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:

https://soundcloud.com/theglobalguitarist/san-jac-baptist-concert-clip

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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Don’t Waste Your Free Time

How much time do you spend driving? That sounds like a fairly random question but humor me. If you are like me, you probably spend at least an hour a day in your car. Most people spend 2 hours a day driving to and from work alone. Think of how many hours in a week or month you spend behind the wheel. Now think about what you do with all of that time behind the wheel. If you’re like me, you spend 99% of that time listening to music. You either have on the radio, a CD or your iPod. Here’s my point: use this time wisely.

I have never been much of a reader. I may have finished 10 books in the last ten years and I still find it very hard to stay engaged in a book, even a book I am interested in. I find it so hard to sit still for long periods of time. I just need to be moving. So, about two months ago I decided to download a few audio books as I really wanted to learn about few business topics to further my own business. I had never downloaded an audio book before so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay interested. I soon realized that I could focus, listen and comprehend FAR more information via audio books than actual reading. Not only that, but I could do it while driving, working out or even doing yard work. In two weeks I had finished 3 books and it really excited me.

The information I had learned in 2 weeks had increased my knowledge exponentially and really excited me to learn more. I kept searching for more books to download and soon realized exactly how much knowledge there is to be had. No longer can I use the excuse “I don’t have the time”. I will make time for the things that matter most to me, and growing my business/providing for my family is pretty big on my priority scale.

I’m telling you this because I think many people don’t realize just how much time they waste driving to and from work, or driving anywhere for that matter. You have to drive, that’s a no brainer, but what do you do while driving? That’s the question here. Turn off the radio and start filling your mind with knowledge. Stop filling your brain with garbage that will do nothing to grow you as a person. Look, we all listen to music, and I’m not telling you to stop listening to music. I’m telling you that you’ve probably overlooked a grand opportunity to learn, and learn easily, quickly, and at a time when you don’t really have anything else to do.

 

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Kickoff!

After nearly two years of planning and preparing, “The Global Guitarist -Audio Productions” is officially in business! Located in the Houston area, though not limited to this area, here is a rundown of services offered:

Recording

My recording services range from studio productions, such as albums and EPs to location recording of live shows, concerts, productions and most other situations calling for professional audio recording of an event. My rig is set up and designed to be completely mobile so as to accommodate the widest variety of recording situations. The following are examples of situations that I accommodate with ease:

  • Church productions, services and events
  • Concerts at local music venues, clubs, convention centers, ball rooms
  • High school/college orchestra performances and events
  • Solo artist/band albums and Eps as well as singles
Mixing and mastering as well as duplication of the project are factored into any agreement made between myself and the client.

Music Production

Many artists are solo and therefore do not have an accompanying band to record with. For these situations I offer my experience/skills in producing and recording separate instrumentation. I offer custom guitar, drums, bass, keys, synths and percussion for specific projects when needed and agreed upon. Some of my work in this arena can be heard on Jen Monroe’s latest work in the “Audio” section of this site.

Mixing/Mastering

I offer mixing and mastering of material that has been previously recorded at another location(such as another studio). I prefer files to be sent as .wav in 24bit/44.1khz format, however I can accommodate most file types and can convert them myself if necessary. They may be sent via CD, DVD, flash drive or file sharing via the web. Rates for mixing and mastering are agreed upon on a per-project bases.

Online Collaboration

I am always willing to work on different projects with just about anyone, anywhere via the web and file sharing. With technology today you no longer even need to record in the same country as other musicians working on the same project. I welcome any offers to work on collaborative projects!

 

Once again I would like to thank everyone that has followed and supported TheGlobalGuitarist since conception. This is truly a dream come true and there are many of you that aided me with the knowledge needed to do this as well as the mindset that I CAN do this, whether or not you realized you did anything. You are much appreciated.

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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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Before You Hit The Studio…

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!

