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Recording drums first is really not working at all

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by JaneBass1, Sep 18, 2008.

  1. JaneBass1


    Jul 23, 2008
    I followed the suggestion of recording drums first.

    I went to a band's practice and recorded their whole set with a portable recorder. Then I added each song into a track, that the drummer could listen to.

    Now the drummer complained all the time that he could not hear the song too well. Then he was confused with what he already played on the song with what he is currently recording.

    We did many takes for the same song, hopefully that later I could check the recording and try to fix it. Besides that we spent like 3 hours and was dead tired.

    I check the recording the next day and none of the tracks really matched the reference song/track.

    Then the I asked the bass to come and record his line. He was also confused between hearing the drum track and the rehearsal track, listening twice the drums and bass. So I put him only the drums and he was messing up cause he usually follows the guitar.

    I think I am going back into recording the guitar first, then the bass, then the drums, then the vocals.

    What am I doing wrong?
  2. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    You gotta record a scratch track first. The rhythm section (rhythm guitars/keys etc, drums, bass) play together and you record all of this. Make sure you start with a count-off from the drummer.

    Then, if necessary, you can re-record drum parts by muting the scratch drum part and having him re-play it, while listening to the bass & rhythm guitar parts from the scratch track.

    If necessary, you can re-record the bass parts in the same way (mute the scratch track bass part & re-record while listening to the drums, rhythm guitars, etc).

    Usually the drummer and bassist and rhythm guitars all just play together and you record these parts together until they are right, so you have a "live," organic sound and everyone is locked in. If you're playing to a click track, you don't have to do it this way, but even with a click, there is some push & pull and it helps to play together live & in person while you're recording. Then, you go in later and add on lead guitars, vocals, etc.

    Hope this helps.

    P.S. Realized you are recording a rehearsal with a portable recorder. Are you multi-tracking (with isolation) or just recording the room?
  3. jnuts1


    Nov 13, 2007
    This is how my band has been recording our demo. first we have the singer & guitar record a scratch track to a very basic drum loop or click track that can all be taken out later.
    Then we record the drums & remove the click track.
    Now i would record the bass a hundred times or so & then i let the singer/guitar do their thing.
  4. I'm not sure that I know what you are trying to achieve. You recorded the whole band together, then asked the drummer to play along to the recording. The drummer couldn't do it. Was it because of a bad monitoring setup, or is it because the drummer can't play to his own parts? That's important to know.

    I've done a few projects where I had each musician play along to the same backing track, then I just mute the backing track and start working from there. The backing track basically becomes your "click". I've also recorded bands completely live, multitracked, and then mixed it. I've also set up a skeleton of the tune using basic MIDI parts and tempo changes and then built on top of that. But either way, I had to have a roadmap, an idea of what I wanted to do, and musicians who could play at least enough to pull it off.

    It sounds like this band is kinda "jammy" and might not be able to, or want to, play these parts twice. If that's the case then you are never going to get the "play parts alone to a backing track" approach to work. You might be better off working on a way to make a better live recording. As it is you are probably just frustrating both the band and yourself.
  5. Vetchking

    Vetchking Banned

    Mar 17, 2008
    President G.P.G. Co. "acoustic" USA
    Ok, Vetchking@aol.com here:

    I'm gonna pop off ........

    I am a 55 yr old Trained drummer..... lessons at nine. (9)....... ( North Texas, bla bla ), I even own an amp company. Anyhow here's the secrets to recording.

    Ps. I grew up and produced 18 real albums.

    #1. most bands record way too early.

    Here's the best way for a band practice. We knew when we were 20. ( don't know how we just knew) ( it works)

    If everybody shows up ....... ( that's good) jam for 20 minutes........ We all just came from work .. in a mill or a store or our girlfriends house, or just woke up.

    Placed one mike in a room shure 57, 58 is fine... run it into a cassette deck, (etc).

