or your band need a demo tape to shop around or you just want to catalog
some of your songs, or you (heaven forbid!) want to make a record,
you are bound for the recording studio. Working in the studio is,
of course, different than playing live. But it doesnt need to
be a fraught with fear, anxiety-laden experience. It can (and should!)
be a very rewarding experience and it really is the best way to make
your songs sound just like you hear them in your head.
are as many approaches to working in the studio as there are bands.
Dont feel like you have to be locked into one approach as that
can stifle creativity. Just find the way that works best for you.
Some people like to go into the studio without the material already
prepared, and write in the studio. Others like to go in completely
prepared with material that is well rehearsed. It doesnt matter
how you do it, only the results matter.
lets examine, shall we, the differing approaches and the results they
are likely to produce as well as aspects of pre-production, post production
and last but not least the recording process itself.
I believe the best way to achieve good results in the studio is to
go in fully prepared. This is the way that the bands I have been involved
with have approached it. Preparation for recording is also known as
pre-production. What pre-production is is nothing more than the work
you have done on your material prior to entering the studio to do
the actual recording. Its all the writing and re-writing and
arranging and tweaking you do to your songs. A lot of artists even
make demos at home before going into the studio. Whenever you are
going into the studio to record, this offers you the opportunity to
re-evaluate your material.
before you get to the studio, take the material you are planning to
record and make sure its exactly how you want it to be. Is the
arrangement fine, or does it need some changes? Are there any new
parts to add or existing parts to remove? How about the vocals? Are
the harmonies all worked out and rehearsed until theyre smooth?
And the lyrics can almost always use a little punching up! Pre-production
affords you the opportunity to really delve deep into the songs and
get a little more out of them. It allows you to create something a
little more nuanced and intricate. And you will understand better
what you want to achieve when you record them.
you work out all the details of a tune before recording begins, as
soon as you start recording you can really go for that "perfect
take". And that "perfect take" is easier to get when
you know what you are shooting for. There is one downside to guard
against when approaching recording in this way, however. Things can
end up sounding a tad too contrived. Always remember that in ROCK
there needs to be plenty of energy and passion in those tracks!
usually results from this method is a nice tight ensemble feel with
(hopefully!!) great sounding vocal arrangements. It should come out
well produced, smooth and professional. But as I said before, if you
dont guard against it, it can also sound stale and contrived.
That is not such a big sin on a demo, but it is certainly not what
you want if youre trying to make a record. It is for this reason
that when some people go into the studio, they go in with nothing
but a guitar and a grin.
are plenty of great bands that have developed their music once they
got to the recording studio with fantastic results. The Beatles, The
Stones, Talking Heads and U2 have all produced awesome records this
way. Familiarity with the material notwithstanding, there are some
advantages to doing it this way. It may become much more democratic,
with all the band members contributing more and the individuals can
have more control over what they actually end up playing. Instead
of " I wrote this song, you play this part and you play that
and so on, it can be more like " Hey, thats
a cool chord progression! Check out this bass line with those chords,
man!" This approach can involve everybody in the songwriting
not knowing the material very well can produce an energy that can
only come from spontaneity. A lot of people record this way just so
they can get the right "feel", theyre not going for
the perfect take. Even the little mistakes and flubs are left in as
long as the feel is right.
can be a great, creative way to record if you have a lot of time and
money. But the bands I was in had plenty of time and no money! When
you are on a budget, you have to be efficient. So, we always went
in prepared and got the tracks done in a timely fashion so as to limit
our studio costs. The other downside to recording this way is that
the results are hit and miss. You can spend a lot of time in the studio
and not produce anything worth a damn.
you are in the studio make sure you spend plenty of time with the
engineer getting all the individual sounds exactly as you want them.
Go over each instrument thoroughly to make sure it sounds just right.
You dont want to have to re-record a perfectly played track
because it doesnt have the "killer tone". There are
two ways of achieving the perfect tone on tape; you can either record
dry (sans effects) and add the effects later, or you can get it live
with your amp. If you record dry and add the effects in post - production,
then you can treat your dry tone as a canvas and color it any way
you want with the effects at hand in the studio. If you chose to go
with your live sound, you have to make sure its exactly what
you want when you lay it down on tape because you cant do as
much to it later. Recording with a dry tone affords you more options
at mixdown time, but sometimes its hard to play that way because
you dont get any ambiance from the live sound.
you have gotten everything down on tape you are ready for post-production
and final mixdown. Now is the time to add the effects to the tracks
if you so desire. Also, if you have a track that you want to keep
but there is one little part of it that bothers you, you can "punch
in" and fix it. This is one way to achieve that "perfect
take". The other way is through editing. Many times that amazing
guitar solo that you hear on a record is not just one pass. Its
parts of a few different solos edited together to form one awesome,
seamless statement. When you have all the effects down and the parts
fixed and/or the editing done, you are ready for final mixdown. The
engineer will bring all the instruments into proper balance with each
other so that all the parts can be heard. Of course, you will have
to tell him what sounds good to you as your aesthetic may be different
from his. And his job is to make you sound the way you want to, so
dont be shy about telling him what you want. Because when its
all mixed down and you have your copy of your final mix, you better
be happy with it. Its not the end of the world if your not because
as long as you have the master reel you can still change it.
But it will cost you!
a great feeling to get a few of your best songs down on tape the way
you want them. If you have achieved your recording goals you will
most likely be pleasantly surprised at what you hear. Happy recording!!