Recording Process

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by wootbetogod, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. wootbetogod

    wootbetogod Member

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    Hey everyone,

    My band has just been given the funds to record an album by one of our fans. We're super excited about this news, and we want to make sure the money is well spent.

    What I want to do for this fan/donor is to give him a written plan of what we will be doing. Could I get some help from those of you who are experienced in this?

    What is the whole process from start to finish? I'll list what my assumptions are, and you can tell me where I'm right or wrong.

    3-track demo (we are doing this for producers at studios we are thinking of using).
    Send demo to studio/producer.
    Record the album.
    Send the album for mastering.
    Send the album for duplication.

    Thanks for the help, everyone!
     
  2. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    You need a producer in right from the start, if you're not familiar with recording. What kind of budget are we talking, if that's okay to ask?

    You need a plan. A track list, a schedule (correction: a REALISTIC schedule), pre-production, and probably some practice time in a studio so "red light fever" doesn't kill you.
     
  3. jmoose

    jmoose Member

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    I think the real question here, is "we're going to make a record... how do we be sure that we don't screw up?"

    You've pretty much got the right ideas...

    Rather then a 3-song demo, you should record every song your thinking about including on the record. It doesn't have to be "perfect" or even close to that. Sticking a mic up in the rehearsal space and making sure that you can clearly hear everyone/everything is more then enough.

    The idea is to just get everything down on tape so the songs themselves come across clearly. Anyone with an ear for this stuff will be able to fill in the blanks... so long as the vibe is there.

    After that, or even during you need to get a handle on what the total budget for the project is going to be, including mastering & replication. Don't forget about things like media/supplies... hard drives, a box of guitar strings... drum heads & sticks are always a chunk of change... artwork & setup fees. Not to mention having some money left for promotion!

    Then you can start to shop around for a producer...

    Producers all have different ways of working, but ultimately you want to find someone who "gets" the music and that you can relate to and easily communicate with. After all, you'll be spending a fair amount of time with this person & trusting them with your creative vision... not to mention a lot of money!

    They should have a proven track record of clients, recordings & material that sounds good in your vein. In other words, the guy who's done a bunch of jazz records & not much else is probably not the best choice for a progressive metal band.

    Ultimately the producer is a liaison between the artist, song and medium. The job also encompasses lots of other things that vary from project to project but include picking songs & takes, playing the role of psychiatrist, sorting out logistical nightmares and delivering the record on time & on budget.

    Most any good producer will set you up with a mastering engineer and help with replication. I'd be slightly wary of anyone who didn't work that into the budget from the getgo, simply because we want to see the record come out and do well as much as the artist does! A bad record is a bad career move for everyone involved.
     
  4. devinb

    devinb Member

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    I would forget the demo, and trying to get a 'producer' to sign on to your project.

    This is what I would do.

    Look at your budget, and what you want the money to cover (i.e. does the person fronting you the money expect you to have a thousand copies available in six months, or are they/you okay with blowing the money on recording and finding a way to pay for replication, or even mastering later).

    Make a budget, and take known costs out immediately (replication of disks, mastering is often fairly fixed cost - i.e. a particular mastering house may be $85 per 5 minutes of material).

    Decide the songs you're going to record, and the way you're going to record them (i.e. full band minus vocals and solos, or build it up part by part).

    Practice like you've never practiced before, if you're going to use a click, practice with a click...

    Record your songs any way you can (video camera) and listen critically.

    Refine anything about any of the songs that you have even slight doubts about.

    Make decisions about what you want things to sound like, most particularly the drums. Put together a CD of reference sounds.

    Tour studios in your area/price range. Listen to things they've done, feel out the people.

    Talk over things with the engineer you choose, figure out a plan everyone is comfortable with, knowing that it will change (both in terms of timeline, but also decisions like, are you comfortable with AutoTune? And if so, find out about what is easy to fix, and what won't work, and use your time efficiently).

    Record as close to plan as you can.

    Take a little time off, with fresh ears mix. Consider the pros and cons of mixing in the box versus with outboard gear...

    Live with the mixes for a bit, look into copyrights, IRSC codes, and so on..

    When you're sure you're happy with the mixes, send it out for mastering.

    Replicate/Duplicate
     
  5. wootbetogod

    wootbetogod Member

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    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the quick responses! Here are some answers to some of the questions I saw asked.

    We can call our budget around $8,000. We play contemporary/pop/rock worship music, and we live in GA.

    3 out of 5 of us have some studio experience, and can recall with fondness and some regret the stressful environment a studio can be.

    Our "frontman" recorded his last album in Nashville with a sound engineer, and was pretty happy with it, but we've been looking into some places in Atlanta that will include a producer this time. (I think our "frontman" would like to do it with a producer this time).

    The band in its current incarnation is probably 3-4 months from being realistically ready to jump into the studio. We're still experimenting with new material, replacing covers with originals, etc. There's a great chemistry, and the people at our "shows" often ask about a CD. We'll be ready, but we don't have 10-12 songs to record right now. (There's only 24 hours in a day for crying out loud and 8 of them are spent sleeping while another 4 should be spent playing Call of Duty Modern Warefare 2. :) )

    One producer in consideration just finished recording 2 bands that are pretty successful in the pop/rock Christian music part of the industry. Both play the style of music that we play too.

