I thought I would give you a glimpse into my home studio during this vocal session. Tracking my little brother and producing his project. Hope you like. Subscribe!
I wanted to give a little advice to you musicians out there who plan on going into the studio in the future. Here is a check list of some of the more important things you should consider before ever stepping foot in the studio.
1. Have the music ready to go.
This might seem pretty obvious but a lot of younger or more inexperienced groups fail to have their parts memorized, or even written. They get in the studio and spend hours upon hours figuring out their parts, practicing their parts and arguing amongst themselves about which parts will be played. What a huge waste of money. Unless you have endless amounts of funding for studio time, have every part decided on, rehearsed, ready to be played and played well. Have all lyrics memorized. The end result will not only sound better, but the process of getting the end result will have been much more enjoyable for everyone involved. You’ll save money too!
2. Decide if you will be recording to a click.
Some bands do and some bands don’t. Just decide early on if this is something everyone is comfortable with. I always recommend a click track because it makes editing much easier, makes the music tighter and more professional sounding and also allows for some really creative post production techniques. That said, if your drummer can’t get tight with a click it will kind of work against you. Practice with a metronome until everyone is nice and comfy with it, like it’s part of the music itself. If it’s still an issue for someone and just won’t be possible, bypass it and move on. It’s better to play somewhat tight as a unit and have a natural, musical song than to waste time on several takes and punch ins yielding in a forced, unnatural tune.
3. Be sure your gear is in tip top shape.
Put new strings on all guitars, new heads on all drums, tighten all screws and anything else that can rattle on equipment or accessories. Fine tune your guitar’s intonation and action if needed. For guitarists, be sure all your effects pedals, amps and gear are operating properly and that all your connections are tight and proper. The last thing you want is for your signal to drop out in the studio and you’re down there troubleshooting loose connections and faulty power supplies. Basically, whatever instrument you play, be sure it sounds it’s best and is operating at 100%
4. Have the money together.
You will quickly make enemies in the music community if you stiff a local studio of their hard earned cash. Word spreads and you only want positive feedback floating around about you or your group. You want to appear honest and professional to your peers. Trust me it will benefit you in the long run. Aside from this, when you have all the cash in hand and pay for services promptly and in full you are much more likely to get your project finished on time, finished to your liking and sometimes even have special offers and discounts given to you for future projects. Above all, it’s the right thing to do.
So it’s not an extensive list but it is a few of the most important aspects of being prepared for a studio session. Don’t underestimate the small things. They can take you a long way, or cripple you.
Cut The Crap
There are a million different techniques and methods for EQing different items in a session, but most people would agree subtractive EQ is one of the best ways to clear up a muddy mix. Subtractive EQ is just that, subtracting frequencies that you do not want to hear. I’d recommend before you go through your tracks boosting all over the place, start cutting instead the frequencies that may be blocking or clogging your mix with muddiness. So I meant literally to cut the “crap” out of your mix.
A Kick Trick
I can’t claim the rights to this trick as I’m sure a million other mix engineers already do this but I saw Joe Gilder do this in a video once and I’ve been doing it ever since. Thanks Joe! The image here is a screen shot of my EQ curve for my kick track in this particular session. Keep in mind every recording is different. Depending on how well the kick was originally recorded and how great the kick sounded to begin with, I might take a different approach accordingly. For this particular session, the kick was all attack and no balls. The bottom end was missing and all I could here was the click of the beater so I needed a drastic EQ curve.
The “kick trick” I’m talking about is the giant cut around 120hz. Here’s why I recommend cutting before boosting: simply by getting rid of a good portion around 120hz, I opened up the kick to breath and allowed the lower range to heard a bit more. This frequency range is typically known as the “boxy” sound of a kick drum. I almost always do this on my kick tracks but obviously in different amounts based on how good it sounds to begin with. I’m sure you also noticed the 7.5 db boost around 60hz. The problem with this track began with the kick drum itself. This was a live concert I tracked and I didn’t have much time to setup so I left it up to the drummer to tune, or *not tune the drums. Anyhow I needed a major boost around 60hz to bring out the balls in this kick. Before you make any judgements you can have a listen for yourself how this mix turned out:
Be sure to let me know what you think and leave some comments below. Again you should always consider the track you are working with it and give it what it needs. Maybe you don’t need any EQ at, but many times this little EQ trick helps bring out the bottom of your kick. Cheers my friends!
