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Recording for first time

Discussion in 'Ask Mike Watt [Archived]' started by cap, Jan 3, 2002.

  1. cap


    Aug 8, 2001
    Hickam Hawaii
    My band and my self will be entering the recording studio in a few months to record a demo and do a song w/ a rapper friend of ours who already as a demo. Any tips/suggestions on what to expect/purchase/prepare for would be appreciated
  2. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california

    whoa, a pretty open-ended question, huh? make sure you guys are really well-practiced and are playing the tune super-tight before you go into the studio. you don't want to spend $$$ on expensive practice pad time (ie: in the studio). make sure you have eye contact w/your bandmates while recording to get it even tighter. what to buy? I don't know what you have or are missing so can't answer that. hope this helps.

    on bass, watt

  3. cap,

    buy extra everything (strings, picks, batteries) etc. you don't want to be deficient in the middle of a session, especially if the studio is in the middle of nowhere.

  4. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california

    good advice - bring a good state of mind too. I try not to eat much in the studio so I can get an edge that way and not have to use liquor or stuff like that. steve hodges once told me "being a little scared is like being a little excited." a bit of edge can be a good thing. you don't want to be out of your mind though. focus is the most important thing you can bring. try to be totally in the moment.

    on bass, watt

  5. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    I'm just wrapping up my first venture into the studio (and I'm 34 BTW and have been playing since I was 13).

    It was a small place. He could only accomodate recording one of us at a time. It was digital though. Other places would have allowed us to do takes together. I don't think it would have saved us time, but it would have helped with the feel. The time we added by having to do everything individually was cut down by the editing time he saved since it was digital.

    Others prefer analog; I wouldn't know the difference. At $45 and hour, I could give a rat's bass.

    A tip - I would recommend doing a good LoFi practice tape and ask him to run it on a scratch track if possible. We tried using a click track and it sucked the feel out of some of the songs. Then we tried doing a scratch guitar/vocal track, but our guitarist was all over the place. We ended up freeing ourselves with the dummy takes that we recorded on an 8-track in the drummer's apartment.

    I also found that was happier standing vs sitting (facilitated "being in the moment" I guess).

    Also, a small point, check your intonation before you start recording. You will notice things on a high quality recording that you may not when playing live (especially when he puts an auto-tuner on your track).

    Good luck Cap; most of all, be prepared and have fun.
  6. Mr, Wise Man

    Mr, Wise Man

    Apr 23, 2001
    I'm with Watt on the empty stomach, with maybe a little green tea -- you somehow feel more present in the music, and not aware of being too much a physical being, if you know what I mean. But be sure you've had a big breakfast!
  7. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    My $.02:

    Practice the songs without any vocals because chances are you'll lay down the basic tracks like that. The singer can sing a scratch vocal track (one that will later be tossed), but depending on the studio the scratch track may bleed into the drum mikes. It won't hurt to be able to play the songs without vocals anyhow and be prepared.

    In case you're nervous just remind yourself that you can always punch in (redo) anything you mess up on. If you make a mistake you don't have to stop the whole recording. If you don't like it when the song is done, but everything else is great, you can just punch in the spot you goofed on.

    Don't be too quick to judge your own performance and try to look at the work (song) you do as a whole. Sometimes mistakes might turn out better than what you originally intended.

    My group, The Nerve, just recorded last week and I found a neat new trick that worked for us. We wanted to leave the studio with 4 songs, so we recorded the basic tracks for six, knowing that we were going to chuck at least one of them. We wound up with 4 great (IMO) recordings. The pressure was off to be perfect on any one of them.

    I keep pushing our new recording on the people here and I'm gonna do it again cuz it'a a good example of much of the above. I was nervous about recording this particular song because I never had any set bassline for it, I've pretty much imroved it from day 1. I goofed the song up from the very 1st note (as you'll hear if you listen), but nobody knows that cept me, and now I think it sounds great and works for the song. During the lead section I started by mistake with an E (instead of the A it was supposed to be), and once again something great came of it. The fact that I goofed badly freed me up for the rest of the lead section and I played stuff I never would have had I not screwed up. I didn't care cus I thought I was going to redo the whole part. There are about 10 other flubs in the bassline of this song, and nobody'd ever know if I didn't say, in fact I think they make me sound like a better bassplayer than I actually am. Hey - I'm divulging all my secrets here - oh well.

    The song (if you want to hear it) can be downloaded with the big yellow button "F'd Up On Drugs" toward the bottom of our main page www.thenerve.org.

    Good luck.
  8. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    I was also SUPER critical when I heard the playback of my bass tracks in isolation. I wanted to re-do so much. Our producer (who also became our singer - he was so impressed) was going wild, he loved what I did. Then he added the drums and I noticed that there was really good interplay between us (just like live), so we were off but we were off together. The guitar was done after and he adjusted to us.

    Then keyboards kicked in and sax, and electric leads. Some stuff we are going to edit out or blend in the mix. I'm glad we got it all down though.

    Just as Joe said, as a whole, the songs are all great. I made very few edits (punches). As long as I had the right feel, I let the lines stand.

    All music is different so it may be more critical for your bass tracks to be PERFECT(as if that were possible). I would bet many of the pros have the same mindset (especially punkers!!!!!!!!). I didn't notice any mistakes on Funked Up on Drugs, but it did sound free and un-sanitized (a good thing). I liked it very much. Way different style from what I'm doing right now...funny how we seem to have the same mindset though.

    Mike, do you have any tracks where you had to give up for the sake of not over-perfecting??? Any mistakes that only you know about that you wouldn't hear through the mix??? Most of your bass is pretty prominant through the mix, so it may be harder to hide anyway.

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