SILENT RECORDING SOLUTIONS

In this era of recording technology, there are a number of ways to comfortably record that big studio sound right at home. No longer are the days of blowing off the roof of your home, annoying the family and neighbours! There are a few easy ways we can record silently (or near silent), but first we need a brief explanation of the sound information we need to capture; audio vs. MIDI data.


Audio is what you think it is… produce a sound! When you record guitars, bass, and vocals you are recording an audio output. On the other hand, MIDI data does not actually produce any sound. It’s just a digital matrix of notes, including their lengths, their velocity, and when they happen in relation to the beat.


In the case of MIDI, we can plug this information into different VSTs, which can replicate any instrument or sound imaginable. Digital guitar amps are often also called VSTs, but aren’t quite that - these effects processors manipulate audio (in other words, the actual sounds of your strings), whereas actual VSTs synthesize sounds from nothing, or, in the case of drum VSTs, usually sampled recordings of actual drums.



Silent Drum Recording


With drums, it’s definitely best to go the MIDI route if you are trying to record silently. You can also record the midi info out of an electronic drum set if you want that pure human element.


One great benefit in recording with MIDI is that you can simply drag the MIDI note to the correct spot on the time grid for what was intended. Did you hit the note too hard or too soft? Change the velocity. Are you generally sloppy or out of time? Quantize it. Does it now sound too robotic? Most DAWs have a “humanize” function which will add slight rhythmic imperfections, timing and velocity, in order to make it sound more organic.


If you are purely programming drums, you’ll need to take the time to humanize the performance more finely. Sure, you may want a robotically precise drummer for your track in terms of rhythm. But it will still sound objectively unnatural without some variation in velocity. A Drum MIDI Build-a-Groove Library will be *COMING SOON* to help!


Then there’s choosing the software instrument (for instance, a drum sample library) in which to plug your MIDI data. Due to the sheer number of professional products on the market, there’s no one right answer for this. But here are a handful of popular and effective choices.


What You’ll Need

DAW

Drum Sampling Software

Get Good Drums

Steven Slate Drums 5

Superior Drummer 3



Silent Guitar and Bass Recording


With guitar and bass, the audio approach will work better than MIDI. Since we’re aiming for silent recording techniques (or as close as possible), we’ll be recording the DI signal and processing the sound in-the-box. To be specific, recording DI means plugging your guitar or bass cable directly into an interface, so the sound goes straight into the computer’s DAW instead of micing an amplifier.


As for which guitar software to use, you again need to take stock of what sort of sounds you like. For the drums, a sample pack library will be triggered by MIDI data. For guitars, you’ll be using a set of processing plug-ins that will mimic your intended amps and pedals.


Both free and paid plug-ins work well in terms of getting a workable tone. Ignite Amps is a good place to start, and many will graduate to other programs like JST ToneForge, NeuralDSP, or even hardware effects processors like the Kemper Profiler and Fractal Axe FX.


Once again, you can pay for digital guitar amps or go the free route. Like the drum VSTs earlier, the difference in quality is subjective and everyone will come to a different conclusion.


What You’ll Need

Audio Interface

Scarlett 2i2 $150 CAD

DI Box

Radial Passive DI $100 CAD

Radial Active DI $100 CAD

Guitar Effects Processing Software

Ignite Amps

JST ToneForge

NeuralDSP

Fractal Axe FX (hardware)

Kemper Profiler (hardware)

XLR Cables $10 - $20 CAD

Instrument Cables $17 - $36 CAD



Other Silent Recording Solutions


For synth and piano sounds, you simply need a MIDI keyboard with a USB connection into your computer. Then, you have any number of software to purchase and create music. The Kontakt Free Player is a good place to start, as well as Omnisphere 2, which holds literally thousands of presets to choose from.


MIDI Keyboard

Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII $130 CAD

Alesis V49 $170 CAD

USB Cable $7 CAD


An additional way to record bass and guitar silently would be to incorporate a reactive load box into your signal chain. Say you wanted to record with a certain amp head in your possession. A reactive load box would allow you to connect the amp straight into your audio interface by converting the signal down to a safe level. No need to mic up a cabinet!


Reactive Load Boxes

Suhr Reactive Load Box $450 CAD



(Not so) Silent Vocal Recording


For vocals, there is no truly silent method of recording without a booth. Vocalists need to express heavily with the lyrics they write and that can often mean having a lot of volume! However, there are a couple ways we can reduce the amount of noise traveling outside of the room. One way might be your first instinct: putting a vocalist inside a closet. This might seem tight, but if you balance out the space between clothes and recording equipment, you can achieve a fairly isolated and dampened recording space.


There are also vocal isolation shields that can help with the vocal recording, but they are not very effective at keeping the session silent.



These serve as the basics for silent recording solutions you can use at home. With these tips in mind, you can record a full range of songs without having to compromise on volume. No more having to annoy your family and neighbours!


Silent Recording Solutions Checklist

DAW

Audio Interface

Scarlett 2i2

DI Box

Radial Passive DI

Radial Active DI

Drum Sampling Software

Get Good Drums

Steven Slate Drums 5

Superior Drummer 3

Guitar Effects Processing Software

Ignite Amps

JST ToneForge

NeuralDSP

Fractal Axe FX (hardware)

Kemper Profiler (hardware)

Reactive Load Boxes

Suhr Reactive Load Box

XLR Cables

Instrument Cables

USB Cable

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