home recording - what is your process?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by lv, Dec 19, 2009.

  1. lv

    lv Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    Curious to hear how you guys go about writing/arranging/tracking your original tunes.

    I usually have a general sense of the vibe I'm going for and/or a riff or chord progression I like and then....

    1. Use ezdrummer/reaper to write drum tracks on my pc, then export these to my boss br600
    2. I use a cheap bass into an aguilar tone hammer direct box/preamp to track my bass direct into the boss br-600, bypassing the boss' preamp/cosm
    3. I use the built in stereo condensor mics built into the boss br-600 to track my guitar - I have a decent set of sealed headphones that allow me to hear the mix clearly as I'm tracking the guitar parts.
    4. Upload the bass and guitar tracks into reaper, where I already have the drum track
    5. Add verb, comp, mix, and render to wav. Then I use audacity to normalize if necessary, but mostly just to use the fade in and fade out fx and then convert to mp3.

    I shied away from PC recording for awhile, I should have embraced it a long time ago. Programming the old boss drum machines was a giant hassle.

    Anyway, all the tunes I wrote using this method are on my myspace link in my signature, I think they sound pretty good for the $400 I have invested in the boss unit and ezdrummer.

    Love to hear your process/chain/software etc., as well as examples of tunes you've written using it.

    Lou V
  2. Tadams

    Tadams Silver Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2005
    What you are doing is certainly working!
    Holy cow - great Strat tone!
    I also use a Boss Br-600, and like you, a little unconventionally. I use a Line6 POD Xt Live for convenience mostly. When I did try to mike and amp, I had best luck with the internal mikes in stereo. I play a Roland TD9 kit and record the drums live instead of programming. Then I export the files and mix/normalize using Audacity.

    Good playing and tunes Lou
  3. peridot1

    peridot1 Member

    Aug 24, 2008
    I should try that. Drum machines are a hassle. Have a SR-18.

    Lately I use a RP1000 mostly for the cab sims. I'll run a tube preamp in the loop like an SS-20 or DC Womanizer for most of the distorted sounds. Sometimes a Sansamp character pedal.

    Bass I use a Fender Jazz -> Sansamp VT or EBS Valve Drive -> Womanizer for DI -> whatever effects -> recorder

    Vocals lately the TC Helicon Voice Live 2

    Keyboards Korg M361

    Acoustics (mic'd) - Art Pro Channel -> Glass Nexus

    Everything goes direct into a Summit Audio TD-1000 -> Yamaha AW1600

    Don't really have any good clips except these two I hang on for some reason..


    Forgot to add I'll master it (sort of) with CD Architech. Mostly for compression or EQ or both. Don't make mp3s anymore but I use to use real player plus for that.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2009
  4. Rusty G.

    Rusty G. Member

    Aug 27, 2005
    Lafayette, LA
    Here's what I do. . .

    I usually lay a stereo track of a drum beat. . .just to keep time. I used to use an old Alesis machine. . .Now, I use Superior 2.0, and just map out a repeating pattern that I usually hear in my head.

    Next, I'll work out the riff with a guitar and amp, usually tracking it so that I don't forget it.

    I come back to if after the song has been percolating in my head for a while and try to come up with a verse or two. . .Usually, when I first start, I've already got the idea for a guitar riff and chorus in my head.

    O.K. . .So, I then lay out a main guitar track, keeping time with the stereo drum tracks (repeating pattern).

    The, I like to lay down a scratch vocal, so that I know that I'll be able to perform the tune. . .(Sometimes I get an idea that just doesn't fit my voice, so all the work on getting this right won't work if I can't pull off the vocal part).

    Next, I lay down a Bass track.

    I forgot to say. . .I use a Mac G4 and older ProTools TDM Mix Plus system. I've got a RNP (two track mic-pre) and Great River. The Great River tracks most everything.

    Anyway, then I'll put in a second guitar part, and later, lay down a lead part, if the song calls for it.

    There are times that I add a a keyboard part, if the song calls for it.

    Next, I track the harmony vocals. . .

    Finally, I work out the kinks on the main vocal track. It's surprising, how many times the scratch vocal has the best feel, and ends up being essentially the main vocal track (Of course, there are the obligatory punch ins to correct mistakes).

