recording the theremin

Posted: 8/24/2005 10:51:28 AM

From: gretna, louisiana

Joined: 8/10/2005

this question is not specific to the theremin.
i/m new to getting sound files on the web.
from what i gather one 'needs' to use some sort of interface, either USB or FireWire, that attaches to the computer. one then 'records' the instrument via XLR or
1/4'' cable to the interface and 'voila', a file is on the computer to be uploaded.

which interface should one get, USB or FireWire?
how then are the .mp3 files produced?

i have both laptop and desktop Mac with OSX >= 10.2.

Posted: 8/24/2005 8:16:08 PM

From: Winston-Salem, NC

Joined: 6/30/2005


I just tried it by miking my amp, running it through a (cheap Radio Shack) mixer - my mike has a 1/4 inch plug and I don't have an adapter to take that down to 1/8 inch, but I do have an RCA to 1/8 adapter - to the mic input of my G5 desktop.

I checked the Sound control panel to make sure signal was coming in, then started up GarageBand. I used Real Instrument>No Effects for the track. I need to work on placing the mike for good volume and no hum from the speaker.

You can export the file from GarageBand into iTunes and convert it into an mp3.

I think the newer PBs have line in. If you don't, you can use a Griffin iMic (mike plug to USB adapter). I think the main concern is that you don't overload the computer's mic input with too high a input level. You can also experiment with the mike that came with your desktop (although it's not the best and they stopped giving them away, eventually) - it's made just for your Mac.

There may also be ways to pull the output directy off the instrument, but I think miking the amp gives you the character of the speaker.

Of course, for the best quality, you'll need to look into those nice FW adapters. My suggestion is for someone just starting out who isn't ready to spend $$$ yet. You may get more detailed advice on pro music forums for advanced recording.
Posted: 8/24/2005 9:39:12 PM

Joined: 7/20/2005

I have a really simple solution. I just wired the connection ends of two old sets of headphones together so that I had a wire with two male connections on them, plugged one end into my microphone input on my pc and the other end to my amp output using an adapter. After that, you just start up some recording software and press record. This is an adaptation of a way that I have gotten music off of old cassette tapes and into my computer by using a CD car adaptor in the recording side of a two deck stereo. and how i got my CD player to play through my TV speakers by rigging old headphones and an old RCA cable togetherthis may be the same as what user reccomended, i don't know, i didn't read his suggestion.
Posted: 8/25/2005 4:54:33 PM
Cortex 007

From: Sarasota, Florida

Joined: 2/14/2005

What's the problem??

If you have garage band you can you can use a 1/4 to 1/8 adapter and plug the beast right into your laptop!!
Posted: 8/25/2005 6:08:44 PM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

There are many ways to get the music into your computer.

I use the Inca-88 sound card from Edirol and it works great. It's kind of "outdated" by computer technology standards in that it has a breakout box attached to the sound card with a bunch of 1/4" inputs and outputs.

Mark Of The Unicorn (as well as many other companies) makes an interface that plugs into the USB port and allows you to plug in instruments and mics and what-have-you...

One thing I would look out for is the hot signal that most theremins put out. You don't have any tolerence for clipping in the digital realm so make sure you adjust your levels carefully.

Good luck and let us know how it works...
Posted: 9/19/2005 9:56:25 AM
Marble Field

From: Athens, Greece

Joined: 5/23/2005

Well, micing the amplifier is a choice, but the result depends on the quality of the equipment. That means a high quality (and of course expensive) amplifier, a condenser microphone and a quiet environment (which is the hardest to get in a big city). Plugging the instrument directly on the sound card is in my opinion the safest and usually the best sounding way of recording it. It's also much easier to add acurate effects that way.

PS @ DiggyDog: The "Breakout Box" tactic is not outdated at all. On the contrary, it protects your mic and line inputs from electrical interference from the computer components and from the high temperatures inside your computer.
Posted: 9/19/2005 10:45:10 AM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

Being a recording neophyte, I'm curious. Is it better to play your theremin dry when recording and add effects in the mix-down, or record w/ effects?
Posted: 9/19/2005 3:13:41 PM
Jon B

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 8/11/2005

I think it depends, Jason. If I am just adding some reverb, it's better to record dry and add it later. But sometimes, the effects I add affect how I play; in this situation, I obviously need to hear the effects as I am playing. this is especially true with more experimental compositions.
Posted: 9/20/2005 7:58:30 AM
Marble Field

From: Athens, Greece

Joined: 5/23/2005

On professional recording software suites (like Cubase, Pro Tools etc.) you can easily record dry while playing and monitoring with effects. Recording dry is always the best choice since you can add your software effects afterwards in a reversible way. Even when you're recording via an external effect unit it's always advisable to split your signal with a DI Box and record both the wet and dry versions simultaneously (requiring a sound card with two or more inputs of course. That way you can always save a good performance from a bad effect choice. The routing should look somewhat like this:

|->Dry->1st Input
Theremin->DI Box-
|->Effect Unit->Wet->2nd Input

At least this is what we use in daily studio work for all electric instruments...
Posted: 9/20/2005 8:07:29 AM
Marble Field

From: Athens, Greece

Joined: 5/23/2005

I'm sorry, the routing should be like:

Theremin ---> DI Box <=>
1st DIBox Output---> 1st Comp.Input (Dry Signal)
2nd DIBox Output---> Effect Unit---> 2nd Comp.Input (Wet Signal)

Keep also in mind that even the most impressive effect can cause troubles during the mixdown with other instruments, sounds and effects sometimes and that's why a dry version is always handy if not necessary...

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