When it comes to mixing music, one thing that I learned fairly quickly was that your individual tracks will sound different, or appear to sound different once they are listened to in relation to the whole mix. A guitar, drum or other instrument might sound pretty bland or crappy when in solo, but might sound great IN the mix. Conversely, an in-your-face, seemingly grand sounding track might be opposite of what the mix needs.
When I first started mixing music I had a hard time getting my guitar tracks to sound right. The biggest reason was the fact that I had sold all my amps and pedals for a POD X3 Live(I’ll talk about why in another post) and began using POD Farm for all recording purposes. POD Farm is awesome, but it took me a bit of time to learn the program and get my tones where I wanted them to be. Eventually I realized that the tones I thought sounded week and small actually sounded great once I listened to them in the mix. I wanted them to sound like an amp in a room, but they’re a modeling amp over headphones! Once I placed them in the mix, properly EQed them and cranked it, they sounded awesome!
The point I am making here is that many times the tracks you record will sound different in the mix than they do in solo. Many times you will need to create your guitar tones, synth tones and other sounds with relation to the entire mix. Once I realized this it became much easier for me to nail down a tone quickly and have it fit the song and overall sound I was after.
I’ll be doing an in depth review of POD Farm in the near future. I think it’s a tool many folks are turning to in this digital age. Not everyone can afford $3000 worth vintage amps and effects. The modeled amps might not sound exactly like their real life counter parts, but many of the models are extremely close, and many others sounds fantastic. Anyhow, stay tuned for the review. Have a great week everyone. Cheers!
Hey everyone! Back from a 2 week hiatus and ready to roll! Getting more and more accomplished in my home studio here in Houston and soon will be dropping videos into my arsenal of goodies for you. I’ve got a lot of things planned but life is a roller coaster and my hands are in the air. I always say “Have a plan, but be willing to roll with the punches and make changes when necessary”.
As I have been rolling with the lastest changes in my life I have been reassessing my motives for writing music. I’m trying to get back to writing for the way it makes me feel, instead of how my songs might make someone else feel. Yes, I hope that my music will have an impact on somebody, but as I have tried to write songs directly for that purpose I have found myself in a slump. I haven’t written as much lately. While trying to get back to my roots, I’ve been forced to do things a bit of the unconventional way in my studio and it begs the question: “How far are you willing to go to finish a project?”. I’ve put several things on hold over the last 6 months in the hopes of upgrading my interface and really my whole setup here. No doubt I am limited in what I can do at the moment, but I guess I would rather finish some of these songs and projects than sit around and think about how they will sound eventually. In the long run I am satisfied by the final products and my clients have been satisfied thus far as well. I guess that is the ultimate test. When life gets out of the way and I AM able to upgrade, things will only be THAT much better.
I’d like to hear from you. What kind of “unconventional” methods have you been forced to use to finish a project? What kind of unusual methods? What’s the weirdest studio experience you’ve encountered? Drop a line in the comments. Cheers!
Sometimes the simplest ideas can render super useful results. If you ever have trouble with drums overpowering your headphone mix you might try this. Recently I had my brother (who happens to be a drummer) come in to lay down some drum tracks for some music he and I are working on. He happens to be one of those drummers who beat the living snot out of the drums like they owe him money. Anyhow, he was having a bit of trouble in certain parts of the songs hearing the click loud and clear. I had his cans CRANKED and the the drums still were a bit overpowering. I played with the mix quite a bit, adjusting the click/backing tracks and still had some trouble. After a bit of pondering I reached into my “box of wonders” (just a shoe box with connectors, cable adapters and misc. studio crap) and pulled out some Sony workout ear buds. I had him put them on underneath the tracking headphones and BAM it gave him plenty of isolation from the drums to hear everything he needed to hear. So the audio is coming through the ear buds and the circum-aural cans are there for isolation. Give it a try if you run into this issue. It might make your life a bit easier.
