Pro recording for the first time

DSnellen79

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So... I play worship at church. (This is were everyone rants about why I included that I'm in a worship band. It's cool. Rant on. :cool:) Our worship team is going to record 10 songs in a few weeks to give out to the church members. And maybe use as a demo type thing. Anyway the guy we are going to is suposedly a pro and its going to be a good experience. Thing is, I've recorded before but it was for a college project, never with pro's. Just wandering if anyone has words of wisdom about what to expect. or what I will need to show up with minus the obvious.
 

kludge

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1 - Leave your pride at the door. Serious studio work will crush you like a bug. I always say you haven't had a complete studio experience until you've been reduced to tears of frustration and/or shame.

2 - Don't forget to laugh and have fun! Don't get too mad at the shortcomings of your bandmates. Studio is tough, but it should be a good time. Alas, it can quickly degenerate into very bad times if people don't have a good attitude. More than one band has broken up in the studio.

3 - Great live sound and great studio sound are totally different beasts. You're probably using too much gain and playing too many notes, and your time sucks. Nothing wrong with that! That's just what live is like. But the studio will want a cleaner tone, fewer notes, and time somewhat better than the best you can play.

4 - Do NOT be too ambitious about scope. Ten songs is HUGE if you want a "professional" sound. For a full rock band, I think one day per song just for tracking, and another day per song just for mixing. Mixing is as time-consuming as tracking! (if it's done right, that is) A good band might double that. An absolutely airtight band can do even better, if they're willing to live with imperfections - but the better you play, the higher your standards are, so that one song per day rule still applies.

5 - Pay for professional mastering if you can. Ideally, find a local mastering engineer who will let you sit in if you behave and keep your big mouth shut. Time with a pro mastering engineer is worth the money just as a lesson in how to make a good record. Pros work on hundreds of records a year and don't care about style, genre, or your pride. They can tell you instantly what works and what doesn't.
 

kludge

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Also, since I forgot... get a producer if you can. Doesn't have to be an audio engineer, but it DOES have to be someone with excellent ears and taste, someone the whole band trusts, someone you trust to negotiate disputes between band members, someone you are comfortable with telling you cold hard truths that are going to hurt and shame you. They should be handling relations with the engineer and other stakeholders, too. Recording is hard enough without having to play businessman and den mother at the same time.
 

Pat Healy

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+1 to everything kludge said. Great input there, particularly the part about leaving your pride at the door. If you have a teachable attitude, recording an album can be a masters-level education.

As a preparatory thing, try to pay close attention to how your instrumental parts are interacting. Are the bass and drums tight? Are the guitar and keyboard parts complementing each other or clashing? Is everyone hitting starts/breaks/stops together? The studio will shine a big bright light on any flaws, and the more you can fix ahead of time, the less you'll have to mess with during tracking. Which is particularly good if you're paying for studio time.
 

rob2001

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16,927
I'll advise the basics....make sure your gear is in tip top form. Make sure your guitar is well intonated, bring extra strings, batteries, picks etc...much like a regular gig.

Don't go in fatigued or hung over (or drinking), drink lots of water, eat normally etc... We had the intern get us a bunch of big ole bacon cheeseburgers and greazy onion rings one day that took two guys out of their groove!

Don't be offended if the engineer has suggestions. Hopefully he's done this before and wants to help.

Otherwise it's about being well rehearsed and the trick is finding the magic in a performance. I wouldn't plan on capturing "acrobatic feats" on guitar, play what you know you can play well because many (not everyone) can tense up a bit when the little red light is on. Be sure of your material.
 

DSnellen79

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396
Good words. Thanks. However this conserns me because I was told we are going to try 4 songs a day! From my very little experiance in this I know it takes a lot of time and I don't know if we will be able to get all that done. It kind of scares me a little too because this is going to really puting my head on the choping block to record, every little thing is going to stand out.
 

Pat Healy

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Good words. Thanks. However this conserns me because I was told we are going to try 4 songs a day! From my very little experiance in this I know it takes a lot of time and I don't know if we will be able to get all that done. It kind of scares me a little too because this is going to really puting my head on the choping block to record, every little thing is going to stand out.

Do you mean basic tracks for 4 songs a day, or 4 complete songs a day, including overdubs and mixing? 4 basic tracks per day is tough but MAYBE doable. 4 complete songs, absolutely not.

The fastest I've ever done a complete, 10-song album was five extremely long days. We did two days of basic tracks, two days of overdubs (mainly vocals and lead guitar) and one day of mixdown. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. Our result was surprisingly good, but it was a week of 16-hour days and we were all fried and miserable by the end.

Important to note that this was with a band that played together full-time and had done 500+ gigs by this point, so we were super-tight on the material. AND our engineer was a guru, a guy who had done albums for Steve Winwood and Leann Rimes.

Not sure what your situation is, but in your shoes I'd think about ways to lengthen my timetable.
 

loudboy

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27,311
Many different levels here...

I'll start w/the most common:

If you're a solid band, with up to 6 pieces, you can expect to spend about 12-15 hours per song - tracking, overdubbing, editing and mixing, to get a finished product that's comparable to other indie releases.

