These days, it's quite unusual to record all the band playing at the same time. There is a school of thought that you'll get a better performance from the band if they're all playing together, as they would on stage. However, while this may be so, there are significant disadvantages later on in the process, as we'll see. Try the 'all at once' approach if you want to, but it's much more common to record each member's performance individually. This process is known as 'track laying'.
Plan the tracks. My process can accomodate many, many tracks, so plan for as many as you need. However, remember that, at the end of the day, you're going to end up with just 2 tracks - your stereo recording! The more tracks you record, the longer it will take to mix.
It's usual to start with the rhythm section - drums & bass. If you've a real drummer as opposed to a drum machine, then this is one of the occasions where we'll break the rule we've just made about playing at the same time! There's so much interaction between drummer and bassist that we need to let them record together. At this stage, it's also worth recording a 'guide' vocal track, for all the rest of the band be follow.
If you're not fortunate enough to have a drummer, then there are other ways of producing drum tracks.
After recording a brilliant rhythm track, we can add the other instruments, in any order to suit you - guitars, keyboard(s), horn(s), etc.
Then it's time for vocals. It's possible that the guide vocal we recorded early in the process is so good that you don't need to re-record it!! Don't laugh, this does sometimes happen, and it's usually worth keeping the guide vocal for reference.
Anyone for backing vocals? When this stage is reached, most of the band will probably make a swift exit to the pub!! This is a shame, since good BV's can make a huge difference to most tracks. If they have gone to the pub, then it's quite common for the lead vocalist to do all the backing vocals as well. In an all-male band, you might like to consider using female backing vocalists, and vice-versa. If you don't know anyone, I can help. Incidentally, this is one situation were sex-discrimination law doesn't apply. It's perfectly legal to advertise for "female vocalists".
The process of reviewing the recorded tracks in detail is called editing. The process varies and may only involve removing unwanted noises from tracks. However, I can computer software which allows changes to pitch and timing, of vocals and solo instruments. No doubt you've heard of 'Autotune' , well I use 'Melodyne', massively superior in my view. The effect can be spectacular, but don't underestimate the time required. For example when working on a vocal track, I can change it one word at a time, using six commands!
The editing process prepares your tracks for the next stage.
If you possibly can, mix on a different day to recording. You'll get a better perspecive on the recording. Bring with you a commercial CD which has been well-recorded in the style of your own material, and that you know well. It's essential to play some familiar material over the studio speaker system to compare with yours. Studio speaker systems are not designed to sound good - they're designed to sound accurate.
It's at this stage that we set the relative levels of all the instruments and their positions in the stereo image. We can also change the sounds of the recorded track by applying 'equalisation' (tone control!), time-domain effects (reverb and echo!), dynamics processing (compression and gating) and more specialised effecting like pitch correction and aural excitment (yes, really!). Allow plenty of time for this. You may find as you work with your recorded tracks that maybe something is missing, or perhaps something's just not quite right. It's perfectly OK to re-record anything at this stage, several times if necessary.
My main mixer, a Mackie 8-Buss 24-8-2 , can accomodate 60 inputs at mixdown. If that isn't enough (!) then we have sub-mixers with 32,16 and 12 inputs to supplement it. For mixdown, you'll probably want to add effects to your recorded material. I have four stereo reverb/echo units available, including the world-class 'Lexicon' reverb. If you're using MIDI, perhaps for keyboards or samples, then the outputs from your synths etc will also need to be accommodated.
This is the process where we take your mix and give it a final polish, in readiness for copying and distribution. Make sure, before you start this process that you are happy with the mix. Listen to it on a variety of different sound systems - hifi's, in cars and on iPod's - and get as many constructive comments as you can. Make notes of all of them.
First, we need to finalise the order your recorded tracks will appear on the CD, and the time gap between tracks. Then we need to make final adjustments to the sound of each track to ensure that they fit together into a finished album. These adjustments will normally be restricted to EQ, dynamics, volume and stereo imaging. This is not the time to add more parts or change the mix!
If your material is destined for commercial release or radio airplay, you may want to consider taking the work you've done with me to a dedicated 'Mastering House' for mastering. Here, an experienced mastering engineer will listen to your work in a dedicated environment and make adjustments with specialised equipment. While this can be expensive, the results can be amazing. I'll be happy to recommend suitable places, or even organise it for you, if you wish. On the other hand, if you do decide to complete the project with us, the results will be probably 80% as good, without the extra cost!
Presenting your product
There's some details on presenting your product on th 'Packaging' tab below.