The Easiest Way to Record Your Synth (And Other Electronic Recording Tips) | Reverb


– What’s up everybody? Justin DeLay here at Reverb. We just built a brand new studio and we can record just
about everything here. Except for maybe an orchestra. But, today we are going to zoom in and focus on just recording
a single synthesizer. (synth music) So, today we’re gonna
focus on the simplest ways to record synthesizers. So, what are we gonna need? Well, first you’re gonna
need a synthesizer. Today we have the Korg Minilogue. One of the most popular
synthesizers on Reverb. We’re gonna jam on this one today and then, of course,
something to record into. Now, these days, most folks
are using computers to record. You can always pick up
and old Tascam 4-track, if that’s your vibe. But today we’re gonna focus
on recording into a computer. So, you’ve got a synth, you’re gonna record into your computer, the last step in the chain
is an audio interface. Audio interfaces come in
a wide range of sizes, the more affordable ones usually have less simultaneous inputs, meaning how many things you
can record at the same time. Today we’re using the Apollo Twin, which has two inputs, which is perfect for a setup like this. (synth music) You got your synth, you
got your audio interface, the last step is using
some recording software on your computer. Today, we’re using GarageBand, which is free and
pre-installed on Mac computers. So if you’re an Apple user, you can just open up GarageBand
and follow right along. If you’re a Windows user,
there’s a whole wide range of really affordable
options available to you. So, the absolute simplest way to record your synthesizer is this. We’re gonna take the
output from our synth, we’re gonna plug a quarter
inch cable into the output. That cable is going to come around and we’re gonna plug
into one of the inputs on our audio interface. One quick note: The output
and the headphone output are two different things. If you’re recording, plug into the output, not the headphone output. Audio comes out of the synth,
into the audio interface, and then the last
connection you have to make is from the audio
interface to the computer. Take the Thunderbolt or the USB, if that’s what you’re using,
out from your audio interface. Into a free input on your
computer and that’s it! (synth music) Okay, so the next step: Synth, to audio interface, audio interface to computer,
is to open your DAW. We’re using GarageBand today
and what we’re gonna do is, we’re gonna go into our music program. Now, if you are just setting everything up for the first time, you may
have to, within your DAW, go into the preferences,
select your audio interface as your input and output. After you have selected
your audio interface, you should be good to go, you
should be able to leave that. The last step then, is to
actually create a track within your music software,
assign it to the input that you have your
instrument plugged into. In this case, we are
plugging into input one, input one corresponds
over here on the computer. We create that track, we give it a name like Korg Minilogue. And finally, I’m gonna
play back some sound here, it’s gonna go into the audio interface, into the computer and if
we’re doing everything right, we’ll actually see in
realtime, the sound coming in. (synth music note) Awesome. Now, one of the cool
things about synthesizers, they put out a pretty hot signal. Sometimes, it can be too hot. So, if you’re playing (synth music note) and your meter started
to get up to the top, or it’s starting to turn a
little red, first thing to do, turn your gain down on
your synth a little bit. You just can’t figure out a master volume, different synths have
different volume controls. (synth music note) And what we’re really looking for is we’re looking for a really consistent green color or if this is your
meter, and this is the top and this is the bottom. You want your signal to be
peaking right about here. If it’s too hot, turn it down. (synth music) Okay, so as I said, most synths you’re
going to record in mono, which means one output
into one input on your audio interface, into one track in your DAW. But, some synthesizers have stereo outputs, which means a left and a right. One, two outputs into your audio interface into two inputs on your audio interface, into two tracks in your DAW. I encourage you to try to record in stereo if your synthesizers has the outputs. (synth music) So now that we have the basics, let’s have a little more fun here. First, a really fun
trick, really affordable, you might even have one
of these laying around, is to just take a small format mixer. Plug your synth into the
mixer, into a free channel and then take the outputs of
your mixer into the inputs of your audio interface. So from synth, to the mixer, to the audio interface. It’s kinda like the mixer pays a little visit to
his friend, the mixer- (laughing) It’s kinda like (laughing) your synth on its way to visit the audio interface. Hangs out with his friend, the mixer. (laughing) Synth, mixer, audio interface. That’s all you need to know. The cool thing about a mixer, and it’s gonna depend
on the mixer you have, the smaller ones usually
have a lil’ less features, the bigger ones have more features. But, even on this lil’ guy, you can see that it’s got
a built in high and low EQ. Which essentially then
acts as an additional set of filters on your synth. So let’s just take a
listen to that real quick. Basic sequence and all I’m