More people, or players w/less ability/experience will exponentially increase time spent, or reduce quality.

Having done a bunch of "worship team" records, it's imperative to have a core bunch of folks who can actually play, first and foremost the drummer and then a guitarist/keyboardist.

Also, as Kludge mentoned, someone needs to be driving the train. They will have the final decision, and it can be like herding cats, in a worship team project. The biggest challenge will be finding something for the less-talented to do - most worship team need to be pretty inclusive and feelings can get hurt/projects ruined if it's not handled tactfully...

Make sure everyone gets enough sleep, and has freed up the whole day. as things will take way longer than you think, and if the drummer has to leave at 5, it can be a real issue.

Unless it's a really nice, big room, w/lots of iso booths, don't try to track "live." You will waste hours setting up everyone's phone mixes, etc. and then end up not keeping any of it. Trust me on this. <g>

Track drums/bass first, w/a scratch guitar/kbd and vocals. 3-4 songs would be a good goal, for an 8-hour session. Then, do the ODs for that song, with the vocals last. Edit and rough mix as you go.

Take breaks and make sure you have lots of food, and stuff to do for people who are waiting. Try to keep the control from becoming party central.

New strings, heads, batteries, and intonation checks on all instruments.

Tune before each take, and only use one tuner.
 

DSnellen79

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396
Well I am going to have to talk to everyone about this ten songs in three days thing. I knew it was going to be ruff but it sounds like our time table isn't accurate (too short) Some of the other comments about the group being solid... I have complete confidence in the percusion section. Our drummer is experianced and Very good. I feel like he could go to nashville any day without problem and make money. We are taking as few people as possible. Looks like 6 and that counts 2 vocalist. So only 4 musicians. Some doubling up on instruments. Keys guy plays acoustic as well. then bass and me on electric. We have all played together for a couple of years now and are fairly solid. We play about four times a week and we know the songs pretty well. Its going to be cool and a challenge. I'm stoked and a little nervous about it.
 
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travisvwright

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11,864
Recording advice, "Don't worry too much about screw ups, I rarely use any takes whole, a good session player is one who recovers from a mistake quickly and doesn't let it ruin the rest of the track."
 

oldhousescott

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3,135
Record to a click if at all possible. It will allow for comping stuff from multiple takes if necessary. Plus, it's more relaxing to listen to in the final product. Lots of good advice above, especially plan for it to take longer than you think it will.
 

jacobhf

Silver Supporting Member
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574
Try get a rehearsal or two in with the producer and engineer, sit down and talk about everyones role before you are in the studio - theres nothing worse than confrontation when someone over steps boundries they didn't know were there.

Don't over play on the record, save that for live if thats your thing.

Rehearse with a click!
 

dmb70

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1,959
My band (covers) did our 1st studio recording this past weekend for our new demo & everything kludge says in post #2 is 110% spot on.
We did basic tracks & vocals for six songs in one day & I'd have to say I'm pretty satisfied with 2, 2 are about 95%, on another I'd like to redo the intro & clean up a few stray notes in pro tools & 1 I'd like to scrap everything but the drums & do it it again.

A lot harder than playing live, definitely a victim of the "red light fright".
 

kludge

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Do you mean basic tracks for 4 songs a day, or 4 complete songs a day, including overdubs and mixing? 4 basic tracks per day is tough but MAYBE doable. 4 complete songs, absolutely not.

The fastest I've ever done a complete, 10-song album was five extremely long days. We did two days of basic tracks, two days of overdubs (mainly vocals and lead guitar) and one day of mixdown. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. Our result was surprisingly good, but it was a week of 16-hour days and we were all fried and miserable by the end.

Important to note that this was with a band that played together full-time and had done 500+ gigs by this point, so we were super-tight on the material. AND our engineer was a guru, a guy who had done albums for Steve Winwood and Leann Rimes.

Not sure what your situation is, but in your shoes I'd think about ways to lengthen my timetable.

Take this to heart! THIS is the sort of wall you're up against!

With any project, you have four factors in play = time, scope, resources, and quality. As I understand it, your time is three days, and your scope is ten songs (resources, in the studio, mostly governs the quality of the studio you can afford). Now, what you do think is going to happen to quality if your time is too short and your scope too large? That's not how you get "pro results".

Even assuming you CAN play that many songs in that many days, how long are the days? And how well will you be playing by the end of one of those long days? After 10-12 hours in the studio, you won't have any chops or judgment left.

Reduce your scope to six songs, and your schedule becomes MUCH more realistic (although still difficult). I'd reduce it to four, myself. I'd much rather have a great four song album than a bad ten song album.

Such an ambitious goal for the first time in the studio, with so little time, is a recipe for failure. You're very unlikely to pull it off at all. And even if you do, both the performances and the mix will suffer. You'll feel bad as a band, and waste your congregation's resources. Do you know other worship bands in your area that have recorded? See if you can get someone from one of them to serve as a producer. You really need a producer, I think, someone to scope out this project properly.