    Oh, we live in south GA.

    Keep it coming! Thanks!
     
  6. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    One thing I'd strongly discourage is trying to take the money, buy some recording gear, and recording it yourself. That's INSANE, but that's what too many bands do. If you're on a fixed budget and dont have your own in-house recording nerd, you're far better off spending your money on a pro studio.

    Check out different studios. Don't settle for one just because it's cheap, or because your friend works there. A studio should be able to give you demos of things that have been recorded there - not just rattle off a list of bands. You want to meet the engineer and know you can work with that person.

    Again, I'm much more into getting a producer in early. The point of a producer is to be a: organized and b: critical. I don't think a stylistic match is important, so long as they dig your music and don't want to force you to be something you're not. The producer should hear your stuff live/in rehearsal and help with song selection. Do NOT try to record everything you have! Be critical, stick to songs that will make the album better rather than dragging it down. Think about how YOU feel when you're listening to an album you like and then hit that one really lame song...

    The suggestion to do really crude live recordings is great. Do that and listen closely and honestly to them. You'll hear who needs to work on performance, what songs are weak, where things need rearranged. Being honest with yourself and your bandmates (and being okay with them being honest with you) is absolutely critical. Another key job the producer does is keep everyone from breaking down emotionally or killing each other!

    I shouldn't have to say it, but I will... NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL AT RECORDING SESSIONS. They rarely help and often hurt. People need to be on time, ready, and sober.

    Live-band recording versus overdubs, click or not... those are implementation details. You do what works. I do both ways on both questions, depending on the needs of the song and the band. Ignore anyone getting religious about it.

    Don't be afraid of technology. Grid editing and autotune aren't inherently evil! But don't use them as the 21st century "fix it in the mix" either. They should be touch-ups on otherwise great performance. If you can't deliver a great performance, try again. Speaking of which, build some slop time into your schedule for the days when someone just isn't "on" (or is sick, or whatever).

    Don't sit in with the mixing engineer unless you can keep your mouth shut!

    Do sit in with the mastering engineer if you're allowed to do so.
     
  7. ABKB

    ABKB Member

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    As one poster said, get something (anything) on tape. Get it to a producer who understands your music. Producers work differently of course, but you will basically be handing over the keys to the band while you are in the studio (thus the stress on top of recording). Once you found the guy (or girl), THEN you all draw up a plan because you are going to be going by his schedule, his rules, his ideas with input from you. Any drawn up plan at this point is not worth the paper it's on. Trust me, I just went through all this. A good producer will show you the ropes, a bad one and it's over before it begins.

    But get your songs TIGHT first or your just throwing good money after bad.
     
  8. wootbetogod

    wootbetogod Member

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    Thanks for all the responses.

    So do I have the general process flow correct? Let's assume that we do a 3-song demo or either record every song we have in a crude recording type and that our goal is to work with a producer this time. . . what's next typically? Also, where does album artwork fall in this process?
     
  9. devinb

    devinb Member

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    The artwork doesn't need to be done until you have had the album mastered, and it is on the way to the pressing plant for replication/duplication. You can download templates from everyone who does the manufacturing that are pretty straightforward, and no one with a graphic arts background should have any trouble understanding how to put the stuff together, and when it's done, upload it back up to the plant.

    As far as the producer, are you looking for someone in addition to the engineer, or someone to wear both hats (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

    As Kludge said, you probably want the producer on board as early as possible. Leonard Bernstein said that for every hour of performance he wanted ten hours of rehearsal, and for every hour of rehearsal he wanted ten hours of score study. I'd say a good producer should want similar things. To get the most out of a producer, they need to know your stuff like the back of their hand, and they should be given the opportunity to work on arrangements with you, offer suggestions before you're in the studio...I'm not saying there isn't value to someone just at the studio, in terms of keeping you and the engineer on task, making snap judgments about what's working and what isn't, and offering an impartial view if there are disagreements within the group, but a producer who isn't really familiar with your stuff is a little handcuffed, and if your band isn't able to change directions quickly, their suggestions may just eat up time.

    Short of being able to budget for someone working ahead of time, you can always looking for criticisms from people who you trust the opinions of, as well as their ability to tell the truth.
     
  10. ABKB

    ABKB Member

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    The flow will be slightly different for each project. But once you get the tunes ready and the producer lined up, I would suggest starting the artwork along with the recording. Once the recording and mix is done, the work has just begun. Google "DiskFaktory" (there are other places like them as well, I use them only as an example) for mastering and artwork printing and copies. Also got to get copyrights (some folks skip that which I think is foolish, but whatever, to each his own) and the writers need to start thinking about joining up with BMI or ASCAP if you expect to get paid for any possible airplay. Then promote promote promote promote, and promote some more.
     
  11. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    Artwork is effectively in parallel to recording. I think it's good to have a clear idea, and pick your artist early. And make SURE the artist is good with Photoshop, etc. A lot of visual artists are great with physical media like paint, but not so good with computers. Pre-press experience is even more valuable! They need to really understand the constraints of a cd format.