    So jam and clear your head....... NOW do not play a blues song for 20 minutes and have all 6 guys solo. or all 3 guys play 6 solos...... That's a totally non creative enviroment. UGH.

    Have the guitar player start something, Rock, Blues Funk, Soul, Death Metal, anything, add bass drums, etc. Take the idea Groove, riff, COMP... and let it evolve. It will probably die in a few minutes. Pay attention......... END IT.

    End the JAM.

    Now have the drummer start one and write your parts to him..... Let it evolve........... This also will die in 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat the process with each guy starting stuff. Make it up.

    Keep in mind Stop these when they die and you all run out of ideas.

    Move on. The next one will be better than the last..... Make the bass guy start one even if he doesn't want to. LOL.


    Now your warmed up.

    Play the best song you have all worked out. Cover songs. Play your best three songs. This will bring you all back to reality, and you will feel like you know what your doing and this is all good. Hey, we're making music.... we can play as a band. FUN.

    Now here's what just happened to your band. You all have had time for an equipment check. You now have had time to get a room balance and you've warmed up and your ears should be coming on. Not bad huh.

    Ok, We're a band we want to record.

    Here's the trick.

    Don't even bother spending money or buying equipment or renting studio time, till your ready.

    Your NOT.

    Now once you've learned your 30 songs pick your best 10... LOL,

    After that jam that let's you learn each others as players, and creators, etc.

    Continue playing your book and go over it and listen and define it. DO NOT BE CHANGING your parts at this point.

    Ya see the drimmer is keying off the guitar parts and bass parts and even the singer. So don't be moving parts around. Your job is to lock down everyones parts.

    The same example goes for the Guitar player, bass, keys etc. Lock down your parts. You all end up keying off of things you don't realise. Oh, just for stupid people. Set up the same everytime. Don't be moving the guitar player on the left side of the drums and then next week on the right....... Real bad........ Real bad.

    Actually, before you record you 5 or 6 guys should be able to stand in the studio no instruments and sing each others parts to one an other.

    When the 2nd Guitar player sings the drum fill before the 3rd chorus and all the guys smile your ready to record.

    Practice the songs till you are sick of them........ Yes, sick of them. NOW you are ready to preform them.

    Can you hear all the guys parts go by as you play that song for the 150th time........ Know your ready to record.

    Now lst's say there's 4 guys in the band......... Here's where it get's tricky. Everybody come up with $500.00. WOW that's a lot of money....... NOT.

    It no one has a pot to piss in...... play 6 gigs and buy Mc Donalds. and Put the money away for recroding.

    Now go into the big BIG studio......... WOW, $65.00 an hour WOW $200.00 an hour.

    Hell you don't have an hours worth of originals. Cut a deal, get there early... (all of you ), Pay no set up fee. Some flunky will let you in. Set up. Get ready for a strange experience, Headphones....... It's ok, you can play this stuff in your sleep. Play the songs down..... One take..... DO them all....... Fix nothing....... If you all agree that you screwed up your best song...... Do it again. Play like your all gonna die on the way home.

    Bottom line..... $ 350.00 go back an mix.

    Oh, I forgot........ They are using $10,000.00 mikes on your vocals. And more rare major mikes... on and on......... Make sure the real engineer is there.

    Oh, forgot this too........ Take me. LOL. or an older guy that was in a big band in you area when you were 16 and thinking about this stuff. If he's 40 don't be afraid......... He was you and he's been there.

    Listen to your elders.......... They already did it...... Most would be glad to help you... They are in your area...... Bug your music store..........They know everybody.

    Drums never go down first. UGH. Drums only go down first for a writing demo or a tool. Never do that. Also Play live and add fix later.

    Nirvana is a perfect example.

    It's late............. Copy this and E-mail to your self........ Print it out Hang it on the wall of the practice room......... Pass it out to all band members.

    It works and in 1 1/2 years you will be emptying out bars.