gonna do is EQ it a little bit. So first, (synth music) we can sweep out all the low end. Make it sound a little thinner and we can record that sound. Bring the bass back in, turn the bass way up. Get more bottom end, turn it back down. Turn the high end down, which is almost like having
an additional filter. Turn it back up. Of course, your synthesizer is
gonna have a filter built in. What I find is that EQ on a mixer in front of an audio interface gives you that last 15, 20%
on the top and the bottom. To really take your synth sound and get it sitting just in
the right spot in the mix. Okay, now you may be saying to yourself, “This seems like a lot more work “For essentially the same setup. “Why use the mixer?” Well, my friends, one of the really cool
things about putting a mixer in front of an audio interface is, say you have a two channel,
four channel audio interface. Which means you’d be limited
to recording four things at the same time. But let’s say you got a rad studio or a rad room full of music. There’s some drum machines, some synthesizers,
whatever and you got more than four things to plug in. Well, get a bigger mixer. Here’s why: You can keep your audio interface
without buying a new one, without adding a bunch
of new audio inputs. You can have all of your
instruments plugged in, you can have your synth plugged in, you can have another synth plugged in, you can have the stereo
output for your drum machine. All plugged into the mixer and then when you want to record, you’re just gonna play
one thing at a time. So, it’s basically like
you’re playing the synth and it goes through the
mixer and it gets recorded. And then you go do another pass and you play your synth bassline and it goes through the
mixer and it gets recorded. This is a really cool way to
have everything plugged in, everything ready to go,
without all of the complex and expense of a large, multi
track audio interface setup. So, we’ve got one synth
plugged into the mixer and when we play it (synth music) we can see the signal coming
through in the computer. Now, we have a second synth plugged into the second input of the mixer and if we play it, we can also see in the computer (synth music) it coming through. Both signals coming into the mixer, going out through the output, into the audio interface,
into the computer. You can see here in the
computer we’ve got a track for the Korg Minilogue. I could play something real quick. (synth music) You could record that, you
can add a second track. Same input, input one. (synth music) The sound of the profit
going into the mixer, into the audio interface, into input one, and coming in through the track. Okay, let’s say you come more from the world of guitar and bass and you have some experience with micing a amplifier. Guess what? A really cool thing you do can do is, you can plug a synthesizer
into an amplifier and then record it via a
microphone on the speaker. Just like you would if you had
a guitar plugged straight in. Couple things about this: One, it can sound really, really awesome, because you get all of the
tone-shaping of your amplifiers, from overdrives, from distortion, to further color the
sound of your synthesizer. Most amplifiers are designed
for the fairly weak signal that a guitar puts in. A synthesizer or a drum machine is gonna put out a hotter signal, which means you’re probably gonna need to bring your gain down on your amp. In my experience, bass amps
tend to work a little bit better for synthesizers and drum machines, ’cause it has a little
bit more of the low end. They usually have more
of a full range signal versus more of the mid
range focus of a guitar. But, experimentation is half the fun. So plug that thing into a Blues Junior, plug it into a Mesa
Boogie Triple Rectifier. Record everything that
comes out, have fun. (music) One last recording tip before we go: Just like you can plug your synth into guitar and bass amplifiers as
a different way of recording, you can, of course, also
plug them into pedals to open up that whole world of sounds and effects to process and further evolve your synth sounds
before you record them. And that, sounds a bit like this: (synth music) You can hear that wonderful
Eventide Reverb Shimmer there. Now, a couple of points about FX pedals, some FX pedals are better than others. When it comes to being able
to handle the hotter signal that comes out of a synth,
a couple of makers like Strymon and Eventide,
specifically design their FX pedals to take a
line level synth signal. In fact, if you can see this here, this Eventide pedal
even has a switch here. You can switch between
guitar and line level. If you don’t know and
you are nervous about plugging your synth into your pedal and you’re afraid it might blow up, go turn the volume of your
synth all the way down. Plug into the pedal, start playing, slowly turn the volume up,
as long as it’s sounding O.K. You’re doing alright,
if it starts to crackle, turn it back down,
that’s your maximum gain. Today we took a look at some of the simplest ways to record your synthesizer. We started off just plugging it in, straight into an audio interface, straight into the computer,
from there we took a look at stereo and using a mixer as a front end. Applying effects, running
it through an amp. All of which is to say, there
are a lot of different ways to record your sound,
shape your synth sounds, incorporate them into your music. Half of the fun of this stuff,
honestly, is just plugging things in together, hitting
record and seeing where the inspiration takes you. So, with that in mind,
we wired some stuff up, we’re gonna hit play and we’re gonna see where
the inspiration takes us. (synth music)