    Then, it's time to get the drums right. . .I usually take my Rocstor (A removable Hard Drive) with me to a real studio and hire a drummer to track the drums.

    I've come close several times to using Superior 2.0 and a Zendrum. . .But haven't done it yet. . .I can get some great sounding tracks, because Superior sounds sooooo good. . .but, the playing's not as intricate as a good studio drummer.
  5. sfletch

    sfletch Member

    Nov 14, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    Wow...for the OP...dude that's a lot of work. If you're committed to PC recording - maybe try ACID PRO...I still think it's the best PC-only value for a unique and fully capable DAW. For example, if I'm doing a song:

    1. find tempo, then find loop collection that fits the vibe and tempo of the song (Drums on Demand has incredible loop collections with verse/chorus/bridge variations etc)
    2. lay out like 4 minutes of basic loop.
    3. Record rhythm guitar/basic arrangement
    4. Edit drums doing verse/chorus changes, fills, breakdowns, etc.
    5. Record lead and backing vocals
    6. Re-cut guitar parts if needed
    7. Bass parts
    8. Keyboards/percussion
    9. lead guitars.

    Now, often in the past I'd export the individual tracks into Cubase and mix. Quite frankly, after ACID version 7.0 - I stopped bothering...Cubase's audio engine and native plugins are still better...but ACID's have gotten close, and I just know the program inside and out...so I tend to stay there all the time.

    So: having said all that. My new iMac arrives tomorrow...I'm switching over to Logic Studio 9, and I'm terrified...I have to learn how to do it all over again. The process I outlined above would on average take me a couple of hours to get in the ballpark, to get something I can send to bandmates as a "decent" demo....now? I have no idea if I'll even be able to get anything recorded....

    Back to the point, I was trying to say to the original poster that you may be making more steps for yourself than necessary, although I thought your Myspace demos sounded very respectable, very pleasant. Good work.
  6. RiotOfWords

    RiotOfWords Member

    Dec 11, 2009
    I'm looking for something that I can make creative yet basic drum tracks in for my recordings. GarageBand loops are great when I'm working on rhythms or coming up with ideas, but they just don't cut it when I'm writing a song and since I don't know any drummers, I'm left to do it myself.

    I'm looking into EZdrummer, can anyone tell me much about that?
  7. RiotOfWords

    RiotOfWords Member

    Dec 11, 2009
    For that set up you have, you have killer sounds on your myspace. I really love the style of music you're playing as well. Perfect "chill" music.
  8. Big Boss Man

    Big Boss Man Member

    Jun 25, 2005
    Nowhere fast
    1. I don't record anything until I have a complete song written. I just note down chords, riffs, and lyrics on paper until I have something ready to go. I often have a dozen or so songs in progress.

    2. When recording I always start with a complete drum track with all the changes and fills. I use EZDrummer for that. I just go through their loop library and try to find something close to what I need. I then edit the drums in the piano roll view of Logic Studio. I basically just move around a couple hits and maybe add some cymbals to accent a few beats.

    3. Next is the scratch rhythm guitar track. I do put a full effort into making this track as good as possible and often times it makes it to the final mix.

    4. Then scratch vocals.

    5. At this point if necessary, I re-record the rhythm guitar tracks. Around this point I might also add some additional rhythm guitar tracks.

    6. Next is usually the bass line. I don't really play bass much. This part I usually figure out while recording the song. The bass line and guitar solos are the only parts I don't know when I first start recording.

    7. Now it's time to finish up the vocals. Sometimes I record the vocal part on guitar and use it as a guide track when singing. I usually break the vocals into separate tracks for verse and chorus. I record multiple takes and then put together a comp track for the final mix.

    8. Guitar solo (if the song has one).

    9. Now I do an initial mix and master. I then listen to this mix on a couple systems. I almost always go back and make some changes to this mix. I may also go back and touch up some vocals or instruments if needed.
  9. seantk

    seantk Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2009
    the central valley
    Currently, the way I go about it is like this,

    1) almost always, I will lay the main drum parts down first. then I go back and do the parts that i couldn't get the first time, sometimes I can get it all done in one pass. ( i am using a Alesis SR18 drum machine). I t can be a real pain sometimes to get what i want , but it is all I got right now.

