally too low for direct recording.

You need some type of preamp, preferably of a good quality, that amplifies your violin signal in a transparant way.

Many audio interfaces have preamps built in, this is nice if their quality is good. Check out our preamp section for more information.

When you record onto a computer, the mixdown of all recorded signals is usually done by some sort of dedicated software.

Well known options are Adobe Audition, at the more professional level Steinberg Cubase, Cakewalk Sonar, Logic Audio (Mac only) and Digidesign Protools. This software has many features and you may need a bit of time learning to use them.

However you will get virtually unlimited possibilities that transform your PC into a high end recording studio.

Similar thoughts apply for the standalone units, however the mixing then is usually done with in the unit itself, and possibilities are a bit more clearly defined (at least they should be).

Additional requirements

Besides the actual recording unit, some additional tools are generally recommended. For proper mixing and evaluation of the sound, you need a pair of good monitor speakers.

Both passive speakers are available, for which you need an external amplifier, or active monitors, with a dedicated and optimized amplifier built-in.

Strictly for recording purposes you can also use some good headphones such as Sennheiser, Behringer or AKG, but this is far from optimal.