Recording and Mixing #1

Pre-Production

       I decided I would take the recording and mixing process and break it down into its individual components to make it easier to digest. The first installment is about pre-production, which is quite possibly the most important part of the whole process. Successful pre-production will certainly have a huge impact on the final product.

       What does pre-production entail? To put it simply it is sitting down to define what you intend to accomplish, what you’re going to need to accomplish it and when and where this accomplishing will take place. Without this process, the project won’t have any direction.

       Let’s start from the beginning—What do you intend to accomplish? This could be as simple as recording one or more songs as a guitar/vocal demo or it could be as complex as producing an entire CD complete with packaging, etc. Obviously, the more complex the project, the more pre-production needs to be done. For this example we’re going to choose something in the middle: a three song demo to be included in a press kit. . Demos usually have minimal packaging so all we’ll need for that are CD-Rs (how many), labels, a printer and CD sleeves.

       At this point, you should have a good vision of what the end product should look and sound like. The next step will be determining what you’re going to need to produce it. The first issue to consider is time: when and how much. A definite schedule should be drawn out as to when the recording will take place and how many sessions it will take. To determine that you’ll need to break each song by what will need to be recorded, in what order (check Recording Basics at Your Home Studio Dot Com for some suggestions), and approximately how long it will take to record. My experience is that the average number of takes the band thinks it need s to get it right is 2 or 3. The real number is more like 5 or 6. So if the song is 4 minutes long and you do 6 takes, that’s 24 minutes. You also have to add in 4 minutes or so to listen to each take—another 24 minutes, plus time to discuss the previous take, etc. I would count on 2 hours to get an acceptable take. That will include about 30 minutes of recording time, 30 minutes of listening, 30 minutes of setting up and 30 minutes of breaks and non-productive time.

       In a perfect world, you would have infinite space, enough isolation for all the musicians and an infinite number of tracks you can record at one time. In that case you could do 3 songs in 6 hours or so. None of us have that kind of luxury so you have to adapt to the situation. The band is your typical 2 guitars, bass, and drums with one of the guitarists as lead vocalist and one or two of the other musicians doing harmony and backup vocals, so we’ll need at least 12 tracks and as many as 16 -24 depending on whether you’ll record with or without room ambience. In this case, we’ll keep it simple and go with the fewest number of channels we can at one time. Also, we can only isolate the drummer and the lead vocalist/guitarist. The bass player is using his Bass Pod so he’ll be able to play along. With this scenario, we’ll need one 2 hour session to get the drums, bass, rhythm guitar and scratch vocal and hopefully only one 2 hour session to get lead guitar, lead vocals and harmony/backup vocals. That’s assuming you have a system that can record at least 10 channels at a time. How many sessions do you think it took the Beatles to record “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with only 4 channels? The end result of all this is that you’ll need to allow 12 hours to record 3 songs.

       Next item on the menu—what do we need to complete the project. Write down everything you think you’ll need—cables, microphones, stands, music stands, headphones, paper, pens, etc. Try to anticipate everything. A couple of days or so before the session, do an inventory of what you have and make sure your gear is in good working order. The last thing you want is to discover after you’ve started is that a bad cable or some other component forces you to abandon a whole session’s worth of takes. Also, have a good idea of where everything is going to be set up so there won’t be any wasted time setting up. Drawing a diagram of the recording space is a great way to visualize where everything will go.

       At this point, you should have a detailed plan of what the end result will look and sound like, how much time it will take, and what will be required to complete the project. The only thing left is the contract. It doesn’t have to be formal but there definitely needs to be an understanding between both parties as to when and how the sessions will be paid. You can charge by the song or by the hour—just don’t sell yourself short.

 

Next Month—The Recording Begins

 

Your Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at homeYour Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at home

 

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