    2) next I try to lay down either a bass track or a rhythm guitar track, depending on what kind of song it is. ( almost always record direct into the 8 track, because it is easier, the recorder has built in effects)

    3) I try to get all the rhythm tracks done: (doubling, alternate harmony guitars, etc.) i sometimes will go back and redo rhythm tracks

    4) a basic vocal track as a guide to make sure everything works together.

    5) solos and anything else that needs to be put in (keys, percussion, etc.)

    6) I go back and do the vocals

    of course this process changes, depending on the song and the complexity, parts, etc. I usually won't record until I have a complete structure mapped out and practiced.

    equipment: Tascam DP - 02 8-track
    Alesis SR 18 drum machine
    Line 6 spider 3 30 watt
    72 fender dlx
    96 Les Paul
    squire jazz bass
  10. sears

    sears Member

    Jan 23, 2004
    ec md
    Just like the process of writing a song, every time recording one is different.

    Sometimes the song is totally written and arranged before recording, usually it's not.

    There's always a first track and I try to vary what that first track is. It's easiest to do drums first but the drums don't have to be quantized.

    You can start with a guitar track and have everything else follow it. Or percussion. That track can be played to a click, or not. Then, does that guide track make it into the final mix? Often, not.

    If the drums are sequenced, they are MTC synced with the multitrack so I can replace the sounds and edit the sequence. Sometimes I will track guitar, then vocals, fix drums, go back and do guitar, then go back and do vocals, remove some drums and fix drum dynamics, and back and forth.

    If it's all multitracked and especially if the drums are programmed to death, I don't do punchins. Each take is a complete performance. To me that's a hedge against the artificiality of multitracking.

    Bass is almost always last since I play a fretless. Since I'm best on bass, I'm more picky. And then I might go back and do vocals again or a stunt guitar or keyboard or percussion..

    try it out on my signature link. be a friend
  11. Pietro

    Pietro 2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy

    Feb 17, 2007
    Maineville, OH
    1. Lay down a beat.

    2. Put down a guitar and maybe keys

    3. rough bass

    4. vocals.

    5. replace guitar track, add another or two, change the keys.

    6. re-do the bass

    7. re do the drums

    8. re-do the bass again

    9. re-do the vocals.

    10. wait a week.

    11. re-do the vocals again

    12... maybe the guitar again...

    13... add some keys maybe...

    (okay, forget the numbers, this is ridiculous...) I mix

    wait a couple days

    tweak the mix

    wait a couple days

    tweak it again

    send the mp3 to my brother who has a golden ear, sorta.

    he tells me what sucks

    I usually do whatever he suggests, re-track a few things, adjust when stuff comes in and goes out, get rid of the freakin' chainsaw high-hat that I thought I liked... stuff like that).

    i mix down again

    I send it to my brother again (I know this sounds silly, but no lie... this is how I do it).

    he tells me what he thinks sucks again.

    I only listen to about 1/2 his advice the second time.

    I mix down again.

    I listen on like 8 stereos.

    I tweak.

    I mix.

    I'm sometimes done at this point...

    it takes about a year or more.
  12. DownByLaw

    DownByLaw Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2003
    Rockaway NJ
    Seems like I'm odd man out hereĀ…

    Guitar first, generally a fairly tight arrangement, to a click.



    Maybe drums again.

    Solos, and spice, if applicable.


    Nothing in stone, but generally the way I work.

  13. eberg15101

    eberg15101 Member

    Oct 20, 2009
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I usually use drum loops I find either on line, or with my ****** keyboard or I make some loops with beat craft sometimes.... jam with the song I already wrote for a bit to get a feel for what its going to sound like recorded,

    1. Put the drum beat into audacity
    2. dial in tone, EQ with mixer and set up tracks to record acoustic(or rhythm guitar depending on song)
    3. Record bass or keys/synth/sound effect type stuff depending on song
    4. take a break because I am pissed off because I can't play my own song I wrote the way I want
    5. Dial in tone, eq with mixer then Record third guitar(usually just a second acoustic very low to thicken up the sound a bit)
    6. dial in tone and eq then Record lead guitar
    7. compress/normalize/eq/edit
    7. export to mp3

