After many false starts that often had me starting to re-record over and over again, I put together a list of things I thing will benefit guys who are just starting out with their recordings (pros, kindly excuse for how basic this is, but feel free to add).
1) Make sure you set the clock and other settings right at the beginning: There's nothing worse than finding out after recording that you didn't set the Kemper to master and your interface to slave. This tip also extends to figuring out what setting you want to use across all the songs in a certain project.
For example, if you want to record for an audio CD, use 44.1khz, no problem, but if you want to sync audio with video (especially if not using a high end video editing software), set your audio rate to 48khz, which has been made available with one of the recent updates.
Also remember that latency goes down (theoretically, if you can detect it) at higher sample rates, but processing power and space taken by recordings is more. Some people say they can hear a difference. Most say they can't.
Make it a point to also change the settings in your DAW to see what works best. For example, in Cubase, do you want ASIO Guard? It adds latency, but prevents audio dropouts and glitches. Do you want to use multiple cores?
Bottom line is to think it through before putting the proverbial pen to the paper. Choosing the right settings is like choosing the kind of pen, the type of paper and where you are going to write it.
2) Direct monitoring: I wasted the last several months recording guitar for 10 songs and was wondering, "Why am I so sloppy while recording?"
Turns out, I was recording using software monitoring. So basically, the signal from the Kemper goes into the interface, which sends it to the computer, which sends the signal back to the interface, which routes it to the speakers, which send the sound to your ears.
Basically, this latency can be handled, right? Now imagine you are running a VST drum machine and a synth as well. On top of that, you are recording guitar once, then again, then maybe again and again. As your computer plays back more and more tracks, VSTs et al, CPU load increases, necessitating a higher buffer, as a consequence of which you experience higher latency.
The end result: Compensating (under or over, we aren’t machines) for that latency. You'll see this if you record DI tracks. Stuff will line up sometimes, but most of the time, there will be a shift here or there.
The solution: Don't use software monitoring. Don't monitor your interface outputs and direct monitor. I'm re-recording (sigh) a project and it is audibly tighter and visually, I can make out that I am playing each chord at the same time. It really helps, even with a computer with 32 gigs of RAM.
With direct monitoring, even at higher settings, you will hear your guitar being played without a delay and at the same time, the recording will be in perfect timing.
3) Listen to what you just played: In the interests of speed, some of us just power through track after track without giving it a good listen. Might take up some time, but after you finish recording a track, or even a section make sure you listen to it again. This is especially important for those of you out there who might be recording each section bit by bit and then slicing up stuff and copy-pasting. Don't just listen to the segment, listen to the segment in conjunction with both the part before it as well as after it, otherwise you might find that the transitions are so abrupt that cross fading doesn't help. There's nothing like having packed away your guitars and then realising that there's a bum note or string noise at some part and you can't remember what profile you were using. Heck, even the way you strum the guitar could potentially change (I'm happy, I'm sad syndrome).
4) Always record a DI track: Even if you are committing to a certain sound on a take, with the Kemper, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't keep a DI as backup. Why? Supposing when all the elements of the track are in, you find that the two guitars don't sound as good together in the complete mix. With a DI track, you could always just reamp without the need to re-record a perfect take. Heck, you may even find a better profile a day or month later before you have finished mixing. The DI will come in handy. What's more, let's say you finished a project and released the album today. 10 years from now, you may decide you want to have the song professionally reamped and mastered at a big studio. All you have to do is send them the DIs and you are golden. This is one reason that I always suggest guys get an interface that has more than two inputs.
5) Save early, save constantly: There have been times when I am nearing the end of a project and then suddenly something goes wrong. Often, this results in hours of time down the drain as well as inspiration. There's a solution to that: save early in the project and save constantly. More often than not, most DAWs have an auto save feature. Enable this and set it to a low value. Also, you can specify how many times the project is saved as a backup file, so that you could go to a version that was saved say 10 minutes ago if you need to. Might seem unnecessary, but you'll find that computer crashes often happen at the damndest time.
6) Don't record too hot: When recording guitars, it's important that you don't send too hot a signal to the DAW. What happens when you do is that the signal gets squashed and there's no headroom for it to breathe. When this happens across multiple tracks, the recording gets tinier and tinier and gain becomes muddier. You ideally want to track at about -12db or even -18db. Don't get into the trap that louder is better, what you should really aim for is a dynamic recording. This will also make mixing much, much easier as you aren't constantly trying to avoid the master meter clipping. You can always increase the volume later on in the mastering stages.
7) Make notes: You may or may not have this feature in your DAW, but you should definitely keep a notebook or a file on your computer that has details of the settings used in a specific project, such as the profiles used, tunings, even string gauges and guitars used. Maybe even take a few photos and keep them in the folder where the audio files are stored. This will save you grief many years later, or even a few weeks later when you want to touch something up or revisit a project.
Make a backup: At least twice have I been near the culmination of the Mechanevil project only to have my hard disk crash or some strange bug to crop up that prevents me from opening up a project. These have been devastating setbacks that can damage your morale as well as that of your bandmates. It's often difficult to get back into the same frame of mind and keep things fun as well: after all, who wants to keep playing their songs again and again unless you are on stage. Making a backup is therefore one of the most important things you can do as a musician. Do it after you record every song on an external hard disk or an Apple Time Capsule. DVDs are another good option. Don't get caught with your pants down.
9) Have a deadline, do your best to keep to it: Nothing worse than not feeling it when you are recording. In that sense, I feel I'm blessed by the fact that I can record at my own pace without having to look at the clock in the studio and doing a rush job. At the same time, procrastination is not your friend when it comes to recording your music. You may record for a while, then think I could improve this, I could improve that and in the end, you will just be second-guessing yourself. You may even lose that frame of mind you were in when you started recording (and trust me, this is the hardest thing to get back), resulting in "not feeling it". Days turn to weeks, turn to months, turn to years? Seriously, don't get caught in that trap. Set a realistic time frame. Nobody's saying you have to do it all in one week or even 10. But set a target and work towards it. Doing so will work wonders with your motivation levels and will ensure that at the end of the day, you will have something to show for the time spent hunched over your guitar in front of a computer while everybody was partying like there was no tomorrow. Fun!
Feel free to share your own recording tips, guys.