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JackJ

Recording equipment--lessons and sessions

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I just sent in my deposit for the Noel Hill Irish Concertina School in Cincinnati this summer--it'll be my first visit.  Back 15 - 20 years ago when I would go to bluegrass/old time music camps (with a guitar) I used a minidisc recorder for the workshops and concerts, but that device died long ago.  I'm currently using an iPhone 7 with the built in mic and the Voice Memos app for recording lessons and tunes I want to learn at local sessions.  It works ok.  Of course the sound isn't great, but I know an external mic could help with that, and there are apps that would no doubt offer lots of advantages over the bare bones Voice Memos.  Storage is an issue, since I don't have much space left on the device, but then it's not too hard to move files to and from cloud storage options.

 

But I'm intrigued by the idea of one of the stereo digital recorders from Zoom, Tascam, etc.  Some of them are not that much more expensive than a good external iOS mic, and with a suitable SD card, storage space wouldn't be an issue.  It would also be nice not to have my phone tied up, and not to worry about battery life.   On the downside, having to cable a standalone recorder to a computer in order to move files would be much less convenient, and I expect it's much harder to edit files (e.g., removing unwanted sections, creating file names) on the device itself, compared to using a touchscreen on a phone.  It's also just one more piece of equipment to deal with.

 

Curious what other folks think about a dedicated recorder vs. a smartphone+mic?   In addition to lessons, workshops, and sessions, I eventually want to try creating multitrack recordings of myself playing different instruments: concertina, flute, whistle, guitar.  I'm not looking for professional quality there, but something I can share without cringing about the sound.  (My playing will give me more than enough to cringe over.)

 

And for those using either type of device, I'm wondering how you mange the files you create.   Do you move them into some sort of digital audio workstation software to clean them up and organize them?  

 

Thanks for any tips!

Edited by JackJ

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I prefer a dedicated recorder - the sound quality is usually much better than using an iPhone.

I use a Roland R-07 for recordings in sessions, workshops, and on-stage.

After recording, I move all my sound files to my laptop (which does a differential backup every day to mitigate data loss).

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I have one. The two mics are very directional. When you connect them to a computer, a combination of key presses turns them into a USB drive and you just move the files as you wish. They only allow you to listen to your recordings in a minimal way directly on the device. You may need some time to find out how to position them to record satisfactorily. I have done a few recordings of groups playing, only to find that some instruments were inaudible. A small recording device with an omnidirectional mic might be better.

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1 hour ago, SteveS said:

I use a Roland R-07 for recordings in sessions, workshops, and on-stage.

 

Thanks for letting me know about this one--I hadn't heard of it until reading your post.  I was pretty enthusiastic reading the specs, since being able to control it remotely from a smartphone app would be really nice at times.  I've also had great experiences with other Roland gear.

 

On the downside, I'm seeing a fair amount of negative reviews from users who've experienced problems with it.  E.g.: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/R07--roland-r-07-stereo-recorder/reviews

 

Have you had any issues with yours?

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Connecting to your computer via a cable is one way, but not the only way of transferring files. You can also remove the SD card and plug it into the SD card reader socket in your computer, which most computers have.

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I went from a minidisc to a Zoom H2n, and thence to a Zoom H4n.  I've used my iphone in emergencies, and that works,  but the dedicated recorder is far superior. An H4n in a reasonably quiet environment, with good mic placement, produces outstanding sound.  I generally record in MP3 format to save disc space; I remove the SD card and load the files into Audacity on my desktop, so I can edit.  For demo recordings and the like, I record in .wav format for better sound.

 

The H4n is very flexible - the built in mics are very good, but you can also use external mics via XLR; the recorder also provides phantom power, so you can use a good condenser mic if you want to ratchet up quality.  But for something like the Noel Hill school, you'll get great recordings using the internal mics.

 

In that kind of environment, you'l want the recorder to be relatively close to the person you're recording to avoid the jabbering of other students, coughs, etc..  What I'd do is let it record in half hour or so chunks, with the recorder close to Noel. And then upload to Audacity, edit and export individual tracks.

 

It sounds like a complicated process, but it's actually pretty easy.

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1 hour ago, JackJ said:

 

Thanks for letting me know about this one--I hadn't heard of it until reading your post.  I was pretty enthusiastic reading the specs, since being able to control it remotely from a smartphone app would be really nice at times.  I've also had great experiences with other Roland gear.

 

On the downside, I'm seeing a fair amount of negative reviews from users who've experienced problems with it.  E.g.: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/R07--roland-r-07-stereo-recorder/reviews

 

Have you had any issues with yours?

I've had no issues with mine - I've had it for more than 1 year and its been fine.

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I have a Tascam DR-05. Simple recording, but good quality input to Audacity, for instance. Very useful for rehearsals with the group!

 

Cheers,

ohn

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Thanks again for all the input here.  After researching lots of options, I felt most comfortable going with something on the cheap end, so just ordered a Zoom H1N on sale for under $100.  I didn't realize these less expensive models could overdub on the device itself, but since they can, this will give me most of the functionality I want, especially since I'm not sure I'll ever want to go so far as purchasing and using external mics. 

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I think you'll like the Zoom H1n.  I'm using a Zoom H4n only because the H1n wasn't available at the time I bought mine.  The H4n has more features than most people will use.  The H1 and H4 have built in speakers.  The H2 doesn't have its own speaker.  The H1n is a convenient size to fit in a shirt pocket.  The H4n is larger and heavier.  I built my concertina cases to fit my H4n alongside the instrument.

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To follow up on my own post:  I've had the Zoom H1N for a couple of days now, and it suits my needs quite well.  Very easy to use, the quality of the recordings is plenty good for my purposes, great small size, and reasonably priced.  My next step is to decide what software I'll use to edit the files I'm creating.  I spend time on outdated iPads, MacBooks, Windows desktops, and a new Chromebook, just grabbing whatever no one else is using around the house.  It'd be easier if I could stick to one OS, but I guess I'll start with Garage Band since it seems like it should have an easy learning curve, and if necessary I can use it on my phone.

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