Breaking ground with the Zoom H2 “Handy Recorder”

By Chris Moore:

It’s official; the first day of principal recording for The 2010 Project is in the can.  Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s in the hard drive.

Either way, I spent a few hours this afternoon experimenting with my new Zoom H2 USB condenser microphone.  I was familiar with this device before I purchased it, as I had borrowed it from Fusco-Moore Studios for many of my Laptop Sessions up until I moved last summer.  I had never paid much attention to the settings on the Zoom H2, as they were pre-set.  It was a plug-and-go affair, which was very convenient at the time.

Now, I’m much more interested in learning the features of this versatile little recorder and tweaking it to get the best recordings possible.  Today was a step in the right direction.  I started by toying around with the gain and recording level.  Mid-gain and a level of 120 seemed to work quite well.  I had been concerned about the USB microphone being loud enough, but if anything, the volume level is too high.

Once I set up the microphone on my Macbook, I wanted to record a song that only needed minimal instrumentation so I could play around with the USB microphone and the settings on GarageBand.  (I’ve used GarageBand for years, but never to record more than an individual track here or there, and certainly never to produce an entire album.)

I chose the song set to be the final track on my album, “The Old Home Departure Song.”  This is one of the first songs I wrote after moving out, and I played it quite a bit in those first months living in my new apartment.  Then, a few months ago, I recorded this song along with twelve others so that I would have a full set of 2010 Project demos.

Finally breaking ground today with “The Old Home Departure Song” was exciting and has filled me with a sense of purpose.  My next step, if at all possible, will be to connect my guitar pedal to the computer and finish off this first recording by adding electric guitar and bass.

As a final note, today marked my first time recording with a metronome.  One of my goals for this album is to work on my timing.  For the tracks without drums, like “The Old Home Departure Song,” the metronome is just what the doctor ordered.  It helped me to time the basic acoustic guitar track, then I went into GarageBand settings to turn off the metronome and continued to build another acoustic guitar and vocals on top of that.

I won’t be posting many recordings from these sessions — I need to preserve the anticipation, after all! — but I think it’s appropriate to share my rough mix of this partially recorded track, the first in the 2010 Project recording sessions.  I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll be back with another post before the week is done.

“The Old Home Departure Song” (Rough)

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