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 Post subject: Zoom H4 - keeping same sound level in multiple takes
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:32 am 
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Joined: Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:56 pm
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Location: Basel
Dear friends,

I looked a bit for information in the recordings threads here but didn't see any hints. But I know that some of you are experienced with cutting and pasting together a "definitive" recording from multiple takes (for example if there is a bad mistake in one place etc). Now I have started experimenting with this by doing 2 recordings of one piece on my Zoom and joining them with Audacity.

However, a bad problem is that the recordings have a different loudness level which is very noticeable when splicing together. It happens because for each new recording I have to press the red button once and then briefly play some music to adjust the sound level and then again to start recording. Of course it will be a slightly different sound level for each take.

Is there a way to keep the same sound level in multiple takes? (I cannot find the Zoom manual anymore...all I know for this device is press red button once, do some noise, press red button again, record) Or how are you dealing with this problem? In an ideal world, of course, we would not cut&paste because we make no mistakes :D

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:43 pm 
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Hi Tobias,

I'm not sure I understand you correctly. Why do you have to adjust the input level before recording? You have to re-set it every time you are going to press the record button? Is that the way the Zoom works?

I have an Edirol, and I most often just leave the input level alone. Right now I think it is on 14, which is a little low. But that ensures that I don't peak out. If you don't change your input number, and place the recorder in the same position, then you should be able to make multiple recordings that all sound the same.

However, maybe you change your input level depending on the piece - whether it is a mostly soft or loud piece, then you adjust the input level. I do that also, sometimes. (not much anymore, though)
You may want to keep a little notebook near your piano where you can write in what input numbers you used when you recorded certain pieces.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:01 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:56 pm
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Location: Basel
Hi Monica, thanks for your reply!

Quote:
I'm not sure I understand you correctly. Why do you have to adjust the input level before recording? You have to re-set it every time you are going to press the record button? Is that the way the Zoom works?


I did it because someone told me I must do this, otherwise it would peak out. The bad thing is that I cannot actively set the level -- rather, I must make some sounds and then the Zoom adjusts to it. In this way, I cannot exactly reproduce the level at multiple takes. And the Zoom "forgets" the level after each recording.

Ideally, I would like to do the same as you do with your Edirol: fix the recording level at a certain predefined level and never touch it again. Does anyone know if this is possible with the Zoom? Or how do other Zoom owners splice recordings together?

I guess I'm just not aware of some of the functions of this device. Must be a pretty basic thing I hope.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:17 pm 
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Keeping a constant input volume is important whether you cut and paste or not. You don't want your tracks, when played in sequence, to have different volumes. For this reason I long ago decided on my input volume, and sellotaped the thumb wheel into a fixed position. Technology rulez 8)
But not sure if you can do that with the Zoom. If you need to adjust this via the menu AND it doesn
t keep the setting, that is rather clumsy, and would stop me buying a H4. I guess that old thumbwheel on my Edirol is not so bad after all...

As for using multiple takes, I have never done that except in one case. I stay within one take, repeat a faulty passage until ok, and cut out the muck afterwards. No problem with volume then, but I have to watch that I do not speed up during this process. I agree, it should not be necessary, and I hope I will eventually not need to do this anymore. or not as often, anyway - it takes a lot of time.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:00 pm 
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My input level changer thingy (whatever you call that) is on the side. I once without realizing it put the input level all the way up and then recorded something. Boy, did I blast my ears out when I transferred the file to my computer! Wasn't funny then, but it is now.

The Zoom - I guess it would be handy for the machine to set its own input level when you can't reach it so well yourself. Especially because I have a little problem when I actually do want to check the level. I can't play with both hands and also see the little screen on the Edirol at the same time, so I have to stretch over and play some loud chords with one hand and see if they are peaking.

Tobias - try to find your instruction manual and tell us if there is a way to change the way you set your input level. I am curious about the Zoom.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:25 am 
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Tobias, check to see if any type of Automatic Gain/Loudness Control is on. If it is, turn it off. You can easily download manuals under the manufacturer's website. Techneut and Pianolady make valid points.

Don't lose sleep over levels, unless you're clipping. Check your levels first by recording the loudest section of your piece. No shortcuts there. If you're anticipating on cutting and pasting by recording multiple takes in the future, it's CRITICAL that you DON'T vary the mic position, direction, or pattern (omni, cardiod, figure 8, etc). Always place the mics exactly in the same location when recording at different times. Changing the mic position will vary your frequency response, the tonality, levels, and timbre, making it very difficult to seamlessly merge sections together later on in your software. This is sensitive to the inch. Also be aware of any changes close to the piano, like the presence of furniture, fabrics, or whether a shade was open or closed, etc.

Audacity also came with my MicroTrackII, but I find the software not suitable for music. The edits are not seamless and the effects are horrible. There are better programs out there like WaveLab, SoundForge, Audition, which do all the essential processing to a much higher degree. It's worth every penny you spend on a decent editing software if you'll be recording often.

If you've already recorded multiple takes, do your cut and paste first. Mark your insert point, highlight the section, then match the two sections in volume by using the Gain function. You can confirm the levels of the waveform either graphically, with level meters, or using a dB scale. Sometimes, it's easier to visualize changes in the waveform under different magnification - sometimes lower magnification works, sometimes higher magnification.

Good Luck!

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