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Recording Studio Time!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by tty1, Jun 21, 2007.

  1. tty1


    Feb 7, 2006
    My band recently won a battle of the bands-type gig (4 weeks of prelims where bands qualify for finals, then compete at finals) where the main prize was a professional photo-shoot and a recording package. The two options for the recording are:

    4 days, 4 songs, break up the time however we want,
    11 songs, 1.5 hours per song.

    Don't ask me why they do this and all, but it's what we've got. The studio will charge $100 per song to add a song to the first package so we're doing that to get between 6 and 8 songs. Cool.

    I get to use a SR5, a Schecter Stiletto Studio 4, or a vintage Fender Jazz 4 in studio. Basically, our music is Christian-alternative-classicy-screamo-modern-rock-indie-fusion. Basically, we write fairly indie songs in terms of chord progressions and how the songs go together, while the guitars sound pretty much like a mix of modern and classic rock wiht a touch of jazz (Les Paul and a Telecaster on Mesa/Vox amps respectively.) The bass stays heavy and pretty funky as much as possible.

    The parts aren't particularly challenging so it's a matter of filling my role in the recordings as best as I can without over-the-top parts (obviously.)

    Given those three basses, an Ampeg stack, Radial D.Boxes, and a decent mic for the amp, what can I do to make the most of this recording time? How should we break up the time for each song given either package? (Eg., drum and bass rough track, put guitars on top and patch up problem spots, use everyone but vocals for a rough track, etc.) What general studio practices do you recommend? Would you suggest any changes to my technique to suit a recorded style more than live? (Other than playing slightly less aggresively?)

    Any other comments or tips you have would be greatly appreciated- thanks!
  2. Oberg


    Apr 10, 2005
    i usualy do drums or/and bass first with a vocal and guitar plugged in that just plays along, then erase the vocal and guitar track and lay a decent good track of those two instruments.

    if it´s a good studio u could record everything exept vocals and then lay solos and vocals afterwards!
  3. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    If the studio has the input capabilities I would suggest tracking everything at once. You guys won a battle of the bands so I would say that playing together is something that works for you. I find that tracking the main stuff like drums, bass, guitars, and a scratch vocal at the same time will capture the energy that the band can only get by playing together. Also doing it this way will make it easier if you aren't recording to a click track.
    Make a couple of passes per song then re-do the vocals. I like to record vocals with at least 3 takes per part so that I can compile the best parts to get one decent track. If you guys are tight and well rehearsed, you should be able to get something decent that will record well.

    For bass choice it is hard to say what will work. What bass do you play for live shows? Those radial DIs are pretty nice so you really can't go wrong by using a DI and also mic'ing the Ampeg. You can decide at mix down which signal, or combination of signals works for the track.
  4. First suggestion - RELAX!!! Seriously, you're all going to be as nervous as a hooker at a tent revival and if you don't relax, you'll play the worst you've ever played. Breath deeply, pray, whatever you've got to, but mellow out and the process will be tons smoother. Don't be intimidated by all that gear; it's there to help you guys sound good.

    Next, record everything but vocals and solos live (maybe even solos). Spend an inordinate amount of time getting your drummer used to playing with a click (use a drum machine, or metronome with an earphone).

    As to equipment, call the engineer. I always just go direct, but find out his preference. Also, make sure he knows what you guys want for a sound and don't let him get away with making you sound like his favorite 80's metal hair band.

    Finally, RELAX!!!
  5. Bradjones is right; practice the er... heck out of your songs so that everyone knows their parts, then go in an play 'em all at once - including lead vocals, if someone needs a guide. Personally, I'd suggest that you play the bass that you're comfortable playing, rather than using one of the studio's basses - unless your bass is pretty awful, or a given song needs a texture that your bass can't deliver.

    The whole click track issue has become kind of a religious issue for a lot of people; the rhythm sections I usually work with use 'em, but we use 'em every day. if your drummer isn't used to using one, I don't know that I'd fight to make him start now. They're mighty helpful if you need to edit the tracks later, or if the drummer needs to fix section, but if you aren't gonna be making mistakes, then you don't need to fool with 'em.

    Have fun, make music, go home with your finished songs.
  6. ric1312

    ric1312 Inactive

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    Unless you want it to come out like crap do 4 songs in 4 days. 1.5 hours to record one song is not nearly enough time. It can take longer than that just to record a color track a vocal or the drums. 4 well recorded of your best material is is better than 11 that sound like crap.

    Also, make sure you are tight as all hell on the 4 songs before recording.
  7. +1000

    Especially if the studio has you on the clock during setup. That alone can take an hour or two.

    Also, make sure your drummer has new heads on all his heads and has all his drums tuned.
  8. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    Ask the guy at the studio for advice on all this stuff before hand.

    A big chunk of your recording costs are going to be paying for your engineer. Use him to get teh best value you can - he records in that studio every day of the week, and knows what works, and how to get the best out of the time you have. If he's good he'll recognise that you're new to this and step up into a producer role, and take charge of the session - assuming he isn't out to just rip you off, then go with it. Unless you've got a stack of studio experience, then he'll do a better job than you will.

    Work to the time that you've got, and get a few tracks done well - I wouldn't add my own cash to buy more time at this stage. Better to take away few tracks, listen to them a few months down the line, and learn from the experience, then go back and do it better.

    Keep things simple - time is money, so don't take what you don't need, and then waste time trying to get it working.

    Recording everything in one pass is a good way to get a quick cheap recording it you want to get a lot of tracks done. If you're doing full multitrack, then 4 days will get you about 4 tracks.

  9. tty1


    Feb 7, 2006
    Wow, thanks a lot. Got more out of it than I expected.