100 thoughts on “The Easiest Way to Record Your Synth (And Other Electronic Recording Tips) | Reverb

  1. Interesting video, especially the part about mixers and amps. For me the golden path is to record my synths through the AxeFx III, where I have all of these options without a lot of cabling and zero risk of damaging real amps. 😉

  2. I would be very cool if you will make a video “how to record 3-6 synths or other hardware instruments at the same time”

  3. is there a drawback of using a direct usb connection between synth and computer, instead of going through an audio interface?

  4. why not just get an audio interface with a bunch of inputs? Like this https://www.amazon.com/Focusrite-Scarlett-18i20-Audio-Interface/dp/B01E6T54KQ/ref=sr_1_11?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1540168594&sr=1-11&keywords=focusrite

  5. Shoulda played Halloween theme outtro music but this is cool.

    You could also hookup the Prophet 6 into the Korg used as a controller then run both Korg/Prohet6 into guitar pedals to the mixer then into an interface.

  6. Roland make keyboard amps specially made for keyboards and synths, they should be the best option if you have mainly keyboards and synths in your studio.

  7. I never use software to record. No mouse in my studio. RADAR 24 recorder and then it is all high quality analog "Hardware" to achieve the desired results.

  8. Hey I got a new Macbook pro 2018 and I am looking for an affordable usb c hub for music production. I got a pre sonus 1818vsl, a novation bassstation II and a midi keyboard to plug in. What would you recommend me get?

  9. Justin Delay is almost Vladislav Delay) I think is no need to tweak on board mixer EQ when you are recording your synth as a single track. Logic has great EQ and this enough for further sound manipulations. And if you will understand that you need this cutted low end in the mixing process – sadly low end has been completely lost by on board mixer EQ( I know that it's different approaches but I have such examples in my mixing engineer career…
    p.s but recording shimmer it's perfect!) it sounds nice and it's really create a texture from this synth!

  10. Should I buy a Mac or an iPad or a Windows laptop I have to record guitars, bass, synthand vocals. Btw Great Video Justin.

  11. All unbalanced cables, right? I literally had this dilemma today. Wanted to have one wire for each synth I have and Iz didn't because I didn't know which tip to go with. Now I know.

  12. Hey Justin, not sure if you'll read this but i own a Scarlett 2i4, and i'm thinking about upgrading to a UA Apollo Twin Duo. I don't really record much into my daw, i mostly use samples, but will my overall quality improve? The signal out of my monitors and my overall mix? Or am i wasting my money getting a new interface?

    Love your videos by the way!

  13. I didn't think I was gonna learn anything from this video, but the mixer in front of an audio interface idea is really smart! Great for recording jams too. I haven't mic-ed up a synth and amp yet, but I have a a peavy vyper VIP-2 that can act as an acoustic, electric, and bass guitar amp lol. I've used synths with it already and it does sound pretty good. Just gotta try recording that combo with a mix now.. That'll be my next experiment! Cheers Reverb!

  14. It's funny when your audio interface costs twice as much as the synth you're trying to record. But the title states 'easiest way', not 'cheapest way'.

  15. Better get a mixer which records each track seperately. Touch faders would be nice too.
    A mixer with DAW control & interface..

  16. @Reverb, nice! is there any recommendation for mixers for home studio you would give? I would need to connect at the most 4 or 5 mono inputs and at the most two stereo line ins. regards

  17. you forget the most important – record midi from knobbing on the synth in the daw – just audio is destructive and not flexibel

  18. Does it change anything if you directly route the mixer to your pc (if your mixer has USB) instead of putting the mixer through the AI ?

  19. What a great video, I love the step by step you give, helps people like me who have never really recorded at home on a laptop before. You are doing good work so, please keep it up.

  20. For those new to recording synths (and recording in general), rule of thumb is you want each of your audio channels to reach a maximum level of around -6dB gain per track at its loudest. This can be obtained by simply adjusting the gain level on the mixer channel, the preamp on the audio interface, or the instrument itself.

    The empty space between the -6dB and 0dB is whats called "headroom" and having enough of it is what makes the overwhelming difference between professional and amateur quality. If your signal is clipping (hitting the red at any point in time in the mix), you're doing it wrong.

