ABOUT THE SONG
Never record a song that hasn’t been tested live. A common mistake of novices is to write a song and rush into the studio to record. When this is done the lyrics don’t flow and the arrangement hasn’t been tested.
You should not record a song until it’s so tight you can perform it puking with diarrhea. You can’t be an effective entertainer if you’re trying to remember what lyric, chord or lick comes next.
Your voice is your instrument.
The vocalists should drink only warm water in the studio (or at gigs). Cold beverages (and speed such as cocaine) cause the throat to tighten up and you will sing sharp and out of time. If the artist is too relaxed (alcohol, Pot etc.) you will sing flat and out of time.
Make sure you can hear your voice in your headphones. Even if you’re working with a famous producer, and feel intimidated, make sure you have a good headphone mix. The producer will respect you for asking for changes to your headphone volume.
Even if the producer is recording you “dry”, he can still put a little reverb on your voice in your phones. Don’t hesitate to ask for it if you want it.
Most really good producers record the vocals “Dry” with no effects. Once effects are imbedded in the recording on you can’t take them off. Record your voice dry you can do anything you want in the mix.
TRACKING THE SONG
NEVER allow the drums to be recorded out of time. It’s the first thing A&R and Radio listen for. If your drummer can’t play in time (Many live drummers can’t), don’t hesitate to bring in a session player to lay down the percussion.
Your drummer will still play the live gigs, but he could cost you a signing if he lays down a track out of time. Or worse yet, you will blow your studio budget trying take after take till he gets one in the right time by accident.
All drummers will tell you they can play to a click track, many great live drummers can’t. To play to a click right you have to be used to it. Most live drummers aren’t.
Granted there are programs such as Melodyne that can adjust a track into time. It is a very lengthy burdensome task and will burn your studio budget. Better to get a good session drummer that plays your style of music.
If something bugs you, tell the producer (or engineer) right away. If they don’t have a rational explanation for it, one that makes sense, have them fix it. Never believe "it can be fixed in the mix". That is bull.
Once someone buys a record it is usually played as background music as the listener does something else. The mix should be assessed at LOW level. Novices go into the booth and crank it. By the end of the first day your ears are blown.
The trick to a good mix is if everything is present and accounted for at very low, almost inaudible level. Anything can sound fat on 11, what does it sound like on 1!
NEVER do a final mix the day of tracking. Do a rough mix at the end of the day and take it home to listen to overnight. At low volume.
Make notes of things that bug you, no matter how small. Allow the producer to bring up his mix without you there so you are fresh when you listen to it.
Save a file of your engineer's mix BEFORE you start having him change things. Always save each mix as a separate file. When you listen later with fresh ears you may like a different mix best.
Come in with fresh ears and assess the mix. Make changes.
Don’t mix for more than 4 hours at a time; you will loose your highs or lows, especially if you work at high volume levels.
The final mix should sound good with all instruments and voices. You want an even blend at an almost inaudible level. If this is true you have a great radio mix.
If you are tempted to turn the volume up or down between the verse and chorus of a song it is a bad mix.
When hiring a producer listen to their work. Make sure they have credits (PREFERABLY GOLD OR PLATINUM RECORDS) that impress you. If the producer is young with no credits, make sure their recordings blow you away. Make sure they sound good on really low volume.
There are many cheap studios that come with engineers, but the garbage in garbage out rule always prevails. If the engineer doesn’t know how to mike a drum, you will not get a good drum sound no matter how great your chops are, or how much you try to “fix it in the mix”.
Realize that when the engineer says they are going to bounce tracks, they CANNOT BE UNBOUNCED. You are locking that portion of the recording in. With Digital, Pro Tools studios this is not a problem since you have infinite tracks.
Once everything is dialed in, do a test run. Record something, pull up a rough mix and compare it to one of the cuts of your favorite artist. How does it sound technically? It is clear, fat and crunchy or a pile of mush?
Try to engineer the cd so that you do not have to adjust volume between the verse and chorus and between the tracks.
This is your project. Your name is on it, and you will be sitting with industry when they listen (hopefully). If something bugs you, FIX IT! That will always be the first criticism you hear from the big guns. Trust your instinct. Don't be embarrassed after it is final.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish