Thought I'd share a few things I've learned in case anyone else out there is trying to create your own backing tracks or writing songs from scratch...
Took a while to sort this all out, but from the start.
Some obvious ones:
- if you plug into the guitar input, you have to record with guitar selected on the record select, and once you record, you can adjust the levels by two taps on the input/levels button
- if you plug in a microphone, you have to turn up the level left of the input (high as you can without clipping), the mic/aux has to be selected on the record select, and once you record, you level it with mic/aux/wav after two taps on input/levels button.
- if you plug into aux, i think it's the same as the microphone (haven't used this much, but may soon, since the clean setting on guitar input is about as loud as a mouse itching its nose)
Hopefully that is all very obvious.
- if you stay in a .jam file setup, you only have three levels to play with - song/drum, guitar, and mic/aux/wav. Usually no problem, until you change a setting on your guitar and rapidly realize that you can't level it anymore without affecting the previous guitar track you already laid down. Frustrating. If you save your mix as a .jam, these leveling options all stay the same. It also means that you really don't want to mess with settings while you are doing different tracks. Turn the mic level down so you don't get feedback while you are listening to what you just did? better get it back to the exact same level if you want to use it again, because you can't level it now without affecting the first mic tracks ... etc. you get the idea.
- a good option at this point is to export as a .wav ... and get used to exporting after each new addition. It goes like this - put down a guitar track. Listen to it and use mic to put a voice over it. Perfect, easy. Level them until they sound good. No problem. Now you want a solo guitar track... uh oh. No way to level it (which you will really have to do if you use a metal setting - way louder than clean). So... save the guitar 1 and vocal mix as a .wav file and bring it back. Now that mix of guitar and vocal is its own .wav file and gets leveled with mic/aux/wav, which means you can add a snarling guitar solo and level it down to match because its on guitar level and the rest of the song is on mic/aux/wav.
- want to add another voice track? Now we're in trouble, cause the mic is on the same level as the .wav file. Back to trouble land.
- here's where we get to how to record one track at a time while listening to what you already did. Have to use your computer. Export your track(s) as a .wav file. Use your favorite music program to play it. Plug your computer's headphone jack into the spider jam. When you play something through the 1/8" input, and hit record. it does not record the music coming in over the 1/8' input. This is a hand wringing moment if you were hoping to record your own magical duet with your favorite mp3 song, but it opens a world of possibility if you're recording your own stuff. Now, with a music program like Audacity (free) you can play your mp3/wav song through your amp, hit record, play along, and all it records is the live track you are playing - magic. Now export it as a .wav, and add it as a new track to the song. With Audacity (or garageband or whatever) you have a lot more control for fitting it in, and saves you from having to do perfect takes - you can clip good pieces out, etc...
Whew, that was a lot of words. Hope someone finds it helpful.