    Reason.. Your band will be so good it will be over the auciences head....... But if Columbia records is in the house you might get signed ............ LOL.......... Later Vetchking@aol.com
  6. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    I totally disagree, Vetch. I think bands should record themselves early and as often as possible.

    Zoom makes a great portable recorder for $200 called the H2. It has two built-in stereo mics (4 total) and is perfect for setting in the middle of rehearsal on a mic stand while you push record and go. Use these rehearsal recordings to help your songs evolve. Use them as a demo to book some gigs at house parties, fraternities/sororities, opening for other bands, etc. Don't play for free, especially if you're playing covers. Play as often as you can. Give away field recordings on your website.

    With the money you get from gigs, start piecing together a home studio. It need not be anything fancy and don't spend more than you need to. You are not going to be selling this as much as using it to get gigs & fans. Get something like a Presonus Firepod 10-channel A/D box for $400 (comes with Cubase), a few mics for the drum kit (kick and a pair of overheads is all you need; you can add more if you want), and lay down some of your originals using your computer. You need not record a whole album; 3-5 songs is fine. Burn 100 CDRs, label them with some Avery inkjet CD labels, get a photojournalism student or friend with a nice camera to take some shots of your band at a gig, and use this for the cover. Sell for $5 at your shows and to everyone you know. Start booking club gigs and grow your fanbase using a Facebook group and your website.

    An album is an investment - that is, you need to expect to *make* money by spending money, or don't do it. If you are not going to make an extra $3,000 by selling 300 more CDs at $10/pop because the vocals are so much better, on that basis alone, don't worry about using a $10k vocal mic. Spend the money promoting yourselves and get some experience producing yourselves by recording yourselves as often as possible and playing with different ideas in your home studio. It is my opinion that an independent band should not spend money to go to a pro studio unless there is a label involved, who knows how to sell that album for a positive return. It's much easier not to spend money in the first place than to spend it and then try to recoup it with increased sales. You do have to take some chances, of course—that's what life is all about—but you do not want your first experiences mixing or monitoring with headphones while tracking to be on the clock!

    I'm sorry, but I also disagree with keeping things exactly the same every night. Move things around. Put the guitarist on the other side of the drummer and see what happens. Don't play the songs exactly the same way every time until you are sick of them. If you are sick of a song, you won't have fun playing it, the audience will know you are not having fun playing it, and no one is happy. If you are sick of a certain song, retire it. Don't lock down your parts. The best stuff comes from a bit of improv mixed with good musicianship and the ability to follow each other live. Rehearse together so that you know what the others in your band are thinking and where they are going to go, not until you just have each others' parts memorized. This is not a classical music score. Rock music is alive and always changing. Go with it. Sometimes one of you will take a song in a direction and it will flop. Other times, you will take a song in a new direction and it will be 10 times better. Let it evolve and keep it fresh. If your fans wanted to hear it played exactly the same as the last time, they'd listen to your CD instead of coming to your show.

    As far as how many songs to have before going into a studio, the only way you will know which songs are the good ones is by trying them out. If you have 30 originals, record *all* of them at home. Keep working with them. Record bits of songs that you hope to turn into songs. Records riffs you make up that are not in your usual style. Record everything. Play with it. Mix stuff together and see what happens. Try out different things live and see what happens. When you have an album's worth of songs that your fans seem to really like (and more importantly, would buy if you had recordings of them for sale on CD), use gig money to record in a pro studio. Really, though, I don't recommend doing this until your third or fourth album, if you're still together at that point. Make sure the demand is there and you have fans ready, willing, and able to buy before you spend a bunch of money on recordings.

    These days, recordings are more promotional tools and are often given away, not sold. As promotional tools, you have to look at them and their relative value compared to other promotional tools, like advertising online, or using the money as an emergency fund to cover your expenses for gigs that don't net you a profit, NOT as an end product in itself. We, as musicians, are now in what I call the "ticket & t-shirt" business. Record labels in the traditional sense are no longer in the picture because the music business doesn't revolve around selling records anymore - it revolves around online exposure, ads & sponsorships, ticket sales, and merch. In other words, don't dump all your money in a killer album; use it to promote yourself, tour, put on great shows, and sell sell sell your merch.