Oh, and I forgot one other studio rule... no wives, girlfriends, or other innocent bystanders in the studio. Period. Doesn't matter whether they approve or not. The very best thing they can do is stay out of the way. That includes not bringing food or whatever. You can maybe have a studio runner for that (either an employee, or a non-related person you can count on).
 

=JL=

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984
The only thing I'd add is to record a rehearsal before you go, even if you only have primitive facilities. Use it to highlight timing issues, you may be surprised how slack they can be in a live band. Give yourself a chance to fix them before you start the studio clock.
Don't be nervous though, you have a great drummer, and that's one of the only things I get jumpy about in the studio.
 

kludge

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The only thing I'd add is to record a rehearsal before you go, even if you only have primitive facilities. Use it to highlight timing issues, you may be surprised how slack they can be in a live band. Give yourself a chance to fix them before you start the studio clock.
Don't be nervous though, you have a great drummer, and that's one of the only things I get jumpy about in the studio.

And just as a matter of process, especially when time is of the essence, I'm a big fan of doing a whole-band approach using direct-ins on guitars/bass and headphones, with vocalist set up to bleed as little as possible into the drums. Get a GREAT drum performance, and then overdub everything else onto the drum groove. Having the rest of the band playing along (and not using a click, unless you're used to it) will get you a MUCH better performance out of the drummer most of the time, but you're not losing whole takes just because someone flubbed a note.

A little vocal bleed into the drum mics is okay as long as the vocalist doesn't totally botch it. The drums are WAY louder than the bleed, and the overdubbed vocal later will drown out the rest. People get way more concerned about isolation than they need to be. Mixes have a way of covering little things up.

On the other hand, if there's ANYTHING that'll bring on red light fever, it's sticking a drummer on a headphone click and making him play without the band. Totally nerve-racking. Studios put your playing under a microscope; you want as little of that microscope effect as possible.
 

DC1

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Good advice in this thread.

I want to address one thing though. Practice with a metronome. A lot.

You will be embarrassed how far off your timing is, and you get away with it live. You will hear it, and painfully, in the studio.

Metronome.

Having said that, if your drummer and bass player are rock solid, you do NOT need to record with a click. A click track can take the life right out of the music. Ringo said: "We never used one, I always figured the music was supposed to speed up and slow down. Seems like it turned out OK". Record as live as you can, with everyone in the room. If the drums are good, then start replacing tracks as needed.

The idea is to develop such a good internal clock (by metronome practice) that you don't need a click. This brings a lot of life back to the music if you can pull it off.

If you are not sure, use the click.


dc
 

kludge

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Good advice in this thread.

I want to address one thing though. Practice with a metronome. A lot.

You will be embarrassed how far off your timing is, and you get away with it live. You will hear it, and painfully, in the studio.

Metronome.

Having said that, if your drummer and bass player are rock solid, you do NOT need to record with a click. A click track can take the life right out of the music. Ringo said: "We never used one, I always figured the music was supposed to speed up and slow down. Seems like it turned out OK". Record as live as you can, with everyone in the room. If the drums are good, then start replacing tracks as needed.

The idea is to develop such a good internal clock (by metronome practice) that you don't need a click. This brings a lot of life back to the music if you can pull it off.

If you are not sure, use the click.


dc

What I've found is that musicians who can't keep time without a click can't keep time WITH a click, either. Click can take a musician with good time and make it near-perfect, but a musician with bad time will either audibly rush/drag the beat, or lose it completely. Playing to a click can make editing easier, but it can also require more editing - not to mention the temptation to "line it up to the grid" and create that modern, overly robotic groove.

When you first start getting "producer ears", listening to old albums even by great bands will cause you to hear all sorts of little errors in timing and what not that you neer noticed before. But after a while, you realize how awesome even an imperfect groove can be.

The best thing about practicing with a metronome isn't that you learn to keep better time, but rather that you learn to let something else keep the time for you. Your groove relaxes and becomes more musical, not less, because you have to listen.
 

DC1

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15,413
What I've found is that musicians who can't keep time without a click can't keep time WITH a click, either. Click can take a musician with good time and make it near-perfect, but a musician with bad time will either audibly rush/drag the beat, or lose it completely. Playing to a click can make editing easier, but it can also require more editing - not to mention the temptation to "line it up to the grid" and create that modern, overly robotic groove.

Indeed. But a lot of guys who have played for 5 years or so can become a great player with a few months of metronome practice, in my experience.

And yeah, you need to stand nearby with a ruler to whack the knuckles of the engineer if he/she goes to the edit window too often...


When you first start getting "producer ears", listening to old albums even by great bands will cause you to hear all sorts of little errors in timing and what not that you neer noticed before. But after a while, you realize how awesome even an imperfect groove can be.

Yes! So many times I would jump all over the beat with my rhythm playing and then go back and fix it not even noticing that it worked (as long as the drummer and bass player don't fall out of the groove).

Learning to play and produce in a way that encourages these "imperfections" is what brings life back to music.


The best thing about practicing with a metronome isn't that you learn to keep better time, but rather that you learn to let something else keep the time for you. Your groove relaxes and becomes more musical, not less, because you have to listen.

The time becomes subconscious and the groove becomes intentional.


bay-buh



good stuff man.

dc
 




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