Tag: recording tips.

What you need to know before you hit the studio

Today’s post is a quick run through of what you need to be aware of before you hit the studio to record. If you are a newbie and haven’t ever recorded anything in a professional studio, then read on!!

Plan your recording:

The first thing you need to be aware of in a studio, TIME = MONEY.

When it comes to recording your music, there are many ways to approach the execution. You might want to just produce a few ideas that you have in your head and record every element individually to have more control on the sound. Conversely, you might want to have the entire band in the room tracking live.

Communicating with the chosen engineer for the project makes sure that you an approach the process that is best suited for your song, making the whole recording process efficient.

I would suggest that you draft up a working budget for your song (gotta adult guys…) and find the studio that can give you give you the most value for your money. Once you know the rate (factor in the GST too), you know how many hours you have.  When you know how many hours you have, you can make decisions on how to best spend the time. If you are in a band, make sure each member has an adequate amount of time to lay down their parts.

Also, try and factor in some ‘experimentation time’ in your sessions. I have a few clients that do this. They will come in, record their parts, and once the base is set, experiment with their equipment, instruments, recording techniques and FX to try and create a sound that hasn’t been heard before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does though, it’s usually tends to become one of the artists’ sonic signature.

Ideally, recording in a studio should be fun and fulfilling for you as an artist. In my experience a well planned recording makes this possible.

Practice, Practice, Practice:

Artists sometimes knowingly, or unknowingly come in unrehearsed. Seasoned session musicians can pull this off, but it can be a nightmare situation for the average musician. The longer capturing a good performance takes, the more tedious the process becomes. There is also a chance the engineer will lose interest and objectivity listening to the same part repeatedly for a long time.

The more rehearsed you are, the more time the engineer and producer can take to work on the finer points of the performance.

Gear up:

Make sure your equipment (or voice) is in the best condition possible before you get to recording it. Here’s some advice on how you an go about it, depending on what your instrument of choice is:

  • If you are a singer make sure to have a regimen to take care of your voice and get enough sleep.  A rested voice in my experience is easy to work with and get a great performance out of. I would also suggest entering  the studio a little earlier to settle in and warming-up before the session.

  • Guitar & Bass players can prepare their guitars by shining their frets, conditioning the neck and changing strings a day or two before the session. Stretch your strings so that they hold tune better, and make sure your electronics are up to scratch. Fresh strings will have a zing & brightness that old strings just won’t have, giving you richer guitar sounds. Some people love the sound of a freshly re-strung guitar. I personally prefer the strings to be a few days old.

  • Drummers and percussionists can change their skins. This isn’t as necessary as new strings, since some aged skins can have a very characteristic sound that might work great for the song. New skins will give you a brighter, snappier sound.  Drummers should carry fresh sticks and moon-gel (or whatever you may use for damping).

You should make sure all of the above should be taken care of well before you enter the studio. If you come in and find out that your intonation is off, you’ll be wasting your time and thus your money.

Don’t come as you are, come prepared !!

Bring in some references:

Depending on which websites you visit, you will find that words like warm, shimmery, sparkly, muddy, bite-y are used to describe a sound. These words are incredibly subjective.

When communicating with your engineer, you need to understand that your bright can be very different compared to your engineer’s bright. Make sure to carry a reference that is in the same ballpark as the sound you are chasing. This ensures there’s a starting point to work from since you both are on the same page.

In closing

So we’ve gone through a few things you can do to prepare for your time in the studio. The above are your bare minimum basics to adhere to if you want a stress free recording. I can go on about how you shouldn’t walk in with distractions like drugs, alcohol or girlfriends but that isn’t very rock and roll is it? The important thing is to make sure you enter the studio in the best frame of mind.

And remember,

TIME = MONEY!!

Cheers,

Ronak

 

 

It’s been easy at the studio!!

We are working on a new film and are recording new music, it’s shaping up really well and I’m quite excited about the final product coming your way.

Today’s post is the follow up to Part 1 , which describes how I go about the tracking process. We’ll be looking at editing, mixing and mastering. These 3 processes are basically post production. If you hear someone say “We’ll fix it in post (please hit them)”, they are basically saying they will use one (or all of the above) to make a performance that wasn’t quite up to the mark acceptable. Let’s dive in.

