Tips and Tricks
Recording an album can be a daunting task. Below is our recommended process for getting the most out of your experience. Some steps might not apply to your project. Please email us for more info.
Before you begin
Before beginning a large scale recording project, one needs to make some very important decisions. Who is your audience? What is the theme of the album? What songs will you record? What do you hope to accomplish through this album? These factors can help determine your budget, recording style and all other decisions in relation to the album. A demo CD for getting gigs demands a different level of quality and style of recording than an album destined for the masses; similarly, a recording designed for radio play is very different from one for the pleasure of dedicated listening.
The importance of a theme.
Nailing down the theme of an album can be one of the simplest things you can do to add a level of polish and continuity to your music. Themes and messages can inform a good producer and engineer on an endless number of decisions: recording locations and techniques, session musicians, mics, pre-amps, plugins and equipment. Everything comes back to intent.
Request a quote
When requesting a quote, there is some information we ask to be provided upfront. Regardless of your studio of choice, we believe this information will help your recording project run smoothly. We use this to determine the scope of a project and reference it through out the project. All of these metrics can be adjusted as we work through the project.
Project as a Whole
Number of tracks
Other notes (what this project means to you? Anything else)
Rough Timeline (please do not schedule a release date until your project is complete)
Track number (subject to change of course)
Time Signature and BPM
Lyrics with song structure (chorus, verse, bridge)
Lead sheets, Sheet Music and any other materials you have.
Musicians and instruments performing
Please include a demo of you performing each song as you would on stage. (A cell phone recording will do.) We want to hear how you usually play the song. We are not looking for perfection. We are looking to hear the little ticks in how you would perform your music in a relaxed environment to make sure we do not lose the heart of the performance through the recording process.
Once we have accepted your project, we will discuss what is possible on a track by track basis and develop a plan to tackle the recording in an efficient manner. We will send you a plan of what we discussed including the timeline for recording and what session musicians, if any, will be called in. A quote will be generated at this time. Please visit our pricing page for more information.
PRACTICE Your Parts
The best thing you can do for your wallet is practice. Ideally you will know your material well enough to perform it without the help of sheet music or lyrics. You should feel comfortable playing to a click track or metronome, whether we are planning to record to one or not. If you are not yet used to playing to a metronome, record your demo first; many musicians subconsciously alter their performance when playing to a metronome. If a musician plays multiple parts (singing while playing guitar for instance), it is important they learn to perform these parts separately. You may be asked to do this in the studio. The more at ease you are in these situations the more natural your performance will be. Similarly, the more you know your material, the more we can focus on bringing out the message and emotion through the performance, instead of the technical aspects of recording.
The recording process is broken down into several parts. Deviation from these best practices may result in longer mixing times and a lower quality end product. We will work with you to modify the recording process to best fit your budget and goals.
For every instrument we record, we like to spend time matching the right signal chain with the right instrument. Microphones, pre-amps all do a lot to colour the sound. The smallest change in the distance and angle of a mic from a source can make a big changes to the tone. Getting the right sound from the beginning results in less time mixing and a better end product. A little time at the start can save hours down the road.
We start by recording the rhythm tracks to a click track with scratch vocals and instrumentation. The drums and bass are recorded first then the rhythm guitar or other instrument that provides the core chord structure. From here we record the lead instruments and finally a final vocal take.
The mixing process is often the longest process. Through it much of the interpretation of the music comes in and many “sins” of the recording process are corrected.
A rough EQ and FX chain is generated to make the recording more palatable to work on.
We work together to find the best takes or pieces from each take and combine them into a cohesive performance.
Corrective Post Production
We make any adjustments to timing and pitch. Lingering issues in phasing are identified and repaired. We look for pops and other noises.
An alpha mix has all the key components of a song recorded and roughly balanced. All major issues have been addressed but the final polish has not been applied. The client should listen for any issues with the performance, especially timing and pitch. Recording recalls should be limited beyond this point.
Mixing and Special FX
With all the tracks blocked and comped, we strip away the rough effects and build our FX chains from scratch. This is the process where we really start to interpret the performance. Any special effects are applied at this point.
This mix is representative of the final mix. You should listen to the music through every system you have and listen often to identify any issues. Once we pass this stage, one should limit changes to fatal flaws only.
Final Mix Check
It is our policy to hold our mixes in the Beta stage for an extended period of time after getting initial approval. During this time, you should return to them frequently. Our ears change how we hear things day to day depending on the noises we subject ourselves to. None of these interpretations are incorrect but a good mix will transcend these changes in perception. For this reason, we like to keep mixes for up to a month after getting the okay to proceed. It is a long process but it allows everyone a chance to breath and make sure they are 100% happy with the results. At the end of this process I will release the full res files to you.
After the production is complete, we strongly recommend you get your mixes mastered. Mastering translates the recording from the studio to the real world. The most important job of a mastering house is to generate a level of continuity from song to song. They tackle troublesome changes in dynamics within a song and will determine the amount of dead space between songs. Mastering, when done right, is an art of its own. It is more than running the music through a limiter and crushing the dynamics. It is about bringing the most out of the music and making sure it sounds good no matter what medium you play your music through. Mastering prepares the music for the format it will be played on. It is also at this time that copyright protection measures are burned into the music. Talk with your mastering house about ISRC codes, how to obtain your own and what the best methods of distribution are for your purposes. Mastering is a necessary step for anyone looking for their recording to have commercial viability.
It is common for us to want to, in our excitement, jump to the final steps before we have even begun. We recommend taking the process slow. Please refrain from setting a release date until you have your final product in hand. In our experience, this causes undue stress that distracts form the artistry.
These days, there are many cheaper alternatives to a full studio experience. Home recording has been on the rise and indeed many of our competitors will offer you faster returns at cheaper rates. These are not areas on which we can compete. Instead, we elect to provide you the best results possible while taking you on a soul searching adventure. We hope the destination is something you can be proud of for decades to come.