What band equipment do i need?
August 27, 2008 7:41 AM   Subscribe

My buddy and I are trying to figure out what we need so we can have amplification and recording capabilities when we jam in the basement. I've played acoustic guitar and drums for years but am an absolute n00b when it comes to next steps. Meaning, I don't know the difference between a PA or an amp (is a PA an amp?).

What we have: acoustic guitar (w/pickup), electric guitar, electric bass, drumset. What we need:??

What we want: amplified vocals, guitar and bass. Some type of multiple track recording so we can record different parts at different times.

Basically, we're trying to make a mini-music studio.

I'd like to be all in for around $2k, if possible. Ideally, this would be equipment that we could take to smaller venues and play as well (coffee shops, etc)
posted by pencroft to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have much experience with amp'ing for the stringed and drummed instruments, so I'll let someone else cover the specifics there, but to give a basic overview of what it sounds like you would want....

First, PA (Public Address) is the whole system, amp(s), mic(s), and mixer.

For playing live, you generally want a set of speakers for the audience (House), and a set of smaller speakers for the band (Monitor). If you are playing with any level of volume, the monitors are essential for bandmates being able to hear each other.

Both sets of speakers are attached to one or more amps, which in turn are fed a signal from a mixer, which in turn is fed with signals from the individual instruments. Now for a keyboard or a mic, the connection to the mixer is generally a cabling issue (balanced or unbalanced). Where things get religious is when it comes to mic'ing guitars. What most bands will do is have a seperate stack of amp/pre-amp and effects for each guitar, which are then mic'd to the mixer. I've never had to mic drums, but I've seen people mic each drum individually, and some people get away with fewer, well positioned mics.

There are lots of mixers that can work as both a live setup, as well as a basic recording mixer, if you combine them with a PC.
posted by nomisxid at 8:33 AM on August 27, 2008

Here's a really common way to do it. For the vocals and acoustic instruments, get a small PA. The simplest version will be a powered head (i.e. an amp and mixer combined) + two speakers (for the audience), two monitors (wedges, so you can hear yourself), cables to connect the speakers to the head and some stands for the speakers. Yamaha and Peavey are cheap but dependable brands. They both have starter packages (generally, w/o monitors) like these from Yamaha or this one from Peavey.

Buy a few decent mics for vocals. The old standbys are Sure SM57s and SM58s. There are other options, of course.

The electric bass and electric guitar should each have their own combo amps (i.e. amp + speaker) and don't need to go through the PA unless you're playing a large venue or an outdoor venue. There are a million options on that.

If you're not going to be playing out for a while, just get the two out front speakers and use them as monitors until you're ready to play live. For really small venues, you can go without monitors, but it's not ideal.

Recording is an entirely different subject, really. If you just need a decent rehearsal recording tool, get a cheap field recorder (like the Zoom H2). If you want to cut a demo or something, I'd suggest going the computer-based route. I use Ableton Live + a Line6 TonePort UX2 interface.
posted by wheat at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2008

(On preview -- what everyone else has said so far).

Big question. Probably better for you to walk into Guitar Center and ask it than asking here.
That said, live sound and recording are two different worlds. Here are some suggestions:

LIVE -- appropriate amps for the acoustic, electric and bass. You will probably need some sort of EQ box for the acoustic. A minimal PA (multichannel amp, main speakers, monitors) for the vocals. Vocal mic (Shure SM58) and stand.

Just run the vocals and maybe the acoustic thru the PA.
This would work for basement and coffeeshop.
Once you have done your research at Guitar Center so you know what types of equipment you are looking for, look on Craigslist for this gear.

RECORDING -- assuming you are going to record on a computer (rather than a standalone multitrack recorder), you need 1) the computer 2) software for recording. On a Mac, GarageBand will take you a long way down the road. 3) 8-channel audio interface for the computer, such as a PreSonus FirePod. 4) studio monitor speakers 5) headphones for everyone & a way to distribute that signal 6) microphones a) for the drums [minimum kick, snare, 2 overheads] b) for the electric guitar amp [Shure SM57] c) for vocals [you can use the SM58 but there are much better options] d) DI box for the bass e) perhaps a mic for the acoustic guitar f) cables and stands as needed.

Since you are new to this, I suggest you go ahead and get the live gear, play your songs a lot, then find a studio to record in with an engineer who is willing to help teach you the process.
posted by omnidrew at 8:58 AM on August 27, 2008

$2K? Let's see...

PA: $400 Nady

Do the electric guitar and bass already have amps? No?

$250 Bass Amp
$250 Guitar Amp

Recording: $700 and self-contained. If someone has a decent laptop you could use that for recording if you bought a decent USB/Firewire audio interface.

I'm not advocating for these brands or for Musician's Friend, I just picked items out of their "best selling" categories based on price. For the above choices, if you have any flexibility on price I'd spend more on the PA (or at least buy a couple of SM57/58's as above). At any rate, $2K will get you a pretty decent setup. If you don't need guitar and/or bass amps, then you can get some nice equipment indeed.

Good luck!
posted by rhizome at 9:35 AM on August 27, 2008

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