What kind of simple fixes do you use every day that someone might not otherwise think of?
Some of you may not have noticed the portion of my site where I offer guitar tracks for personal projects. This is something I love doing as I love working with others and hearing new music, not to mention playing new music. Well I’m running a summer deal right now for anyone who needs some high quality, great sounding tracks for their musical project. The first song is free and after that its $30/song. If the project involves more than 5 songs, all songs after the 5th are $20/song. I’ll make this deal valid all summer long. If you only need a single song it will be $30. Check out the HOW portion of the site for details and my BIO for some info on myself. Hope I can add my mojo to some great music this year and I look forward to working with you guys out in the global community. Cheers!
Years ago I recorded 2 demos with my old band right about a year apart from eachother. The first demo was our first professional studio experience. To say the least, we were not prepared. The songs were sketchy, off tempo and sloppy. We hadn’t even written all the guitar parts yet. The engineer told us after the fact what we needed to work on and how we needed to have all parts planned and practiced. He also told us to get comfy with a click track. I was thankful for his honesty. A year later we had the cash saved for our next demo and we spent months practicing to a click, nailing our parts and polishing our skills. The second time around, the final product quite honestly sounded commercial. Give or take a few timing and pitch issues(hey we were in high school still).
There are two perspectives here. One from the band or artist, the other from the engineer. If you have you ever had somebody come in to record that wasn’t anywhere near prepared, you know how frustrating it can be. Most of the time you end up hitting record over and over and over again while they try to either decide on what to play, or try to nail down an acceptable take. Super boring and really not a very fun time. Usually the musician winds up flustered and dissappointed with the final product.
Bottom line: if you are the musician, have your crap together. Be ready to go. Be well versed in the material and know what you will be playing/singing. If you are the engineer, make a point of communicating this info to the person or group before hand. This may be old news for some of you, but there is always someone out there that wished they had heard it long ago. Hope it helps. Have a great weekend everyone. Cheers!
Nobody enjoys being around an arrogant person, and unfortunately there are many in the music industry. Nothing strokes the ego quite like a Grammy award or hit album. That’s why I find it funny that there are so many egotistical folks in the ammature arena. They don’t have half the resume that a successful musician does, yet they strut around like they are God’s gift to the music industry. Don’t get me wrong, most of the professional figures in music are probably as nice as the next guy and have better things to do than brag about themselves all day, but I think there are many promising acts that will never move up to the next rung in the business. Their attitude turns away those that would otherwise love to work with them.
I wanted to share a personal experience I had with someone that was too “good” for their own good. This person was the lead singer of one of the first bands I played in. He was much older than everyone else in the group. To be specific, we were all in our latter years of high school and he was 28. We considered ourselves lucky at first because although we were talented, he was a down right amazing vocalist and songwriter. He also knew much more about audio production and live performance than we did at the time. We should have known there was a reason someone like this guy would want to play with a bunch of kids. We soon realized that despite his talent, the task of working with him would be no easy one. It was a constant fight and battle when it came to rehearsal habits, the songwriting process, and just working with him in general. He always acted like he knew best and our opinions didn’t mean anything. He literally would belittle us at times. He had played in multiple groups over the years and one or two of them had been semi professional. Believe me, he let us know it all the time. His most common saying was “This ain’t my first rodeo!”. In less than 6 months time, we made the decision to boot him out, and I became lead singer. All of the sudden, our rehearsals were fun again. They actually lasted longer, and much more was accomplished. We all kinda felt bad for the guy because he had so much raw talent. We all knew that he could be so much more if had a different attitude and if he humbled himself.
I ask you to take a good look at your own attitude and consider how you might appear to others in your profession. Would YOU want to work with you? I guarantee that most professionals would rather work with somebody who is easy to get along with and listens, than somebody that is a music guru but a pain in the a**. In a professional situation you need to know your stuff, but as a generality a little charisma and a humble attitude can get you pretty darn far. Regardless of skill level.