Heading into the studio next month... advice please!

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by darth_vader, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. darth_vader

    darth_vader Member

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    Alright, so in about 5 weeks or so our band is heading into the studio to record a short EP (3-4 tracks). We're still working on writing the songs, so we won't have a chance to gig them or spend a lot of time polishing them. I've never been in a studio before, so I'm hoping those of you with more experience can give me some tips on what I should look out for and mistakes I should try to avoid when preparing and actually recording.

    We're going to have an experienced engineer/producer, and everyone else besides me has recording experience - I want to make sure I don't let the team down when the time comes. Also, we're going to be under a bit of time pressure, as we only have a total of 8-10 hours of recording time to do separate tracks for drums, bass, two guitarists, keyboards, and vocals...
     
  2. devinb

    devinb Member

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    My advice is to put off the recording session if the money it is costing you is of any importance.

    I really doubt you'll be happy with the result.

    Finish the songs, and tighten them up, then start exploring budget ways of recording.
     
  3. yakyak

    yakyak Supporting Member

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  4. darth_vader

    darth_vader Member

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    That would be nice, but unfortunately it's really not an option. We want to get these tracks down before the other guitarist leaves to move overseas. We want to get them as polished as possible in the time we have, so it's really a matter of what we can do to get the best possible result with the time we have.
     
  5. SBRocket

    SBRocket Gold Supporting Member

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    Good advice... Studio time is not rehearsal time. That being said if it is impossible to wait, then just make sure you know your parts cold and try to make sure everyone else does too. The time you save tracking is time the engineer can use to make it sound good.

    Steve
     
  6. darth_vader

    darth_vader Member

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    I should have clarified that the 8-10 hours is just for tracking. There's extra time after that to deal with mixing and mastering ;)
     
  7. GregoryL

    GregoryL Supporting Member

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    What's your rehearsal / pre-production schedule over the next 5 weeks?

    As long as you put in the necessary time in advance so you're going in with the arrangements in place you can definitely achieve a good outcome.
     
  8. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    If you want anything remotely usable, you'll spend that much time tracking drums/bass for 3-4 songs.

    Maybe track the drums and have your buddy do his guitars, in those 8-10 hours?

    Do everything else later.

    In my experience, you'll need to spend 12-15 hours per song, of total recording time including editing and mixing, to get a product you'll be happy with.

    And that's if you're well-rehearsed, capable players w/decent gear.
     
  9. devinb

    devinb Member

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    Do they have studios where your friend is moving? Most studios have FTP sites, you can send files around the world in minutes...

    I think you've got a huge challenge ahead of yourselves if you go ahead with this.

    First thing is to finish the songs, there's nothing else that matters more. I'd say decide you're only doing 3 songs right now. You may want to consider throwing in a cover of an obscure song and worry about the licensing later if the recording goes anywhere...

    Obviously, practice like you've never practiced before. I really think you ought to approach the recording session as getting your friend who is leaving on tape...what that requires is more or less difficult depending on if he's playing solos, as usually they come later in the process...

    I'd also see if the studio you are using has a good drum kit of their own that they are very accustomed to mic'ing to save time. You may also want to consider a very sparsely mic'd set-up.
     
  10. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Agree. Last time in, a GOOD day was drum/bass/rhythm guitars for 3 songs. And we were rehearsed to machine-like perfection. Tracking drums/bass/rhythm guitar for 11 songs took 6 days. And those were a minimum of 12 hr days.
     
  11. Marble

    Marble Member

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    make sure you use equipment you are 100% comfortable with and know how to get the right sound from. In the studio, I've too often been lured into wasting time by the guitar amps they have there. Blackface Princeton, nice but I needed to spend more time with it to make it work for me. '65 Super Reverb Reissue. I had one and sold it, but still used one a studio had, and wasn't happy with it. I wonder why. Vox AC30, turn it all the way up, and it was glorious. My SF Plexi-d Bassman is glorious too.

    Point is, there may be some cool things in the studio to mess with, but resist the urge. On your budget and schedule you only have room to be lean and frugal. I mean if the dude has an AC30 or some other amp that you know will be easy to make work for you, then maybe you can take that chance if you're using some Line 6 piece of crap or other modelling junk.

    But about the time, you have time to do about 2 completed songs. Maybe 3 if they're 3 minutes or less and you only do a 2-3 takes per song at most, and do most of the tracking live. There's no way you can record more than 2 (2 is pushing it even) completed tracks if you're recording one instrument track at a time with 8-10 hours.
     
  12. hot lava mike

    hot lava mike Member

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    Start communicating with the engineer now. Get him/her a rough track of your songs...even if it's just you setting up a tape recorder in the middle of practice. It will still give them an idea of how the band sounds and what the songs are like.

    If the studio has in house gear- drums, amps, etc... you probably want to use their stuff. They will know how to get decent sounds out of their stuff faster than experimenting with your gear.

    Keep things simple- you won't have time to experiment with lots of different guitar sounds or amps.

    If using your guitars, get them set up before the session. Strings should be new and unplayed...or very minimal playing time. Order drum heads now, but don't put them on until the session. Again- if using their gear communicate in advance on what sizes you need.

    If using guitar pedals, put fresh batteries at the session and have spares. In fact, have extra everything- batterries, strings, snare head.

    rehearse the **** out of your songs. If you are recording with a click track, then you need to start rehearsing with one now if you're not used to playing with one.

    If you start running out of time, make sure the drums and the 1 guitar part are down. Everything else can be overdubbed and mixed later.

