Home Studio Recording Session – A Closer Look

I decided a while back that I wanted to shoot a video of a full band recording session at my place. There are so many of us that want the best sounding recording possible, WITHOUT $100k worth recording gear. We just don’t have the budget.

There ARE however certain steps we can take to get us closer to that goal. Here’s how I tackle a full on session, with what I have.

“You Are” – written by Doug Butler

Drums- Aaron Badillo

Bass- Josias Badillo
Vocals- Doug Butler
BGVs- Doug Butler, Sean Hebert, Marc Hebert
Acoustic guitar- Doug Butler
Electric Guitars/Synths- Sean Hebert

Gear used:
Macbook Pro
RME Fireface UFX
Focusrite Octopre
Pro Tools 10
Plugins- Massey CT4 and CT5, NI RC24, Slate VCC, Ozone 4 and stock PT plugs

Kick-D112
Snare Top-SM57
Snare Bottom-E604
Toms-E604’s
Overheads-SM81’s (XY pattern)
Room Mic-AT4033
Acoustic-SM 81
Electrics-POD X3 Live DI (AC 30 Top Boost model)
Bass-DI
Vocals-AT4033 (UFX onboard preamp)

Recorded/Mixed/Mastered by Sean Hebert at
TheGlobalGuitarist Audio Productions

Video work by Jacob Gardner – https://www.youtube.com/user/weirdestjacob

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A Piano/Vocal Session With My Little Brother


I had a great evening recording my little brother and working in the studio with him. This is a song he wrote. Go show him some support on his Youtube channel (MarcHebertMusic).

A little about the recording: we used an Audio Technica AT4033 for his vocals, going straight into the RME Fireface UFX onboard preamp. The piano is all midi right into Pro Tools. The software piano is just the stock Pro Tools
virtual piano, and I think it sounds great!

Marc is a very dynamic singer and he did a great job working the mic. It can be difficult sometimes tracking dynamic vocalists, especially if you aren’t using an outboard compressor, if they don’t know how to use some technique on the mic. So that’s a key point to remember if you’re having issues with that in a home studio setting.

Thanks for checking out the video and supporting my little brother. Stay tuned for more like this to come!

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Get Over “Gear Acquisition Syndrome”

Some of the best sounding mixes ive ever heard are from the early 90s.

Today’s BUDGET recording gear is better than the pro gear they had then. If you can’t get great recordings/mixes, it’s YOU. Not the gear.

Stop thinking that the next gear purchase will magically give you amazing mixes. Rather, keep recording, practicing and honing your skills. Mic choice, mic placement, gain staging, recording space, quality of the performance, mixing skills…

These have far greater impact on the final product than paying $6000 for 2 channels of conversion.

Have a great weekend folks!

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A Pre-Studio Checklist

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.

 

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A Kick Trick To Fix Your Mix

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.

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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!

 

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How Do Your Tracks Relate To The Mix?

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!

 

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Unconventionality… Rock It!

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!

 

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Tracking With 2 Pairs Of Headphones

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?

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