    What are people's thoughts on either going direct or micing the Ampeg or both? So far I've recorded 3 tracks in studio (with only an hour an a half for a 6 person band) as demos for entering these battle of the band shows and I've just gone direct. I like the outcome just fine so would micing sound any better?
  10. Umm, the 7 piece trad jazz/dixieland band I recorded a week or so back did 14 songs in two fairly short days - with lunch breaks. And a number of the songs were complex arrangements, and a few were more than 8 minutes long.

    The idea that you have to slave over each instrument individually for hours or days strikes me as missing the whole point of music - if you get great performances of great songs, none of the rest matters. And if you don't get great performances of great songs, none of the rest matters, either.

    Great performances come from accomplished musicians playing well together; this 'one instrument at a time' crap is exactly that - crap. Even if you get technically clean recordings of each instrument, you get none of the magic that only comes with ensemble playing. It's been my experience (Based on 35 years as a professional musician and close to 20 years as an engineer/producer) that it's far better to get a performance together and then fix what needs fixing than it is to try and get each track individually.

    Others, of course, will have differing opinions... :)
  11. I prefer going direct in the studio. Both is a good option, but not on a limited budget IMO and IME.
  12. It'll sound different using the amp rather than going direct - not necessarily better or worse, just 'different'. Since your studio time is limited, there's no reason not to record both (to two separate tracks); that way, you can choose which is more appropriate at the mix stage (that decision, by the way, shouldn't take more than about 15 seconds; either one will be obviously more appropriate or it simply won't matter). Having said that, I've gone direct for 99% of the electric bass tracks I've played on in the last 30 years...
  13. INPUT:
    I would ask the engineer which method he perfers, direct or micing. I can tell you in my experience if you don't have a lot of time direct is the quicker & simpler way to go. There is MUCH less tweaking involved so in if you are in a hurry the DI will likely sound the best. With even a modest DI setup, any of those basses should sound good in the mix. With a good DI setup, they'll sound great. You can get amazing results with micing (or a mix of the two), but there are so many variables with bass -> amp -> mic -> tape that you can actually get a less than great, even terrible tone, if you don't take the time that is needed.

    Please, do only four. Take your time, do the best job you can.

    Good luck!
  14. Unless the OP is in fact in a band filled with accomplished musicians I would suggest recording one at a time. My guess, and no offense to the OP, is that if he is asking questions about studio recording and they are playing battle of the bands, that they are probably not all that accomplished.

    Recording one at a time limits the liability of recording. Recording live in the studio means that everyone needs to be "on" at the same time, which can be very challenging (yes, I have done it several times in the past). Recording one at a time means that everyone can track at their own pace. Recording one at a time also reduces bleed on tracks, which makes certain editing and mixing techniques easier (and yes, this is the method I prefer).

    Now, I will say that recording live is way more fun and likely more authentic, but I have never been as happy with the final result than recording one at a time. I also think the recording styles are genre reflected. My guess is that most MODERN rock music is recorded one track at a time. And then performances are pitch and time corrected, but that's another discussion.

    So I say to each their own in terms of how they like to record, but not every musician is as capable as every other. I still suggest 4 songs, 4 days, track at a time.

    Best of luck!
  15. You bring up some very valid points in both posts. Another suggestion would be a combo of live and individual tracking. Record drums and bass together while the other players play along for a "live" feel, then track the other parts individually over a solid live feeling groove. To do this, I recommend the lead guitar just tracks direct, even though most likely he/she will be micing their amp for the recording of their tracks.

    Make sure your arrangements are down pat, and remember that most of the time you want to limit your songs to between 3 minutes and 3 minutes, 30 seconds on the recorded versions.
  16. F-Clef-Jef


    Nov 13, 2006
    Neenah, WI
    You should also find out if the studio has a drum kit set up and mic'd already, that can save so much time if your drummer can adapt to using the studio's kit. The studio kits are usually really nicely tweaked to get a great sound.
    I wouldn't worry too much about whether you go direct or mic the Ampeg, either way will work just fine. Remember, the recording time is only about half of the overall process, there is still mixdown and (if you want) mastering.
  17. ...speaking of mastering. Send the pre-mastered mixes to someone else for mastering. Fresh ears are a good thing, and mastering is an entirely different art than mixing. IMO and IME one-stop recording/mixing/mastering results in a lower quality product. Sometimes package deals include mastering, so see if you can negotiate more recording time and ship the mastering somewhere else at your own expense.
  18. tty1


    Feb 7, 2006
    Hey hey now, we're all pretty serious about what we do so I suppose the fact that we've been focusing on making music more than the worries of recording should score us some points.
    For a little credit, I've been in studio before several times but mostly just for vocals.

    Our songs in general run about from about 4:00 to 5:30 in length but we're really pretty tight to run it as a group, so I'm thinking now we'll probably just run things with everything but vocals.

    We aim for a lot of fairly different styles in different songs. The rhythm guitarist (playing the telecaster) plays a fairly wide variety of effects and sounds. How much value or trouble do you see in using different basses for different tracks? I know it's really a nonissue, but I'm just curious if you prefer consistency over changing to match the style.
  19. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    I learned some stuff from the other posts. Thanks. One thing that I would say from a different, practical perspective: Leave the Schecter and SR5 at home. And I wouldn't adjust my technique to "suit a recorded style". I'd play like I play.
  20. Reading your post, here's what comes to mind first: the other instruments would have to be fed into the bass player's and drummer's headphones somehow, which means (for most guys), miked amps. Why shouldn't the engineer go ahead and record those, too? After all, they're coming up on the console (or the computer) already? And then you're back to recording the whole group at once. :)
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