    You'll also need to decide early on your packaging, which impacts the artwork. Do you want a booklet? Jewel cases or cardboard cases? Etc.

    Also, you can write the credits text without any art input at all... the artist will just need to work it in.

    If you want a photo, you need to choose your photographer - someone you can count on to get what you want, not just your friend with a camera.
     
  12. jaydub69

    jaydub69 Member

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    Bump for more info
     
  13. jmoose

    jmoose Member

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    If fans are asking about stuff now, you'd probably be best off recording those 3 songs & doing a short run release with 200 copies or so. Get something out there to gain followers & build a buzz now. Maybe even make a few bucks. Once you actually start a "real" disc it could be at least 4-6 months, or even longer until everything is complete & discs are back in hand.

    If you have a producer in mind, track those 3 songs with him/her to get a feel for working together... or just go to a local studio & blast it out.

    Otherwise, any producer is going to want to hear all the material before they sign on just to get familiar with it, not just 3 songs. Some guys are cool about walking into a studio cold... not knowing the songs... or not even having "songs" together when they walk in. At the very least I want to hear/see the band play live at least once...

    After you have the rough recordings together, you contact producers & ask if they'd be interested in making a record... talk about how they like to work, what they envision & budget. See if anything jives...

    Anyway - Devin, a lot of what you mentioned in your first post IS the job of a producer.

    Anytime your making a "real" record, with a "real" budget, you have to have a producer. Even if its just one guy in the band, someone needs to be in charge of the flow... making sure things get done & the ship stays off the rocks.

    Simply going to a studio & doing it hourly with a random engineer is a horrible, horrible idea.

    Much better to have as many details worked out before you start recording, that way you can get right into the thick of the work & not worry about completing stuff. That includes the overall budget & timeframe for the sessions... ie; 3 days for basics... 5 days of overdubs... 4 days mixing, mastering engineer is one of these 2-3 options etc.

    Besides... just about anyone in the biz is going to charge 'X' per hour... and if you know up front that you need 150 hours or whatever to complete the project, and book a large block of time the rate is gonna go WAY down.

    Not only that, but its really best to get someone involved who has a vested interest in the outcome of the project, rather then someone (or many people!) who could really care less what they're recording that day, because they'd rather be chunkin' away at the Xbox.

    With artwork & packaging... the type of packaging & artwork can directly affect the cost of the replication. Take a digipak (the cardboard stuff) vs. a standard jewel case... tray card, dual sided tray card; having a 2 page vs. an 8 page insert & full color printing vs. single 'on-disc' can make a sizeable difference in duplication costs.

    Discmakers & CD Forge are both great & have pricing on their sites;

    http://www.discmakers.com/
    http://www.cdforge.com/
     
  14. Baloney

    Baloney Senior Member

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    Lotsa good advice here and I'll add my 2 cents..

    First thing is to get all contracts in order. You will need one for the producer,engineer and the band. If you dont have a contract to define who gets what and who owns what you could be in for a world of pain and aggravation later. As an engineer I wouldnt work without one. I have to protect myself and the band needs to protect itself. Yall may be friends now but it could turn sour later. Get the lagalities out of the way ,,

    Next is to make sure you have the music down. You do not want to waste valuable studio time. Rehearse and write as much as you can before you hit the record button. Spend time charting what you have so far and take that into the studio with you. The engineer and assisstant will need a chart. A good producer will want one too.

    Hire a great engineer. Great engineers will know where the good studios are. Dont waste your time looking for a studio yourself. Spend that time practicing. Trust your engineer and producer. With proper practice you should be able to knock track many songs in a week. You can do overdubs later if needed. Get the tracks down right. Make sure your engineer understands documenting everything in case you need to re do something. Be prepared with everything youll need. Back up guitars and amps,picks,strings,drum stuff etc. Studio time is valuable so dont waste it. Have cd's,hard drives etc ready to go. Dont skimp.

    Allow your engineer to mix it without you being there. You can always say no to his final mix and he can redo it. Again make sure its clear inthe contract who owns the mix. is he a work for hire or does he get ownership of the mix. Make sure the producer knows its work for hire and no points or ownership is given. If one of these songs becomes a hit without the contract you will be in for a huge legal battle over royalties.

    Be on time for the studio. Downbeat is at ???? oclock so do not be tardy or tolerate it. Studio time is valuable. Dont expect to bother the engineer. Stay away from the cool knobs and buttons. Trust him he knows what he is doing. Youre there to make music not learn to become an engineer.

    Once yall are satisfied with the mix and its ready for mastering then you can shop around. Discmakers is a decent place to get cds,mastering and cover art done but feel free to shop around. Good luck and enjoy the ride.

    Oh yea in case I forgot to mention it GET ALL LEGALITIES DONE FIRST!!!
     
  15. wootbetogod

    wootbetogod Member

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    Great feedback, everyone!

    This has definitely helped a lot!

    Any more suggestions are more than welcome. Thanks!
     

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