Upcoming recording session...
Back story... I'm 3 months into this band. They've been together for 5 years as another band but scrapped their old material and started over w/ me. Cool and we're doing alright.
One of the guitarists wants to record. Again, cool. We have 3 "done" songs. There's a studio here that has a Neve. Not just any Neve, but the Neve from the old Caribou studio. $250/day? Right on! I'm down.
But wait... He doesn't want to record vocals or use the tracks for anything. Just wants to see how the drums, bass, and guitar will sound. Basically a trial run for the board and to see how this engineer mixes us.
Is this a normal way of thinking? Throw down $250 on something you'll basically throw away? I said I'd at least like to record one full song with vocals, get it mastered, and do a split 7" with someone. The other guitar player is with me. The drummer wasn't there tonight. Just wondering if all of you think this is strange or not.
Unless your band is in the financial position to actually make a trial useful by comparing multiple studios, it seems a bit silly. Also, will you be likely to make your money back or is this just a project-type thing?
If he wants a trial, I see no reason not to capitalise on it by recording a full song and even just releasing it on iTunes (good option because it'll be about $10 to distribute as opposed to whatever it costs to make your split or single).
We're a hobbyist band. It's a serious hobby, as in a good deal of time and money go into music from all of us, but a hobby nonetheless.
I'd be surprised if we made our money back, but you never know. I've yet to make my money back on any recording from any band.
Again, not the point... I'm OK with throwing money at it knowing I'll not recoup. I just don't want to spend money and walk away with nothing tangible (no recorded song or songs). Just seems like a waste to me.
I don't get it and would not do it. Not without recording a full song and then using it somewhere (youtube, soundcloud, itunes, whatnot). Personally I'd try to get a better reasoning out of the guitarist.
- If it's just to see how the drums/guitars/bass sound together, $250 gets you a nice recorder or some mics.
- If he wants to test the engineer, why, what's the bigger picture?
- "A trial run for the board": I assume you're talking about the Neve console? Why the need to try it out?
If you were doing background work for choosing a studio to record an LP etc., this trial would make more sense to me.
If you're going to bother with this idea... just go old school and blast through the three songs you have in one take "live" versions and maybe overdub the vocals and call it a day. Have something to show for your time, even if it is only to listen to it the car.
Besides, as a test of the studios capabilities what's better than "We've got 2 hours, and three songs to get done. Can you handle it?"
No sense in just noodling around here. You're paying out money for this right?
Just be prepared, you know the drill. Clean up your gear, replace damaged cables, De-Oxit scratchy pots and switches, put on some new strings and drum heads, etc.. Have your drummer play to a click track (it does help), perform every take like it matters, and be aware of the "fix it in the mix" trap. If the source recording sucks, the finished product will. There is no magic bullet that will fix a lazy or bored sounding preformance.
Have fun and keep us posted.
$250 a day would be considered really cheap over here. Bargain basement cheap. I pay double that for my studio time but I've been told by members here that in the US it's a lot cheaper for a good room and engineer.
We spent 6 hours trialing 12 different snare drums for our record so maybe that's why I think that $250 is chump change for a full studio trial day. If you don't click with the sound or the producer it's a small price to pay. I mean it's going to take a full day to set up anyway so you might as well go and get a feel for the tracking environment.
But hey man, it's like anything in life: if you can't afford it then you shouldn't do it.
I agree that $250 a day is cheap and I can afford it for sure. I'm just not in the habit of spending money and getting nothing for it. That's my whole thing w/ this. I don't want to waste it.
A day of workshopping might improve your final result. I'd suggest from my own experience that it almost definitely will, even if you end up doing nothing more than schlepping gear, listening to the way the room works and having some coffee with your engineer while discussing what you want to get out of the experience. Just because the day might be spent doing stuff that isn't physically tangible doesn't mean it's a waste of time.
Planning, familiarisation, and communication can all be worth their weight in gold. Getting used to the space, the sounds and the guy your working with might actually save you money when you come to doing the takes.
It seems to me that having only 10 hours would not be enough time to really get a good drum sound AND record songs. I can understand why your bandmate may want to just test the waters. However, a good engineer will take time getting the drums right. Don't get me wrong, it's very possible (i've done it myself) to pump out some tunes in a short time. That again depends on the engineer and how well prepared you guys are.
It seems questionable to spend $250 on a test (for me at least). What other recordings have come out of the studio? Have you heard any other recordings the engineer has done? Couldn't you ask to hear some samples of his work before spending the money?
