Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top 5 Tips For Recording Your Music On A Budget

Nowadays with the incredible technology we have available to us, many bands will decide to take on the recording duties themselves. This can be a good option (and sometimes the only option) for those who have a decent understanding of what they're doing, but it can also be detrimental if it's not approached carefully with a well thought out plan.

Time is a valuable commodity that, once spent, you can never get back, so it's important to do your best not to waste it as a result of poor planning. I've seen bands waste years trying to do it themselves only to wind up with recordings they're ashamed to release. For those who are considering going it alone, I want to offer some advice to help you produce a better product. One that you can be proud of and not feel that you have to apologize every time you hand it off to someone. "Here's a copy of our album, BUT it was done on an extremely low budget and we had to learn as we went and we didn't know what we were doing, and....", you get the idea.

So here we go, here's some very important points to consider before diving into the DIY recording approach:

1. Record drums with a professional engineer in a proper studio that has a good live room and good gear. Drums are the foundation of your recording and if the drum tracks aren't solid, then everything you build on top of it--no matter how amazing the guitar solo is--will be meaningless. It's just like building a physical structure in the real world. If the foundation is weak, the whole thing is weak, period. In my years of experience, not only is the above statement true, it also can wind up saving you time and frustration down the road. When you're working from a solid drum track, it makes tracking other instruments much easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

It also affects the final mixing process because when the individual tracks are solid, it glues together way better and it can shave hours off the time needed to complete a mix because you're not spending your precious time doing damage control.

2. You can record guitars, bass and overdubs on your own. This can save you a lot of money, but only if you're careful. Sometimes bands will record on their own and then if they feel like they're in over their head at a certain point, they'll bring the existing tracks to a professional to fix. More often than not, when this has happened to me, it's actually more work to 'fix' the existing tracks than it is to just start from scratch. And quite often, if I am able to correct some of the problems, it's still a mess and very difficult to work with.

So if you're going to go this route for guitars, bass and overdubs, please make sure you know what you're doing and take your time with the process so you're putting down great performances. Make sure that there's at least two band members present for these sessions so you're less likely to miss any little things while recording. If you're distracted with all the technical stuff then it's quite possible that you won't be paying proper attention to other critical elements. And don't forget to tune your guitars constantly. Tune after every take if need be.

3. Record guitars and bass direct. There are several advantages of direct recording and here are five I can think of right off the bat.

a) You don't need a large space to work in, so you can do it in any room in your home.

You don't have to worry about waking the neighbours.

Your guitar tones will be stored in your computer or the device itself and they can be recalled at any time during the recording process (unlike miking an amp, in which case, once you move the mike away from the speaker, that sound will be gone forever).

You can have, literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of simulated amps, heads, speaker cabinets and pedals available to you for only a few hundred bucks.

If you run a DI line while you're recording, you have the option of re-amping after the fact if you wind up hating your sound when it's time to mix.

4. Hire a producer for recording lead vocals. Under the right circumstances, you can absolutely record great lead vocal tracks on your own, but because for most musical genres the vocals are the most important element, it can be wise to have a pro there to guide you and bring out the very best you've got.

5. Once everything is tracked and ready for mixing, it is an absolute MUST that you hire a professional mix engineer. If you're a novice, this is just too big a task to mess around with. Find someone whose work you like and let them do their job. A great mixer will be able to bring out the full potential of the tracks you've put so much time and energy into recording up to this point. When your songs are professionally mixed, your fans will appreciate it and want to crank it up to 11 and sit back and enjoy. :)

So there ya have it. Take from this what makes sense to you and discard the rest. I hope this helps some people in their DIY recording endevours. As always, if you've had success with certain methods or have anything at all to add to this, I'd love to hear it. Thanks for reading!

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