Computer recording software has made home recording affordable for musicians who want to record their music without the high price tag associated with professional recording studios. When it comes to audio quality, the results can be excellent, but there is a substantial learning curve involved in using the software. There are also compatibility issues involved in syncing the various monitors, hard drives and digital interfaces to the computer system. A convenient alternative to computer-based systems is stand-alone workstations like the Korg D3200. With a little practice, and the aid of a few tips and tricks, this versatile unit allows users to record, edit and mix high-quality recordings all within one device.
With a 32-track machine, keeping track of all of your recorded parts can be a challenge unless you keep an accurate log of everything you record. Making your own simple track sheet in a notebook is one way of doing this, but to really keep things organised, download a track sheet designed especially for the Korg recorder (see Resources). These sheets allow you to add detailed information about each song's tempo and key, and even its bit-rate and the sampling rate used. Sheets are laid out in chart form, so you can make a note of the instrument or vocal that you recorded onto each individual track. When it comes to mixing a song, you'll be able to tell, at a glance, exactly where all recorded parts reside on the recorder.
Always use the built-in drum machine when recording your songs. Even if you don't want to use these drums in your final mix, you should use them to establish and maintain the perfect tempo for your song. If you find a full drum kit too obtrusive, then you can use the metronome setting, which will give you either a click or a simple tapped hi-hat to play along to. This will ensure that your song's tempo remains consistent throughout. This click track will also be useful as a point of reference if you ever wish to take your recorded tracks to another studio for extra editing or programming.
Take advantage of the locator button. The D3200 has 4 locator buttons which can be used to mark different parts of your song. When you assign a locator point to a certain section of the song, pressing this button will instantly take you to that point. If, for example, you're working on the first chorus of a song and you want to experiment with layering harmonies over the lead vocal, setting the first locator button to mark the spot just prior to the chorus will enable you to instantly return to it and rehearse your parts without having to use the "Rewind" button.
Although the D3200 allows you to record and mix 32 tracks, it can only do this in 16-bit mode. If you wish to record in 24-bit mode, you'll be limited to 16 tracks. There are different opinions on the importance of recording at 24-bit versus 16-bit, especially since 16-bit is considered to be CD-quality sound. The main advantage of going the 24-bit route is that 24-bit files allow you more "headroom." That is, you have less chance of digital distortion (clipping), which has a negative impact on your audio quality. It also gives you a lower noise floor, so that increasing levels of 24-bit sound doesn't add as much extra noise to tracks as it would with a 16-bit sound source.
Tracks 1 to 24 of the D3200 feature a 4-band equaliser, and tracks 25 to 32 have a shelving EQ control, which allows for considerable flexibility when shaping the tones of your recorded signals. While these are great tools to experiment with, try to avoid using them too much while you're tracking. Adding frequencies to a recorded sound adds noise to the entire mix, robbing you of valuable headroom. Instead, experiment with microphone placement in order to get the best possible sound from your instruments without adjusting the EQ controls at all, so that you can use them to make final tweaks at the mixdown stage.
Staying in Tune
When recording electric guitars, use the designated high-impedance jack. Labelled "Guitar In," this jack provides you with the capability of recording guitars without external amplification. The guitar signal is also routed to the on-board tuner, so that a simple touch of the "Tuner" button allows you to check and adjust the tuning at any time. Take advantage of this feature to ensure that an otherwise stellar take isn't ruined by an out-of-tune instrument.
Use the Korg's backup feature after each recording session. You can access the "Backup" tab page by pressing the "System" button. There you'll be able to select either the built-in CD-RW drive or an external computer as the destination drive for the data. If you're saving to a computer, you'll need to connect the machine to the Korg via a USB connection; if you're using the CD-RW method, simply insert a blank CD into the drive. Either way, this procedure will save you time and considerable anguish in the event of a malfunction. Not only does this procedure save your performances, it also saves all related mixer and effects settings.