We often get questions from people about how the process of recording works. Today we are going to try and breakdown the process of how a song takes shape and how it is built from an idea to an actual song.
I will try and address these points from a layman’s perspective.
Things have changed drastically over the past few decades about how the recording process works. From just using two microphones and tape to record to AD/DA convertors, variants of mic preamplifier to multi-tracking capabilities. I know all of this technical jargon sounds very confusing, but it really isn’t.
In today’s world we record everything digitally in a software that is called the Digital Audio Workstation or D.A.W.
A DAW gives you the capability to record multiple instruments and multiple tracks together into one session.
Essentially, a microphone (or a 1/4 Jack in some cases) is connected to a system which records the signal from the microphone into the computer as digital data. Once recorded this system can play the recorded data back in time for you.
In fact, not just that, you can also maneuver the placement of this recorded data in the session.
Now lets breakdown how a song is created from an idea.
Step 1: Demo!
This is pretty self explanatory. You need to record a guide track. You can either record this on your phone or your home recording setup or also in the studio before you start. This is just so that it gives the artists who will be performing in the song a guide as to where certain sections of the song come in. For example, without the guide track it would be hard for the drummer to just figure out where the chorus or bridge of the song would come.
The guide track also gives the recording engineer or producer what the tempo and the arrangement of the song is.
Step 2: Rhythm Section
As most of you know, the rhythm section is the foundation on which the song is built. In most cases it is best to record the drums first on the demo. Reason being, this drum recording is what the rest of the musicians will follow to record. Imagine a recording session where the musicians are recording to different references, the entire recording would sound out of sync.
TLDR: Everyone follows the Drums and the bass. So we record that first.
Step 3: Record the Harmonic section
Once you’ve built a solid foundation with the drums and the bass, then comes the Harmonic section. This is where you add chords using different instruments like guitar, piano, horns or strings depending on the genre of the music you are trying to create.
You can record multiple harmonic sections using various instruments to highlight the sound that you are looking for.
Step 4: Record the Melodies
Once the outline of the song is laid down, then its time to record the main instrument which will be leading the song. It can anything from Vocals to lead guitar to a violin.
Usually recorded last since this has to sit on top of the arrangement that we have already created.
Step 5: Finishing touches
This is where you add icing on top of the cake, where you add small tweaks and bits and pieces here and there like shakers and small percussion instruments. This could also mean adding an extra guitar layer on top of the arrangement to bring out certain elements.
In theory all of this sounds simple enough to do, but having a dedicated engineer taking care of all of these things makes life easier, like they say: Do what you do best, outsource the rest.
In the second part of this blog we will talk about the stages after recording like editing, comping, mixing and mastering.