“The Process of Making a Great Recording”
Friday, September 21, 1:30pm
Garrett Davis – Salisbury, MD (Notable projects: Train, Lovedrug)
Jeff Juliano – Lewes, DE (Notable projects: Shinedown, O.A.R.)
Dustin Burnett – Nashville, TN (Notable projects: Newsboys)
Jon King – Nashville, TN
Will Yip – Philadelphia, PA (Notable projects: The Fray, Keane)
In this four-part series of updates, I will summarize some of the things that I learned while attending the Dewey Beach Music Conference last weekend. This is mostly so that I don’t forget some pretty obvious yet important ideas regarding recording, the music industry, and technology. Yay.
This talk was run as more of a discussion – the panelists spoke for about twenty minutes and then asked for questions. One of the first things that came up was how to choose which songs to use on a record. The answer was: with your producer, play through the songs that you currently perform, but also listen through older songs to find ones you may be able to use or update or renew and match them with your more recent songs in order to create an album of similar-themed but not identical-sounding material.
Pre-production was heavily emphasized. This is something that I don’t ever do enough of. A balance of being prepared but also staying creative must be found.
“There is a lost art to recording things. If the project is tracked well by a great engineer, the end product will sound great.”
In this digital DIY era, there is too much music being created. Everyone with Garage Band thinks that they are amazing and will tell you they are “professionals.” People need to learn the craft before expecting decent results. Great products can be made in basements and bedrooms, but you need to know what you are doing.
“What do you think of crowd funding for studio time?”
Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Prosper were all mentioned as sources for funding the majority of the independent projects that they work with. Help yourself to make your record profitable. If people pay to see you, they would pay for your CD. Crowd funding is the same idea as a pre-order of your CD. If you have the fan base, use it to decrease your risk/investment.
Surround yourself with the best team possible to produce your vision and build your sound and product.
Everything is so accessible in 2012. Find the engineers and producers who created the music that you like and email or call them to see if they are interested or able to work with you. These people need work in this economy, they are willing to bargain and bring their prices down because they would rather have some work than no work. They do it for the music anyway.
“Where should I get my CD mastered?”
The first names they all stated were Brad Blackwood (Euphonic Masters) and Gateway Mastering.
Engineering and mixing can do a lot, but a good master is affordable now. They can make various recommendations. Once you’re happy with the mix, then the master should enhance things. Look for free test masters – the cheapest option might be the best. Get a few different studios to send you a test and choose the one that sounds the best. Mastering is the final step – make sure the mixes are great first. Listen to the mixing engineer about who should master it.
“What is the best vocal microphone?”
(Laughter from audience and panelists)
(Shure) SM7(b), (Neumann) U87, U89, etc.
Use what sounds best for the type of music you’re playing. Definitely A/B a few mics and judge based on sound, not price.
“What do you think of giving producers points?”
Definitely get “money stuff” taken care of early. For local bands that might not last very long, just charge a bit more up front and get this out of the way (don’t worry about points). For better/more marketable bands that might “make it,” discuss points.
“How do you deal with bands that don’t want to spend time getting things right when paying hourly rates?” – Bluelight Studio engineer
Use day rates (8-10 hrs) or per song rates.
Get the guitars set up correctly with tuning, intonation, etc. ahead of time. Studio preparation is a key to not wasting valuable time.
Pre-production – take care of setting up instruments early, have options available for amps and guitars. One way to do this is to have “stations” set up with different guitar and amp combinations.
“What session sample rates and bit rates do you use?”
24 bit, 48 kHz for the most part, because things are going to be mixed down lower eventually anyway. Unless you’re working on something that will be released in HD, surround sound, etc., don’t waste your time worrying about that. 24 bit gets you plenty of headroom.
(Referring to session settings and practice)
“You tell me to build that wall and you give me one hammer and one nail and I’m like, I need a whole set of guys and a bunch of tools.”
“How do you feel about guitar amp emulation?”
It’s all about the guitar player technique and tone. The right hand is crucial to tone. “What you put in is what you get out, man.”
Emulators: Superior Drums, Axe-FX (for heavy music), Pro Tools 11 Rack, Kemper profiling amplifier, etc.
Also try using multiple mics on guitar cabinets, and use a DI to re-amp.
(RE: using DI on electric guitars) “Be a man, get it right and commit.” (His opinion was don’t use a DI)
“I’m on a very low budget and want to pay for recording by myself – what’s the best place to start?”
Always get an outside mastering guy. If you can track vocals and acoustics at home and then just pay for one day in the studio to record drums, do it. Then just mix by yourself and send it off for a decent master. Ask someone that you trust what else it needs.
Overall, I enjoyed this talk and learned a bit and it was a wonderful way to start off the weekend. The guys were all successful professionals working with world-class acts and the fact that some of them were so local impressed me even more.