    I use an MXL condenser mic, either for christmas or after christmas I will have an sm57, so mic into Mackie 802 VLZ3 mixer (out to monitors when listening/jamming/writing leads) into a Lexicon interface, use audacity to record, if I need any vst plugins I'll use reaper, but most of the the free ones are utter **** and don't help at all, I really would like chorus or at least usable reverb
  14. re-animator

    re-animator Senior Member

    Aug 3, 2007
    New York/San Diego
    the songwriting process usually starts at a piano or an acoustic guitar... but sometimes i just get a melody or a rhythm in my head.

    then it goes like this.... i will set a short drum loop without fills or any of that crap. it just makes it easier for me to record to than a click track. I will either use a sample loop, a software loop, or keyboard loops. final drum tracks will often be heavily manipulated in acid or soundforge.

    then comes a rhythm guitar scratch track, followed by drums and keys scratch tracks. maybe a lead guitar. these are almost always done via pod.

    then i'll record the vocal scratch track, followed by a decent keys track.

    then i'll go to a real room to record the guitar and bass through real amps.

    then another vox track.... backing vox if necessary.

    using acid/soundforge pro/reaper. soon going to cubase 5.
  15. Julia343

    Julia343 Member

    Oct 31, 2007
    Using ProTools LE. Lexicon MX300. dbx 166xl. Presonus Studio Channel. SM57. and AKG Condenser.

    1) what do I want to do?
    2) use a throw away drum track with Addictive Drums
    3) lay down a rough rhythm with acoustic electric.
    4) re-do the drums with fills
    5) re-do the acoustic/electric or change to electric depending upon song -- use basic modeling over clean signal.
    6) add bass
    7) add a second rhythm track if necessary.
    8) add a lead track or tracks and solos.
    9) reamp guitars through tube amp
    10) adjust mix for a sound pocket
    11) add lead vocals
    12) add harmony vocals as needed.
    13) spend next couple weeks adjusting the mix and adding whatever effects.
    14) call in neighbor to listen -- just likes to listen to music and is a non-professional. She tells me what sucks and what's good.
    15) fix problems and grab her again.
    16) friend listens and tells me the whole thing sucks and wants to do mariachi music. One of us caterwauling is enough, trust me.
    17) ignore friend and tweak mix, add more headroom, and covert to 16 bit 44.1 kHz and bounce to disk.
  16. DanR

    DanR Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    st. clair shores, mi
    I record at home using a Korg D1600 16 track digital device. My particular home recording process goes as follows:

    1. First of all, the song must be arranged, usually first in my head, and then I'll write out the structure (intro, verses, choruses, bridges solos) in increments of measures. Then again, with the digital medium and/or MIDI, editing the structure can be done at a later time, if necessary.

    2. I'll play the song a few times on the guitar, while quickly switching to my Alesis SR-16 drum machine using the tap tempo function to determine the BPM of the song prior to recording.

    3. I will then set up a click track on the Korg using the BPM previously determined. I also set the counter of the Korg to measures as opposed to actual time.

    4. I then program the SR-16 sending the kick, snare and 2 toms to individual outputs (it has 4) and record them to the Korg using the Korg as a MIDI clock master.

    5. I then record a scratch rhythm guitar, acoustic or electric depending on the song.

    6. I then record a scratch vocal just so I know where I am in the song when adding other instruments.

    7. I then attempt to record real drums (without cymbals) while monitoring the previously recorded tracks. I typically record my clicks as eighth notes, as it helps my timing when I'm playing real drums.

    8. If I'm happy with the drums, I will proceed to the next step. If not, I will edit the drum tracks by choosing the measures I'm happy with and copy and paste them over the measures I'm not happy with. If I can't record acceptable drum tracks, I'll use the SR-16 drum tracks.

    9. I then record bass. To get the best possible groove, I track the bass after I get the drum tracks finished.

    10. Once I have the scratch guitar and vocals, and the drums and bass, I'll record the cymbals separately (each on their own track) so I can more accurately control their levels in the final mix and more importantly, cuz I can't play drums well enough to play the cymbals simultaneously with the drums.

    At this point I now have a complete rhythm track (bass and drums). I will usually then tackle the vocals, lead and possibly harmonies, depending on the song. Afterwards, I'll record the guitar solo, rhythm guitar(s) and possibly other instruments (keyboards/tambourine). I didn't group these steps numerically in order cuz I may not use the same order with each project. The scratch tracks and rhythm tracks are always done first, though.