    This is different from the type of clipping referred to with distortion or overdrive effects (typically with guitars), where the output of the amplifier (whether it be a physical or virtual amplifier) is in a high gain state. That type of clipping is okay, so long as the channel in the mixer that's recording the final audio signal is not clipping, itself.

  21. newbie question right here
    let's say i am plugging some synths into my mixer and then into the interface, but also i want to use my expander/comp/limiter in the chain
    what would the routing be? mixer-compressor-interface?
    i used to input into the interface, take an specific thru output from the interface to the compressor and then back to another interface input (the interface is a focusrite saffire pro 24)
    thanks a lot to any good soul that might answer this

  22. Pretty helpful video, Thanks! But I wanted to know, how would that work with a volca that only has a headphone audio out channel? Cheers!

  23. Might also consider buying a Zoom H-Series Audio Recorder. It can serve as your interface. Then you also have a portable audio recorder with built in mics (you can add vocals or other mic'd sources), and multitrack ability on the unit itself (in case you don't have that laptop available), plus a small array of onboard effects (which are not stellar, but are good for scratching out ideas.) Plus, it can run on batteries or bus power over USB.

  24. Kind of new to the music set up scene. It it really a requirement to have an audio interface if you're just using one hardware synth? I'm using my Roland JD-XI and it plugs in via usb and works with my DAW pretty well for the most part. I'm just not sure if adding a $160 box will improve much.

  25. I'm hoping someone can help me. I'm trying to figure out what device I would need to connect my Microbrute, and 4 Pocket Operators to a laptop to use with a DAW (FL Studio). Does anyone have any suggestions as to a make and model that would accommodate all of that?

  26. If you don’t have a audio interface, you can connect the headphone out to the line in of your laptop. The quality is not as good, but at least it works.

  27. Picking your Brain: I've recently downsized to a juno ds61. It has a pattern seq but it's limited. I'm mostly enjoying for the 1200 sounds plus the AdSr controls on the front. So, id like to play and layer around 8-16 tracks to "build" a song in REALTIME, but then have effects and tweakablitiy to shape for soundscape and performance.

    Do you think I need a Daw, A loop station Rc505type, a hw seq? I'm a little confused.

  28. The way the synth is connected would only allow audio correct? If you want to record midi also you would need a usb cable or midi cable also?

  29. Good video BUT these is one thing missing and that is the subject of latency. We do not have the technology to be able to actually record any music without latency hence anything you record into a computer will actually be off timing wise and require work to adjust for timing later on. Would be good to do a video on this thorn in the side of anyone working with a soundcard.

  30. I was very worried that my mixer-interface setup was overkill and that I should've gotten a bigger interface instead… Thanks for helping with that! I don't think many people actually talk about setting up your studio, just what you can have it. Good video!

  31. Logic Pro X starts the Minilogue's internal sequencer every time I hit play. There's a way to fix this?

  32. What’s the need for the USB type B port on the back of the Minilogue? Is it for using the external midi tracks in logic?

  33. You do not need an audio interface, i simply used the 3.5mm audio jack of my computer with a dual mic and headphone splitter and that works perfectly fine, it completely byasses the audio interface.

  34. How about say a Yamaha MODX which has a built in audio interface. Can you run a minilogue in through that?

  35. Excellent video for beginners. Thanks for not mentioning connecting via midi as i am not there yet. Bravo !!!!

  36. I have a Behringer 12 channel mixer that I feed via XLR outputs into the XLR inputs of my M-Audio M Track Plus interface. Works like a charm. I keep just about all of my gear hooked up to it so I don't have to constantly plug and unplug when I'm recording different instruments.

  37. So if you're recording a synth through the mixer to the audio interface you are doing it in Mono, am I right?

  38. Thanks Buddy for all the great tips ,for years now I played for bands & others but I have to get my music out.So I`m finally dedicating some moneys to the get on with it stupid fund. in hopes that it will jump start my process .I`v always had the will & want but not the$$$$.Life`s ongoing bills , kids, school,you know . Well thanks again, you seam like a very knowledgeable dude so roll the dice and get to work.

  39. What if I want to use the synth as midi and record for example some instrument from the DAW, as midi, and use the synth as if it was a midi instrument?

    Recording as wave, remove a lot of facilities you get from a DAW, when working with midi; like quantize, add or remove single notes and so on.

  40. Does adding a mixer would affect the quality on the recording? If so, any recommendation for amazing quality?

  41. If my audio interface has 2 inputs, can I just plug my synth directly into the two inputs to record in stereo? Without a mixer?

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