    If you're focused, you'll get it done. But also remember to relax and enjoy it. You'll play better. That said, keep the partying minimal.



    Good luck and have fun!
     
  13. jacobhf

    jacobhf Member

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    I take it you've never worked actual musicians.
     
  14. jacobhf

    jacobhf Member

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    I think strings are a per player thing, I like strings a little worn in to tame the highs of the tele - you have to go with how you like your strings, if brand news is your thing do it, if you like a little grit go with grit.
     
  15. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    if you're really planning on recording those tracks separately ( and, well ),
    i'd suggest that this is an unrealistic goal, as loudboy & others may have done;
    you're really asking much of one day of tracking.

    certainly, in any case, i would not recommend mastering the EP in the same room
    in which it was tracked & mixed..... w/the same engineer,
    unless you're confident in him/her & their comprehension of your tastes,
    in their mastering capabilities, and in the rooms, themselves.

    that said, who knows?
    anything could be done.
    maybe you're all brilliant, none of you are finicky about your recorded sounds & playing,
    the engineer/producer totally "gets" the band's sound & intentions & is truly skilled & speedy,
    no-one is late, the entire band feels & plays confidently & is agreement on everything,
    no-one forgot anything (including the music),
    the drummer doesn't get tired, the singer doesn't lose his voice,
    the guitarist are both getting their sounds & don't break 5 strings between them,
    nobody wants to "fix" the rhythm tracks,
    no re-arrangements of tunes occurs (whether for inspiration and/or need),
    no-one cares about overdubs & fixes, none of the tunes wants or seems to need editing,
    the studio, itself, works flawlessly, throughout,
    with not a single computer crash (& there's a transparent auto-backup plan already in-place).

    again, though --- anything can be done;
    really.

    personally, i do love to track bands "live", whenever possible.

    no matter what, though:
    if the band consciously relies on energy (over "polish"),
    do allow that energy come through in the recording:
    in that case, don't "over-rehearse", don't get all picayune about unimportant details.
    otoh, do get all picayune about important details; do rehearse the heck outta the difficult bits:
    get 'em right.

    but, play confidently, listen well, concentrate & have a freaking great time.
    don't be late, be early, & encourage your bandmates to do the same:
    many pro studios allow for load-in time, before the clock begins to tick @ its full-$-rate;
    check the working-state of all your gear before the recording,
    and encourage your bandmates to do the same;
    have fun, & play yer butt off..... for the tunes, for the band, for yer life!

    dt / spltrcl
     
  16. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    you're off-base, there.
    as well,
    some might easily read your comment as being unnecessarily rude.

    dt / spltrcl
     
  17. Amp360

    Amp360 Senior Member

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    12 - 15 hours a song? If I had to spend that on everything I do I would be broke.
     
  18. devinb

    devinb Member

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    Including editing and mixing, that's certainly on the very low side of many releases, and probably pretty accurate for getting a project to where the people involved have no serious regrets about how things where done/sound.

    I've certainly spent a fair chunk of that on vocals on a single song. I was having a rough day, but there wasn't anything else that needed/could be done right then do to some circumstances, so rather than wait for a better day, I bet I did a dozen or more full takes before breaking things down a few phrases at a time.

    I've also had sessions where my bassist (phenomenal) tracked ten songs in two hours.

    It's not entirely predictable, and I think it's far wiser to work with a generous estimate than a conservative one when budgeting time.
     
  19. jacobhf

    jacobhf Member

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    I'm being honest - if every player knows the songs that their band wrote and rehearsed then it shouldn't take hours to track drums - once drum sounds are found it should take a few takes - to allow variation.

    That's how I work - ymmv
     
  20. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    3-4 tracks in 8-10 hours, built up via overdubs, sounds entirely unrealistic to me. You're talking TWO HOURS per song! Say five minutes per take, two takes per track, five parts... that's 50 minutes of actual tape running time, per song. That leaves you just an hour per song of time for mic setup, gear and personnel switches, etc - not to mention actually listening to playback. And are you planning to EAT during those 8-10 hours? You'll lose an hour to breaks alone (and you SHOULD, or you risk physical/emotional breakdown).

    First and foremost, I'd prioritize the songs. Figure out which one is most important, than second most important, etc. Be ready to drop the lowest-priority songs if time runs short - and I mean REALLY ready, not "yeah, I guess" ready. You have to make cold, calculated decisions in the studio sometimes, and you need to make them beforehand if possible AND be ready to go through with them.

    Why are you overdubbing everything instead of tracking live? This isn't a criticism, it's a question that you should be able to answer. "Because that's the way pros do it" isn't a good answer. Something like "Because we can't really pull it all off reliably live" is a good answer. In other words, if you're under time pressure and the band plays well live, you might save yourself some time (and possibly get a better vibe) by tracking at least some parts live. This doesn't mean EVERYTHING needs tracked live! You can hold off on vocals, lead guitar, etc. But if you can get the drums and bass and a rhythm guitar or something together and tight, that's less tracking for you later. Just make sure your engineer can control bleed well enough to punch fixes for minor errors without wrecking the track.

    As splatt and others have said, be ABSOLUTELY DAMNED CERTAIN that your gear is in perfect working condition before entering the studio! Debugging a flaky pedal or replacing strings can easily eat an hour of your precious time. This isn't just you, you need to be on the whole band's case about it.

    And finally, to emphasize my earlier point... one or two great songs are better than four mediocre ones. Don't compromise quality for quantity!
     

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