A Day In The Life...
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August 26, 2009

 Article by JohnSuitcase 

I often talk to bands about recording, and some of the questions I hear most often are:

  • "How does this work?"
  • "Do you record everyone at once?"
  • "Can we do overdubs?"

In an effort to answer some of these questions, and to give a feel for what working with me is like, I've written this little breakdown of a "typical" day of recording. If you're doing more than three or four songs, the session could be more like two days, but the process is the same.

10 am - At the agreed upon time, I arrive at the band's place. Usually it's a house, or possibly a practice space, or gallery. Houses work just fine, there's plenty of room to set up, and there's a fridge!

The band's gear is probably set up already, I may ask people to move things a bit, for better separation. I'll set up my 'control room' on a table, maybe in the kitchen, or living room. I have a long snake, so it's not important that I be in the same room with the band, though that works, too.

It takes me about 1-2 hours to get set up and ready to start tracking some songs. This includes loading in, setting up, mic placement and getting tones.

12 pm - Tracking begins. Typically, I'll have 6 mics on the drums, plus a room mic or two. I have mics on the guitars, and the bass may be mic'ed, or DI, or both, depending on how it sounds, and whether the bleed from the bass amp is workable. Each microphone goes to its own track, so if the bass player miffs a note, we can go back and punch in to fix it. Similarly, we retain lots of control for mixdown.

I like to set up a scratch vocal mic, but it's not necessary. Similarly, headphones are used when necessary, but often, the band can hear each other well enough without them. It's the band's call.

3 pm - Assuming everything has gone smoothly, we're on to tracking vocals and overdubs. I use a variety of vocal mics and techniques, depending on the artist's comfort level and style. The vocalist can be in the 'control room' with me, or in another room by himself. I've tracked vocals with headphones, and occasionally without, using speakers for monitoring.

6 pm - By now we're onto the mixing phase. I prefer to mix on another day, if the band is able to do that, but if not, we can do a proper mix on tracking day. Otherwise, I will provide a rough mix on CD for the band to listen to between sessions.

Mixing is a matter of getting the right sounds, setting the right effects, and doing whatever editing is necessary (cleaning up the stick clicks at the beginning of a track, for instance.) For most bands, the instrumentation is similar from track to track, so it's possible to move through them pretty quickly.

This part of the day can seem tedious, as we listen to the same part of a song over and over, but mixing is a delicate art, and often very small changes can make big differences in the final sound. Patience is a virtue!

9 pm - By now we're basically done, making a few last tweaks. Then I'll burn a few copies of the CD, and one master CD, with the tracks in 24bit format, for mastering purposes.

10 pm - Time to break down and load out, which usually takes about 45 minutes or so.

 

All in all, it's very simple, and efficient. I work fast, and try very hard to prevent burn-out from setting in.

 



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