1. How to route the output of your DJ mixer to your computer
If you are familiar with your DJ mixer you probably notice that it has several outputs that can be used for recording. There should be a dedicated record out labeled 'Rec', normally an RCA connection. Alternatively if you are in a studio or bedroom set up and not requiring booth monitors or fold-back, you could use the 'booth' output. The advantage of this is that you will have a separate volume control for your mix on the DJ mixer which can help with setting the signal level.
Next you will need to connect this to your sound-card or audio interface, most computers will have a built in sound card with an input for recording (usually a 3.5mm stereo minijack connection like the one in an iphone) however, this often won't give you the best signal and can add a certain amount of noise (or hiss). For best results it is worth investing in a descent audio interface with at least 2 mono/ 1 stereo line inputs. The interface I am using here is the M-Audio Fast track pro.
Connect the output of your DJ mixer directly to line inputs 1 and 2 of your interface.
2. Make sure your interface is set up correctly
You will now need to check that your signal is being routed into your software correctly. This can be done in your softwares audio preferences, simply make sure your audio input device is the device that you have connected your DJ mixer to your computer with..
input settings can be found at the top of the main window.
menu like in most other D.A.W's
Note: If using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Logic X or Ableton, you will also need to assign the inputs (1 and 2) on your audio track.
3. Setting the levels
The most important thing to keep in mind when recording audio is that your signal must not clip as this will result in a distorted signal, this means your level must not exceed 0db on your softwares input level meter.
Notice the top of the peaks have been 'clipped' off.
However it is also important to realise that if your recording is too quiet, it will need a lot of gain to increase the volume in the mastering stage and any noise (or hiss) picked up in the recording process will also be increased. So with that in mind, if your audio is peaking at around -9db to -6db this should leave you enough head room and give you good results. This is covered in a lot more depth on all of our courses.
You are now ready to record your mix !
4. Editing your mixUse your audio editors features to strip away any silence from the beginning and end of your recording and insert one second on each side of 'digital silence'. This will eliminate any noise or 'hiss' and can be done in the functions of even the most basic audio editors (for example Audacity)
You will probably notice some parts of the mix are much louder than others, this is due to use of EQ, effects and simply a boost in gain when more than one track is playing. Automation of your volume can be used here to tame those peaks in your mix along with some compression that we will look at later.
We will tame these peaks further at a later stage.
5. Mastering your recordingThe reason we master the audio is ensure the recording will sound good when played on any system whether it be in your car, at home on a hifi or on a laptop etc.. As all recordings are slightly different, we need to make sure they sound consistent when played next to other mixes or tracks in your song library. However, all the songs in your mix should already be professionally mastered so we don't need to change anything to drastically. The main thing we need to do is get the volume up as much as we can whilst also avoiding clipping, in addition we will need to bring down any peaks and bring up any parts that are too quiet to level the recording out.
There are a few things you will need for this:
Paragraphic EQ - Your recording software should have an EQ but if not,
the free Mequalizer by Medla productions can be installed and used in Audacity.
Compressor – Mcompressor by Medla Productions is a free compressor
that will do the job.
Limiter – Loudmax by Thomas Mundt is very good for this job and also free.
Although this may sound fairly simple, mastering the art of compression is one of the hardest parts of mixing and mastering for a beginner. There are a lot of parameters and types of compressor to take in to consideration, so for this reason, we won't be going in to too much depth in this tutorial but compression is covered in far more depth on all of courses at AAI.
For now, I am going to give you some basic settings:
Ratio - You need a fairly low ratio, something between 1.5:1 and 2:1 will work well. This is the amount of gain reduction that is going to be applied when the signal exceeds the threshold. For example, if the ratio is set at 2:1 and the signal exceeds the threshold by 2db, it will be reduced so it only ends up exceeding by 1db. If the ratio is set to 5:1, the signal will need to cross the threshold by 6db to get an increase of 1 db. So basically, the higher the ratio, the heavier the amount of compression.
Attack and release - The attack is the time it takes before the compressor starts to work, this is measured in ms (milliseconds). For mastering, we generally want a slow attack time, so around 20-30ms will give good results here. For the release (time it takes the compressor to stop working), you will need to set it to 200ms or if you can, put it on 'auto'.
Threshold - We only want to apply a small amount of compression here, so the threshold will need to be brought down until you see only a small amount of gain reduction.