Studio Tips

Getting ready for your session

  • Finish writing and perfecting songs before entering the studio, for your own financial well-being. On second thought, we'd love to have you stay as long as you want!
  • You may want to check if your drummer (or anyone else) can play through a song with a metronome in his/her headphones. While it isn't a necessity, recording to a "click track" makes sure every segment of your song is the same tempo, which can aid in non-linear splicing/editing. Again, this isn't critical.
  • Bring everything that you've ever needed in a practice or performance, such as electronic tuners, spare strings, picks, valve oil, throat lozenges, honey, etc.
  • You may also bring your favorite pair of headphones, although we have plenty to go around.
  • Drummers may bring anything from their entire set to nothing at all. Many choose to bring their own cymbals and perhaps snare, but use the rest of the house set for convenience. See the equipment list for details.
  • Guitarists also have some options in terms of their amplifiers. If you need your head unit for that triple rectifier tube distortion, bring it. If you need to capture the sound of your speaker cabinet, bring that too. But many times the gear we have is great for the job as well. See the equipment list for details.
  • Bassists, save yourself the trouble and just bring your bass. Like the guitarists, you're more than welcome to have an amp miked up, but going direct can be just fine. One important thing however: if your bass puts out undesirable noises such as buzzing (common on Squires) or pops when a string touches an exposed pole on the pickup, Mike is always willing to lend his Peavey bass for a session. Be sure to let us know in advance.

During your session

  • Please be on time.
  • Leave your friends and family back at home. Pressure from unnecessary spectators probably won't do you any good in terms of performance. One exception might be solo's nice to know at least one person in the room.
  • Tune your instruments as often as needed, this includes drummers! Tuning takes seconds, a recording is forever.
  • If you mess up, KEEP GOING! This especially applies when other people are recording in the same take: even if you end up overdubbing your part later, the others will still want to hear you while they finish up their take. Besides, depending on the situation it may be possible to "punch in" over the single problem phrase and keep the rest. One exception to this is drums: the easiest, quickest, and ultimately the best way to fix mistakes is to keep trying until a flawless performance is given. Yes, we have some "studio magic" but it can't always be taken for granted.
  • ALWAYS count off at the start of the song (especially if not using a click track). If multiple instruments play on the first downbeat and one of them needs to be re-recorded, the count-off is what allows him/her to start without any guesswork.
  • Have fun! Pretend you're on stage, in your room, at practice, or singing in the shower!

The process

For many of today's rock groups, tracking a song typically goes like this.

  • First, the drummer lays down his/her part. Vocalists or other instrumentalists sing/play as well in order to give the drummer something to work off of (a "scratch track"). These other instruments will be heard via the headphones as a cue, and may be recorded as well. Especially bass, since recording direct without an amp might give the necessary results.
  • The next phase is generally guitarists replaying their parts through amps while listening to the drums in the headphones. Usually one records at a time to prevent leakage, that is, being picked up by another guitarist's mic. More direct instruments (bass, keyboards) can continue simultaneously in any given take.
  • At any point around here, instruments such as horns and acoustic guitar will be recorded. If there are many, such as in a large ska band, there are at least two ways this can be done. One is to record each instrument separately for an extremely tight and isolated sound, and another is for them all to perform together which captures the vibe of an ensemble.
  • The final step is vocals and novelties such as extra percussion. They are done last so the entire band is heard playing back in the headphones.

After tracking comes mixing. A rough mix will already be in place from the engineer preparing headphone feeds, but now everything will come together by the use of...

  • Equalization ("EQ"), commonly recognized as bass/treble controls except much more precise.
  • Compression, reverb, etc.
  • Additional effects, mix automation, stereo imaging, and so on.

Finally, the mix is mastered.

  • The mixed songs will be loaded into another Pro Tools session and the track order will be decided upon.
  • "Heads and tails" will be trimmed, which means cutting out count-offs and applying fade outs where necessary. Silence time between songs is decided upon, and songs may even be crossfaded if desired.
  • The session file, which is now an entire album, will be processed with mastering tools such as multi-band compression, final EQ to standardize the spectral balance, slight limiting (although we're against the loudness war), and other tools to make it sound comparable to commercial releases.
  • The album is converted and dithered to the standard CD audio format (44.1 kHz, 16 bit, stereo) or any other format desired.
  • Then the CD is authored using CUESHEET technology. Track start points are set, and CD-TEXT information is encoded for display by CD-TEXT compatible players.
  • At last, the album is recorded to a CD-R pre-master for further duplication or replication. We are also happy to provide the best possible MP3 conversions with full ID3 tag information. Additionally, we can provide mixes or stem files in the original sample rate and bit depth if you wish to have your album professionally mastered.

Time for the CD release party!

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