Archive for the Recording Techniques Category

7 No-Brainers for Recording Electric Guitars

Posted in Recording Techniques, Tips & Tricks with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2010 by Chris Bracco

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything related to actually MAKING music…..soooo, yeah. Let’s do it.

Guitarist

At first glance, an electric guitar seems like a pretty straightforward instrument to lay down. I, for one, never really stress too much over it. I can always get a decent guitar sound recorded without too much effort – thanks to my trusty Shure SM57, and some patience while tweaking the mic position millimeter by millimeter until I hear something I like. Recently, though, I had some excellent equipment and a good player to work with, so I wanted to make the session worth it, and really nail it. Enter Internet.

After some trolling around Google, and some soul searching, I’ve dug up 7 good pieces of advice to consider while recording your axe:

1. Show your axe some love – GET A TUNE-UP!

Intonation and old strings can easily transform a $1500 American Strat into an $89 Yamaha. Take care of your guitar and make sure you have some fresh strings put on about a week (max) before hitting the studio. Also, if you hear any buzzing notes or notice the higher notes are a bit out of tune, spend the $35 bucks to get that sucker tuned up. The differences are SO noticeable, and will help your guitar sound great when its time to record.

2. Spin around in circles until the hum is gone.

Sounds ridiculous, but it actually works (And it makes for some great b-roll video)! Equipment containing transformers will often cause hum interference with electric guitars, especially with single coil pickups. If you experience this humming, move the player as far away from the interfering equipment, and have the player rotate until you find an angle that produces the least amount of hum. Then, have the player stand or sit like a Roman statue throughout the entire performance. Seriously, it works. And saves you a ton of headaches trying to figure out where that damn hum is coming from.

3. Can I get a big amp sound out of a dinky practice-sized amp? YES! It’s all about mic positioning.

Here is where engineering and trickery can go hand in hand (awesome). If you don’t have the luxury of some beastly amp setup, like a JCM-800 head  over a 4×12 speaker cab packed with Celestion Vintage 30’s – then, well, fake it! Plug in the 5W tube amp, and start moving that microphone around the room. Seriously, everywhere. Try putting the microphone at the position of your head, so it “hears” what you hear. Try miking the amp from the side, the rear, the top, even the bottom (hang that wimpy thing from the ceiling!). If you lift the amp off the ground, you can eliminate bass, or shove it in the corner to enhance the bass. If it sounds brittle, try facing the amp into a corner, then miking the amp from behind. You can get some crazy cool tones just by mic positioning.

-Extra tip: pick up a pair of noise-canceling cans, enable input monitoring, and have the guitar player strum away as you experiment with mic positions. This is much easier than recording a short take, playing it back, moving the mic, recording another take, playing it back, etc (ow, my head…).

4. Double your takes RIGHT AWAY.

Many artists, producers, and engineers like to save overdubs for another day. However, guitar parts aren’t usually written out note for note – there is a bit of spontaneity involved while doing a take. If you think you may need to beef up the part a bit, it is much easier to just lay down the double track during the same session so these spontaneous moments are much easier to replicate. Swap guitars or amp settings to get a slightly different tone, and have at it. Don’t worry – you’ll nail it on the first try. 😉

5. Only use effects pedals that are crucial to the song.

I’m not gunna lie – I’m kind of a pedal whore. I love screwing around with my rig to find some crazy new sound. However, when recording, it is important to use the least amount of pedals necessary in order to get your point across. With too much going on, it’s easy for the microphone to pick up a garbled mess of junk. More often than not, reverbs can be turned off and added during mixing instead. While it may sound great live, it may not serve it’s purpose in the studio. Back it off  bit, and your track will thank you.

6. Don’t overlook timing.

Lots of axe players fear the metronome. PLEASE, make it your friend. As a result, you will have more friends. At least in the studio. Playing fast may be impressive, but if you can’t time your killer solo perfectly with the click track or the rhythm section, people will notice. And it will suck. My advice is to start absurdly slow with something that you normally play fast, and work your way up until you reach the desired speed, while still being able to articulate the notes well. If you already have experience playing with a click track, then just make sure you get a few weeks of solid practice in before the recording session so you aren’t rusty. This saves a TON of time having to redo a rhythm take 75 times because you were off by a 1/16th note in the bridge.

