Cigars and Brandy in the War Room – April 2010

This month I start a series on the actual record making process. These are the steps by which MOST albums are completed. These are not necessarily hard and fast rules, but any recording project will most likely include all of these steps and sometimes more.

The process is, in a nutshell:

– Songwriting
– Deciding what you want to do with what you are recording
– Pre-production and rehearsal
– Tracking
– Overdubs
– Edits
– Mixing
– Mastering
– Duplication

Each month, I will do my best to explain one of these steps as I understand it. As I can only speak from how I try to run sessions and some of the recording sessions I’ve been in myself, I will probably lean heavily on my experience both running sessions and being the one recorded. So forgive me as I will frequently be citing my own recording process.

The studio process is a very, very different experience for most people. It’s NOTHING like playing live, or rehearsing. It’s so different that some people actually try to write their album in the studio, which in my experience is usually the kiss of death. Its hugely time consuming and unless you’ve got a label budget behind you, avoid this like the plague.

So, you really have no business walking into the studio until every person playing on the album can play every song in their sleep. That’s not to say some things won’t change a bit, but the CORE of the song should be so solid that you can dance on it.

In fact, changing the song a bit or adding some new parts is usually really helpful in the studio. Some bands will get caught up in the fact that the album isn’t EXACTLY like their live show. And I have two responses to that.

1)    It shouldn’t be. If I wanted to go out to a smoky club with a bunch of idiots and listen to what’s exactly on the record, I would just stay home, listen to the record really loud in my living room and save twenty bucks on drinks.

2)    The recording is a different medium than a show. In a lot of ways its two different art forms. One is purely acoustic in that the RECORD isn’t meant to be WATCHED. And the other is a performance, meant to engage a live audience in the moment. So don’t be afraid to go a little crazy and exploit both mediums to their fullest potential. This can mean adding new guitar parts, effects, or instrumentation that you wouldn’t normally have at a show, but might be killer on the record.

As much as I’d like to discuss the technical aspects of recording, I feel that that information isn’t pertinent to most artists when they walk into the studio. I feel that detailing the process will be much more beneficial to musicians who either may not be aware of what to expect out of a studio recording experience, or musicians who just want to make sure that they’re getting the most value out of their recording project. Not being adequately prepared for what you’re walking into is usually a disaster. Not only can your record come out like crap, it will most likely be an expensive, miserable experience, and someone is gonna leave in tears.

Probably me.

So stay tuned and feel free to chime in with your comments!

Chris Short

Owner/Head Engineer

Alpaca Ranch Recording .com

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