Natural Recording Company

 

Recording Basics

Tracking

Tracking is what most people associate with the recording process.  Each musician sets their instrument up in the studio and microphones are placed to capture the best representation of the sound being created.  Often times, only one musician will play at a time to make sure the best performance and the most “isolated” sounds are captured.

 

Mixing

Mixing is done after all the instruments are finished tracking.   We take all the tracks and blend them together into a stereo mix, using eq, compression, and faders to set levels on each individual instrument.  The goal here is to make every instrument as clear as we can while accentuating the most important parts to each song.  Usually the vocals are the dominant instrument, but it depends on the style of music. 

Mastering

Mastering is the final step to the whole process.  This step is often skipped or done poorly which will greatly reduce the overall sound quality.  Once the mix is set, light eq, compression, and limiting are done to polish the entire song.  This will make the songs louder, and sound similar wether listening on a small boom box or your main listening system.

What to expect

    Although there is no set way one has to record there are some basic principals.  Each band or soloist will have differences in what they want out of a recording.  This section is meant to be an overview of a “typical” recording project, but is not the only way we run sessions.  We do offer live studio recording, as well as live in concert recording. 


    We usually try to start a new session on a weekend, preferably Saturday morning.  10am is considered the crack of dawn in the music biz, so thats when we start most sessions.  From 10 to noon we set up drums and get them sounding solid.  Drums are the foundation of full band recording, if they sound bad the whole recording will sound flat.  We usually take a lunch around noon then start tracking around 1pm.  In our experience it’s best to “scratch” record all other instruments.  This means we set them up and record them so the drummer gets the “live” band feel, but in the end they won’t make the final mix. 


    The reason we do this is most players make a lot more mistakes than they think when playing live.  On a recording you can’t get away with wrong notes or bad strumming.  Every time you here that mistake on the album, you’ll cringe and never want anyone to here what you spent all kinds of time and energy recording.  This in our opinion defeats the purpose.  Instead everyone “overdubs” to the drums later.  Believe it or not, it actually takes longer to have the whole band do take after take of the song as opposed to individual overdubs. I’ve seen bands really get after each other for missing a part over and over, it’s not pretty.


    One more note on drum tracking,  we always recommend playing to a click track.   This usually makes for a tighter sounding song, and allows for easy editing later.  If you plan to record to a click track practice with one for at least a few weeks before your studio date.  It’s not nearly as easy as you may think, and done poorly can ruin the song before it takes form.  If you haven’t practiced to a click we recommend not trying in the studio, you’ll get frustrated and waste time. 


    The rhythm guitar or bass plays next.  We set the amp up by itself in the main studio room with a close mic and maybe a room mic or two to capture the best tone.  The players will now stand in the control room listening on the main studio speakers.  This way we can crank up the amp in the studio while still hearing a good drums mix through the mains in the control room.


    Lead guitar, keys, and any other percussion or instruments then play to the solid rhythm tracks.  Vocals are the last thing to be tracked.  Vocals always turn out best when sung to the full final instrumentation. 


    There are many factors that change between each band, so it’s difficult to say how long a project will take.  How many members in the band, how many overdubs you need to do, how picky you’re going to be with playing, how raw or produced you want it to sound, and of course, how well practiced you are on the songs are big factors on the time you’ll spend tracking.   A generic time frame would be 2 hours for drum set-up, and an hour a song for drum tracking.  Expect each instrument to take an hour per song.  We’ve had bands spend 10 hours on 5 songs or 50 hours on one song.  It really depends on you as a band.  Label studio’s figure 10 hours per instrument per song when budgeting.     


    When tracking is complete we switch to mix mode.  We do a rough mix on our own without the band present.  There are so many academic things that need to be done before the creative part starts. We find it saves an enormous amount of time to not have the band sitting around bored in the back of the room.  We set basic eq’s and levels so it’s starts sounding like a real song, then present a rough mix to the band.  Figure 2 hours per song for mixing if you want a solid sound.  We can do mixes faster, but many details will be skipped.  The pro studios spend a full 8 hour day per song, plus a second pass another day.

   

At this point you take the disc home and listen to it on several different systems to get an idea of how it sounds.  After a few listens start taken notes on how you’d like it to sound.  Are the guitars too loud, or not loud enough?  Does the kick drum get lost during the chorus?  Does the bass have too much low end, or is it to thin sounding?  There are any number of things you may want to hear in the mix.   We will set up a session with you present to do a final mix.  Here you can make any changes or add your flavor to the mix. 


    The last step is to get the album mastered.  We do offer mastering services, but often suggest a new set of ears for this.  If your album is poorly mastered it can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.  Think of mastering as the finalization of the album.  Mastering will make the track louder and sound similar from sound system to sound system.  A properly mastered album will sound significantly better!