Recording Studio 101


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danno150Rolling in 3, 2, 1…….
Slowwww down there cowboy.
Do you have any idea how much work and prep gets people here? Are you sure?

Who’s paying for the studio?
Who’s the producer?
Is your gear up to snuff? Close only counts with horse shoes and hand grenades.

Are you sure you’re ready?
Label: have you got a music/entertainment lawyer to read through your 20 page contract written in “non English”? This is not cheap but a must.
Indie release:
What’s your marketing angle?

Do you know a killer photographer?
Packaging for the product?
Have you cleared up who wrote what…. writing credits, royalties, etc??
Have you got a PR person ready to go?
Mastering the finished product is like the difference between taking a girl to the dance with or without makeup….I know what I’ll choose.thanks much.

If your band doesn’t have the $$$ for all this; who does??

Ok, let’s assume that you have a band and trust me this ain’t easy as one might think.

You guys are tight, there is interest in the band and you have tunes. Tunes do not write themselves. Before even jamming out the details, it takes hours upon hours to write and study your song and ensure it has originality to it. Good enough should never be considered good enough. Rehearsal time has been put in and homework has been done – this is KEY to success in the studio.

I can only speak of my journey so I’ll quickly touch upon this: I play metal – technical, groove, speed, power, thrash, whatever you wanna call it – it’s metal.

Contrary to the beliefs of ignorant and uneducated people, metal is challenging; especially if you choose to do something a li’l off the beaten path. The tunes are routinely over 6 minutes long, have piles of riffs, several time changes, mood swings and are not always 4/4.

One of the songs off our upcoming album has 7 tempo shifts, multiple variations of the same riff with different tails and is almost 10 minutes long. No joke, we worked on this thing 2x a week for about 2 to 3 months to get it down beginning to end…..then came the studying and tweaking li’l things here and there.

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve spent a lot of time in studios whether to record, to watch and learn, or to support a friend’s band. There is no place like a recording studio….however it’s not free and like a taxi meter, the $$$$ roll on by if you don’t know where you’re going!

The best advice I can ever pass onto somebody is to practice recording; Be it at your home studio or at a buddy’s. You will never ever be able to record for real unless you have already gone through the process of recording over and over – each time you will get better, your craft will grow and you will be more studio-ready.
Nothing compares to the live show…the energy surging from the crowd , the headbanging, interaction with band members and the audience. It’s intense and energizing. It floods every sense with tons of input simultaneously. It’s not uncommon for players to make mistakes on stage, a pro knows how to hide ‘em. The live show has many different facets, it isn’t ALL about technical perfection.

Recording however, is an entirely different animal…..

Wanna be immortal??? Record “the” track…as I type this I’m getting goosebumps. If you are lucky enough to create something that people dig; your music will live forever.
If you’re well prepared the chances of nailing “the” track go waaaaaay up 

When you you hear “rrrrrolling” everything changes….

I am not a shy or nervous person by nature, yet as soon as we start; hell even before I start – anxiety, nerves and the shakes come flying in, completely uninvited.
You have to fight through it or you’re done. Go back to your job at McDonalds; and yes, I would like fries with that.

You will most likely be working with a producer and engineer that do this for a living. They are analyzing every single note for timing, accuracy and feel as well as the rest of your band. A few errors here and there, and here come the sweats. You must fight through this also.

For those of you who haven’t been in a real studio yet to work on an album. You work on bedtracks 1st – we did drums with guitars for our project. We practiced with a click track for weeks before we went in to ensure smooth-as-possible sailing. I highly recommend this!

If anybody thinks that a 5 minute song is done in 5 minutes – kindly smack yourself upside the head for me. Maybe in the 50’s it was….. I think on my next project, I will take note and record how much time and money is spent on a 5 minute tune. It wouldn’t shock me in the least to learn that 50 hours can go into it…..maybe more??

Hey if you’re AC/DC or the like it could be quite a bit less as the material is not as technical….but it sure as hell ain’t 5 minutes….