I'm guessing this engineer records mostly jam/bluegrass stuff considering the clientele of the area (mountains West of Boulder). Our guitar player just really wants to record through a Neve and this studio is the only one in the area that has one. We're a punk rock band though so not sure how his skillset is going to translate. Could be good, could be bad. Who knows.
We chose our producer based on his catalogue, not the brand of his desk. While working on a legitimate Neve is very enticing, it's going to be a total tragedy if the guy behind it doesn't have a sturdy understanding of what's required for your act. If the producer himself has suggested that you do a trial day it speaks volumes about his level of professionalism. He'll be looking to you to make a concrete decision about whether his space and attitude are a good fit for the band. I'd get in there and see how you feel.
For an example my last recording session was done on the cheap by a guy who "records awesome bass" (he also did the final mix... which I wasn't allowed to be present for, but that's another story altogether). Well, i wish i would've realized this guy cut his teeth on recording DJ's... All you could hear on the final cut was bass!!! You could barely even turn the music up without blowing out your average speaker. Lesson learned.
I don't know if this guy had ever recorded 'actual" instruments, would've been great to know ahead of time.
The studio/engineer should have a ton of samples of his work to judge from, without you guys spending the time and money.
Also shopping for a studio by the desk they use is as useful as judging a bass player by the amp he uses - namely it doesn't tell you much.
It doesn't matter that its a Neve, if the engineer doesn't have the ears and experience to match it. At $250/day you have to wonder.
There's so much more that is critical to the recording process than just the brand of desk.
You're chasing your tail.
Caribou was the birthplace of one of the best sounding and most awesome albums of all time, Romantic Warrior. Would definitely be cool to record on the board from there.
Personally, I think it's pointless to go in and NOT come out with finished tracks. Why NOT do vocals? If you're a punk band, your songs are probably 2-3 minutes long, meaning you can average about 15 takes an hour, which over 10 hours (not counting setup) is a LOT of takes.
If the guitarist is dead set on not doing vocals and not getting a "finished" product out of it (even if you just use it as something to put up on facebook until you have something more serious), then just tell him that's fine, but then he's paying for it. His crazy idea, his bank roll. Maybe you can chip in for some beer for in the studio.
First 30 minutes or so, get the drums unpacked and set up, next 30, get them miked up and start getting the sounds dialed in.
In the meantime, guitar and bass are also getting set up and dialing in rough tones as well.
2nd hour, more refined tweaking of mic positions, EQ etc... for the instruments, and maybe some live run throughs.
3rd and 4th hour you start working on the first song. Engineer can make tweaks in between takes. For a punk band you can probably just do the instruments live in the room, with baffle panels between the amps (maybe drums in an iso booth). So you can start "pre-mixing", ie making adjustments to the tracking to get the final product to sound good before you have to do too much to it.
5th and 6th hours you work on the 2nd song.
7th and 8th you work on the 3rd song.
9th and 10th you get some quick mixes (meanwhile the engineer has been "pre-mixing" everything anyway), maybe even some rough "mastering" and you guys tear down and pack up.
I mean, no, you're not going to get The Black Album from that, but for a "demo"/EP from a brand new punk band you could get really good results. With a good board, good mics, a good room, and a halfway decent engineer, as long as you guys don't totally suck, you could easily get a very well done recording of those 3 songs in 10 hours.
^^ This is what I would define as rushing it. People who rush end up dissatisfied with the finished product; almost universally in my experience. You could suggest that an efficient band could do the above pretty well and you may be right but I've never found slave-driving and time keeping to be a truly efficient studio practice.
The worst studio experiences of my life have revolved around one or more people tapping their watch or fretting about what the experience is going to cost. Anxiety and haste produces poor results.
It might cost less overall to be quick, but it's very challenging to put a dollar value on overall satisfaction. I mean why even bother with going in to record on a Neve board if the result's only going to be demo quality? Might as well just download REAPER and go from there.
You are absolutely right though, if they are comfortable and the guy behind the board has a clue 3 songs in 10 hours should be cake. If it's 2-3 minute punkish stuff.. have at it! My point was being that the guitarist was in "test-only" mode - based on the OP.
Guitarists in "test-mode" - That could take days.. weeks even! :D:D :hiding:
Right on, guys & thanks for the input. I'm seeing his side of it more now, but still would like something to take home... Whether or not it sounds "good". We'll see what happens. I really am looking forward to it though... Regardless of the outcome. And our songs are your general 3 chord 3 minute punk rock songs. A little more involved. Bordering on post rock sort of stuff, but not totally there.
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