 

 

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All Geared Up

So in my last post I told you I would be discussing my gear. Like many of you, my rig has changed several times over the years. My first amp was a solid state Squire practice amp, and I cranked away on that thing for almost 5 years. Got the job done but served its purpose of practice and bedroom rock n roll. When I started gigging I graduated to a Line 6 Spider. It was loaded with effects, bells and whistles, was big, heavy and loud. I bought it because I was young and believed the dork from Guitar Center when he said it was “legit”. I got by with it but was always frustrated with my guitar sounding muddy. So the search continued. I figured it was about time I tried a tube amp. So I bought a Fender Blues Junior and spent 3 yrs collecting pedals and a pedalboard to satisfy my inner guitar tech. When it was all said and done I had a fantastic tone. ONE fantastic tone that is. And that one bluesy, mild rock tone didn’t get me very far in my cover band. I needed blues, rock, metal, folk, country etc… so at this point I was frustrated with the lack of versatility as well as endless cables, power supplies, and troubleshooting at every rehearsal. I didn’t realize how limited I was until I randomly discovered a guitarist by the name of Lincoln Brewster. His main setup for stage and studio was the Line 6 POD X3 Live.

Although I was skeptical of another Line 6 product, I was so impressed with his sound I did some research and found many players getting incredible sounds from the thing. I know what you are thinking…”Ah you gotta be kidding me!”. Trust me I hear people criticize digital modeling all the time…”But the wave form is square and inherently inferior”, “It can’t produce the same harmonics that a tube can!”. Blah blah blah. The darn thing sounds good! Don’t believe me follow the link at the bottom and have a listen. I have been using the X3 Live for 2 yrs now on stage and in my own studio and I absolutely love it. I take an XLR straight to the board live, and a quarter inch to my interface at home and it just works. My band plays blues, rock, folk, metal, grunge and more. This thing covers it all, and does it well. It exceeded every expectation I had by far and havent looked back. By the way, in case you were wondering I play a 2001 Gibson Les Paul Studio and a modded out Mexican Strat. Thats about it when it comes to my guitar rig. If you would like more info on my settings, guitar set up or more details on my gear please drop a comment. Ill be posting clips of my music periodically for you to hear for yourself. So what are YOU playing? What’s your set up like?

Lincoln Brewster’s rig- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkT4tLiH32M

 

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The Quest For Perfect Tone

As guitarists we are always looking for new ways to find that perfect tone (whatever that is). You might buy different strings, amps, tubes, a new “miracle” cable, pedals, effects etc. The truth about tone is every person hears something different. It is truly a subjective thing. Yes I think everyone can tell when something just sounds crappy, but it seems that most guitarists want the simple fix of bigger and better equipment (myself included), rather than putting the time and passion into making their current setup sing and sound beautiful. You’ll have a hard time convincing me that a $200 Squire amp cannot sound great. I had one. I used it for years. I learned to make it sound good through probably hundreds of hours of playing it and it worked. My point of this post is you might think you have insufficient equipment, be it the guitar or amp, but the ultimate answer to unlocking quality tone is you. If you cannot make your current guitar/amp combination sing I doubt a $3000 setup will magically make you sound like Slash. Put the time, hard work and passion into learning how to use the equipment you have, as well as learning how to play your instrument. After all, nothing worth having comes easy right? Also, did you know that mic placement in front of your amp has a huge effect on your sound when recording or playing live? How about your guitar’s intonation? Are you in tune? Are you playing on old rusty strings? Have you tried every combination of settings on your amp? These are things that will help you to sound your best and you need to know and experiment with them to find a good sound. I promise you, give Steve Vai a P.O.S. pawn shop guitar and amp and he will make it sound beautiful. But a $3000 Les Paul and $2000 Mesa amp wont magically make you sound like guitar god.  Bottom line… yes a high qualilty setup might potentially have more to offer but you must learn to use what you have if you ever expect to be able to make that dream rig sound great.

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