There are and will always be challenges in a studio – nothing ever rolls easy breezy and totally as you plan. If you don’t even have a plan; empty your wallets when you walk in. Bring mom’s purse too!

Day 1: We set up the drum kit, mics and tune up about 3 to 4 hours. Warm up for a good 30 to 45 minutes.

Side-note – we rented an expensive pro studio drum kit since we traveled from out of town – we opted for this for a few reasons: 1) we wanted the highest quality kit possible 2) space in the truck was tight 3)Delivery included.

One song in, sounding really good, just starting to vibe and WHAMMO– drum issues. WTF is that sound???? It’s a rattle!!! Duct tape to the rescue; check this, take toms apart, adjust that, it’s good, it’s not good – 1.5 hours later, marginally better but still can’t find the source of the rattle

Great vibe has been reduced to total frustration – I call the drum shop, tear them a new one and we go get another kit. Total bummer and buzz kill.
Don’t forget about the taxi meter…cos it’s rolling whether you are smiling or ready to lose it. At this point the kit rental could be free; I’m still out all kinds of time – and time is money.

Set up kit #2, mic and tune it up…and we’re set. I estimate about 4 to 5 hours of doing nothing but getting super frustrated and totally stressed out – and paying for it too! When you’re in the studio; you have to be ready at the flick of a switch – or you may have to wait your turn…. you must put the problems behind you and move forward…or lose an entire day.
To our credit, everyone kept positive while bitching about the issue and found the irony in renting a kit to not have problems only to have them anyways. Laughed it off, warm up again and on to song #2.
2 songs done, about 11 hours in studio time and 10 minutes worth of 2 songs…. but dammmmm they sound killer!!!! Nice to hear them for real and not like my basement mixes of the past year……
We did the 2 least challenging tunes first to get on a positive roll.
Now we have 5 tunes to get down in 2 days. If it doesn’t work; we’re forced to rebook the studio and spend more $$$. In our case, that also involves a 5 hour drive, hotels and meals for me and the drummer.
End of day 1.

It’s at this point that I should discuss studio etiquette. You are only as strong as your weakest link…so work your ass off and get it down real tight. In front of a mic when recording you cannot hide…and the mic don’t give a jack whether you got game with great stage moves and cool ass hair……
A band is a team, and if everyone is not pulling in the same direction it’s gonna fall apart fast; feelings will be hurt and money wasted. Positivity is key. Tell someone if a track is ripping with an “atta boy” and a pat on the back. Be gentle if it is not up to snuff. Pissing someone off who knows they made a mistake gets you nowhere. Remember, it’s your turn sooner or later and NOBODY is perfect.

A producer will tell you to try the track again which is code for your last take sucked. His name is on your project and he will want the absolute best out of each member.
A really good producer is like a coach, therapist and comedian all rolled into one. Instead of being a non-caring robot behind the board – which sadly happens way too much – a good producer will coax the best out of you. He’ll read you and either do it in a funny way with a joke to ease the stress of recording while everyone is staring at you…or appeal to you in whatever way he sees fit to get the best damn performance out of you. Ironically, even a well timed fart can really clear the air in a funny way too; boys will be boys…..

Day 2 starts and the mood is good. We know we have to make up for lost time. We tear through the day and get the 3 of the5remaining songs down. Each tune seems to get easier and morale keeps getting jacked up…and as I said earlier, when everyone is pulling in the right direction…. the band becomes a machine.
Cue the goosebumps again!

Day 3 and we are pumped. The project is taking shape. Sounds that I’ve heard bouncing around in my head forever are now real. We rip through the 2 hardest tunes. Than get to review everything and even have time to clean up tracks and experiment a bit.

I can now hear our album; albeit raw and in its infancy. In my head I already knew how it would sound…..but it’s nice to hear it for real and man, studio sound systems rock.

Next month we track guitars. I guess I don’t need to tell you how jacked up I am for this?? I’ll bring you with us through this journey in my next column detailing how things went…and God knows whatever challenge is waiting around that corner….there is always something…. I truly look forward to sharing this with you all.

Shredfully yours, Danno

 
To find out more about Danno, click HERE
 
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