 

EDITING: Usually the place to start in post, editing deals with making corrections in the recording. Editing is basically ‘Cut, copy and paste (and delete)’. It can be used to fix or mangle performances depending on what kind of music you are making. As an example, let’s say we have 2 takes of a drum recording where the snare hits are a little ahead of the beat, the drum roll isn’t great on one of them. Using our basic cut and paste tools, we can take all the snare hits (look up strip silence and tab to transient) and push them behind in time to make them feel right. The drum roll at the end we can cut from one take and paste it on to the final one. This process is repeated for all the other elements in the song until everything sounds right. There are a variety of things you wouldn’t want on your recording, like a bad note, an out of time hit, an out of tune vocal or a friend who walks yapping just when you’ve finished a take you’re happy with. You would be surprised by how much editing happens to make a song feel right, that is if the performance isn’t good. If the performance is actually amazing you’ll find yourself just editing out the ends of the audio file to take out clicks and pops!! It can also be used to change the arrangement of a song. Say your song structure is Intro – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Outro and the singer is about to record. You feel the 2nd chorus should be twice as long. You can copy and paste the elements of the chorus to make it longer. Mischief managed.

 

MIXING: This is what one of my mix sessions looks like in Pro-Tools.

Mix Window Pro Tools with all the tracks Laid Out

All the tracks that I have arranged and edited in pitch and time are now laid out, ready to be mixed together. This is the part where we go from what sounds like a collection of sounds to one cohesive sounding song. A lot of newbies expect mixing to be this magical process that fixes any and every mistake. This is a myth. Garbage in, garbage out, this never changes. Mixing is all about making the most space for the most important elements, and accommodating every other element of the song. It’s the process where every element of the song is balanced in amplitude(volume) and tonality to with respect to the others. In a mix, the engineer changes various parameters on every track. Let’s take a look:

• Volume – Pretty straightforward, the engineer sets the levels of the instruments relative to each other. For example if the vocal is the main element that drives the song, the mix engineer creates a balance where the vocals are the loudest with respect to the other tracks.

• Panning – It’s where the placement of the track is decided in the stereo spectrum. Tracks can be placed dead center, hard right, hard left and in between. Using panning creatively helps you create a sense of size of a song. For example, everything might be dead centre in the intro + first verse of the song. When the chorus hits, you open up the stereo spectrum by placing your guitars (or synths) and the listener will perceive it as the song having more energy and excitement than before.

• Timbre – Say you have a dull sounding voice that lacks ‘the brightness and sheen’ and is pulling the song back. You can use an equaliser to add some highs(I.e higher frequencies) to taste until it sounds right. An equaliser is mostly used to make sure all the instruments work together well tonally.

• Compression – IS THE MOST MISUSED TOOL EVER !!!!! Let’s say you have a singer who goes from very soft to very loud in the same line. You could bring up the volume up on one or down on one. But now this is happening in every line in the song. This is where compression comes in. You can use a compressor to ‘compress’ or reduce the dynamic range of the singer bringing forward the quiet bits and controlling the loud ones. There is a lot more that compression is used for in modern music, we’ll be looking at some of these tricks later.

• Reverb – Reverb helps create a sense of space in the mix. You can take all your instruments and change the perception of where the performance happened by tweaking the reverb settings. Your options will usually be halls, chambers, plates, small, medium and big sized rooms.

• FX – You can use effects such as distortion, delay, pitch shifting, auto-tune, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo to make the sounds interesting. There are many ways to use these effects, which cannot be listed here. A good place to start is by finding out what effects were used on your favourite songs, and applying the same ones to yours. Youtube is a great resource for this.

• Automation – Automation is the process of automating certain parameters of the above over the course of the mix. Say you want the reverb on the vocals to increase during the chorus, you set the parameters for the verse and chorus and automation will make this change automatically for you when you go from the verse to the chorus. Most parameters in almost every plugin can be automated, giving you endless possibilities for sonic manipulation. If you spend some time with this, you will find that you are only limited by your imagination.

MASTERING: The final stage of the production process. The mix is tweaked using analog/digital tools to make sure that it translates well across all types of real world listening systems ranging from the cheapest earphones to the most expensive sound systems. This is done by tweaking the same parameters as above, though there is a marked difference in how the tools are used. This is a fairly complex process, and takes a fair degree of expertise to carry out. However, we will have a more in depth look at this process in the future. We’ve taken a look at the 3 core processes of post production and I’m hoping this has been helpful to you. Yes it is a lot of work, but with the right kind of engineer and team it does get easier. As I always say, do what you do best, Outsource the rest.

 

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