    These days, big labels *do not* develop artists from scratch. It's too expensive and too risky. Labels want bands who are already successful on a local or regional level, hard-working and doing festivals and college gigs and touring already, who they then can take to the next level of national and international distribution, licensing, etc. If you are "over audiences' heads" and emptying bars, you're doing it wrong. You need to be filling bars, selling out clubs, drawing 500+ in your hometown and 200+ in 5 other towns, and most importantly, selling a truckload of merch before labels will want to talk to you. You want to be in a position to say to the A&R guy, "What can you offer us that we don't already have?" before you sign. Don't wait for a Columbia talent scout to discover you; take initiative and "sign" yourself.

    Hope this helps.
  7. 51m0n


    Jun 30, 2005
    Guide tracks are on ly useful if you can turn off the parts you dont want to hear.

    The way you've gone about this your drummer can possibley get it right, since he's confused by what was there before.

    In the real worlld the guide track is multitracked too.

    Anything else is bound to fail!
  8. If using the whole band in a scratch track is confusing the drummer, can your singer/guitarist just do a scratch track to a click track?
    That way there are no drums there to "confuse" your drummer, and he can just follow the beat of the click track and use the vocals as cues on the changes.

    I hate to make assumptions not knowing you all or your situation, but it sounds to me like the band is fairly inexperienced at recording. And that's OKAY! You have to start somewhere.
    If that's the case, then keep on trying different things like I mentioned above for an idea, and you're bound to get it.
    It may take 10 times untill they get it, or 500 times!

    I was in the studio with a drummer working on a project, and we we're there tracking the drums for about 8 hrs.....for 3 songs. It's not uncommon to do MANY takes until it comes out cherry. And depending on how picky people are about their parts, and how much editing (cut/paste) you want to do later if any.
  9. otto802


    Feb 4, 2008
    It sounds like you were trying to punch in the drums; keeping old takes and then trying to build on to them. I wouldn't do this. The drummer needs to get his entire part done in one continuous take- the whole song. He can not go back and fix things or add on to a good verse or chorus.

    That would end a lot of confusion to start with and give a solid track for others to record to.
  10. JaneBass1


    Jul 23, 2008
    "In the real worlld the guide track is multitracked too"

    Good to know this. Cause I guessed on a previous thread they missed this. This makes more sense.

    Since I have a portable recorded I am just recording everything with 1 mic. So it's not multitracked. This was my scratch track. Thats why I cannot mute any specific part for anybody.

    Having the scratch track without being able to mute any instrument. The drummer then hears himself and he cannot play on top of the drums that are already on the track.

    When I checked the song later, one of the version was OK, but 1 minute before the end I hear he started being off tempo to finish it to a complete mess up. Like he came up with another beat and started playing something else.

    We did try punch-in the drums...bad idea. That didnt work at all and dropped the idea.


    i am giving some of these ideas to the guitar. But he thinks a label guy is just going to fall from the sky and sign them. It is true the days of selling CDs are almost gone, and you have to find other ways to kind of make money.

    I was recording some bass on to one of their songs, but is not my band, I can only suggest a couple of things. At some point people can get so stubborn.

    No go on playing all together as I only have 2 analog inputs and 2 digital. I know I can use the 2 digital but I need to spend on more equipment to do the A/D conversion

    I gotta say that these guys sound pretty tight at rehearsal. I have been watching a different band at rehearsals, where they mess up a lot, and you can really compare the differences.

    So I think the main problem lies on the drummer. He is used to listen to guitar and vocals. If I cannot play the whole band live, he has to hear something. So I just keep on doing it as before. Record the guitar and vocals so the drummer can listen to.

    I can do this while I add more stuff to my GAS list.

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