    After I'm done tracking, then naturally, it's time to mix. Prior to mixing, I may have alternate takes of the guitar parts, so I decide which parts I will use, sometimes editing bits from different takes. I sometimes edit the lead vocal in the same manner, choosing pieces from different takes.

    Mixing is a whole different thing and I'm still learning and plodding away at that. But, the above is the actual tracking process.
  17. capitalc

    capitalc Member

    Nov 9, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    I am kinda new to home recording, and I mainly record real guitar and vocals and PC based drums.....haven't got to bass or keyboards etc yet. I have many, many songs that we play in a band environment, say 50, but we NEVER finish them.....thus my delving into this.....I am sick of having "parts" and "riffs"......I want songs.

    I find laying down a basic drum beat and then recording a scratch guitar/vocal track gets me started.....then I add a few guitar tracks. Once I have enough, I'll sing it and then maybe add a few more guitar parts. I'm trying to keep things very minimal and real though, so I would say 4 guitar tracks max.

    My problem is drums.....It didn't take me long to realize it's all about the beat, and it's really hard to create something really smoking as far as drum sounds, and actual drumming......I'm not a drummer by any means. I use hotstepper.....it's really basic stuff, I know.

    I think I am going to just attempt songs that don't need drums, or try and record with drums, then take them out (but how much fun is that????).

    Anyway, I'm still having fun.....I just need to get over the cheesy fake drums sounds I get.

    Anyway, this is an interesting thread, so I thought I'd chime in.....

  18. peridot1

    peridot1 Member

    Aug 24, 2008
    Sounds like me ten years ago. Consider yourself lucky. I have the tools to make songs now and only few ideas. Something happened down the road gathering gear.

    Yeah drums are the hard part. Too easy to sound fake and unskilled. I heard EZdrummer is a good way. Copy and paste preset patterns and string them together.

    Since you mentioned keyboards the high end workstations have great drum sounds with a built-in 16trk sequencer. Most important is their velocity and percentage quantizations. Plus these workstations have loads of effects. It's a lot of work though. I use to play drums and it's still a lot of work. Nothing beats a real drummer.
  19. Clumsy Fingers

    Clumsy Fingers Member

    Apr 5, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'm not sure if I have any methods- that's a very good question!

    For me, it usually starts w/ some kind of Aha! moment- a riff that I stumbled upon while noodling, a particular sound I managed to get using pedals, or a new (or demo) piece of software that suggests some kind of mood for a 'song'.

    There have been times that I had, say, a tabla loop that got me going, so I ended up adding a bass riff, then keys, then guitar. Other times it's inspired by something that I've been listening to frequently, and I'll think, 'How would I write a song like that?'

    The one constant, I realize, is that once I get excited by an idea, I'll do nothing but work on getting the results I want. Like most of us, I imagine, I'll abandon something fairly quick if it just seems like a dead end (I have so many unfinished projects, and I keep them thinking that someday the muse will strike). But once something starts to take shape, and I start thinking about parts for it every minute of the day, I won't stop until it feels complete. Another thing that I'll do is make a copy, and work on two versions at the same time, to see where different ideas lead- that has definitely produced more interesting results, I find. That way I don't get too hung up on one method of approaching any given piece.
  20. DanR

    DanR Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    st. clair shores, mi
    Sounds like my situation, too. I started with a sound on sound reel to reel recorder. I finally got a four track cassette recorder. I then got a Boss BR-8 8 track digital recorder. Each step of the way, I was improving my gear. But even with 8 tracks, considering I do all the parts myself, the track count was limiting.

    Now I have a 16 track recorder. It would be cool to have more but I gotta say that I no longer feel limited by having 'only' 16 tracks. Now my limitation is creativity/ideas. And talent, of course. :D But the mediocre talent is not much of a limiting thing, as the reason I do the home recording thing is pretty much solely for my own enjoyment. I'm getting bored of recording cover songs and I'm having a dry creative spell as far as coming up with new music. I've lately been mostly recording old originals that were initially done on 4 or 8 track in the past, just so I can keep playing with my stuff.

    Seeing that I do have sufficient gear for my needs, I am very thankful for that, I gotta say.

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