7. Broke? Get a 57.

The Shure SM57 is the go-to microphone for recording electric guitars. You can get one used on eBay for like 75 bucks, which is dirt cheap compared to the other end of the microphone pricing spectrum. GET ONE. This thing is a warrior, and will probably outlive you. Just place it in front of your cab and you are pretty much guaranteed an okay guitar sound. Play around with mic positioning and you can track some excellent tones! If you are the non-conformist type, or have some extra cash on hand, give the  Sennheiser MD 421 a try. You can get some cool sounds outta that guy as well.

I hope these no-brainer tips were helpful! Even if you have been given all of this advice before, consider them as important reminders. 🙂

_chris

Recording A Demo CD

Posted in Music Industry, Newbies, Recording Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Chris Bracco

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(Image from http://www.associatedcontent.com)

If you’ve ever been in a band, or attended any sort of event with local music, you have surely crossed paths with “demo cds.” Unsigned bands have been using these for decades, whether it be on vinyl, cassette or CD. They are an excellent promotional tool great to hand out to fans before, during and after shows.

Demos can be created in many different ways, but all too often bands are overwhelmed by the process and don’t even know where to get started. Here are some guidelines to head you in the right direction:

1) Pick the Recording Venue: Where are you going to set up shop? Do you have the cash to book studio time, or are you planning on recording from home? If home, try to find a room in the house that is relatively dead (low echo/reverberation). If you are a one man show (acoustic guitar/singer), recording from home would suffice. If you are a twelve man bassoon army, it may be worthwhile to save up some dough and hit up the studio.

2) Choose the Recording Method: This depends largely on your budget and your style of music. Hardcore punk band crunched for money? Record live. Pop music intending to be radio friendly? Multi-track that shite.

3) Choose Recording Equipment: If you book studio time, you should check out the studio prior to your recording session to see what kind of equipment you will be able to use. If you are looking to do a home job, there are several options both cheap and expensive:

– Super Cheap: Purchase a voice/mp3 digital recorder and stick it in the middle of the room. Results will probably be crappy, but if you have virtually no money to spend, it’s better than nothing!

– Cheap: Record one of your gigs. Talk to the sound guy and see if you can work out some deal to get a recording of your show. If possible, see if they can record straight from the mixer, that usually yields better results. Nice sound guys will do it for free 🙂

– Moderate: Rent/Purchase an 8 track recorder and some microphones. Recording equipment is pretty cheap nowadays, you can usually rent or purchase everything you need from your local music store. Ebay is a good resource as well for used gear. However, this could be difficult if you do not know how to set levels correctly or use EQ effectively. Do your homework before jumping into this option!

– Expensive: Buy a computer, audio interface (sound card), sequencing software (Pro Tools, Sonar, Cubase, etc) and some microphones and create your own budget home studio! Record into the sequencer, and either mix & master the tracks yourself or send them to a studio. This will run you at least a few grand, especially if you don’t have a sufficient computer for recording music. Check out Tweakheadz website for some excellent example home studios.

-Very Expensive: Book studio time. It’s expensive, but can yield great results for your demo. Just make sure you prepare thoroughly so you don’t have to book too much extra time to finish your project.

4) Mix & Master: Record labels and fans won’t expect your demos to sound perfect, so these steps are as critical as the actual tracking. If you can put together a rough mix by yourself, more power to you. If not, there are some studios that will offer mixing & mastering services for relatively low costs, just search around your town for them.

_chris

Vocal Session Preparation — Important!

Posted in Recording Techniques, Tips & Tricks on May 19, 2009 by Chris Bracco

Lets face it — preparation for anything tends to be kind of a bitch. Practicing all the parts of the music to a metronome, setting up microphone stands, setting levels/compressors/effects, laying carpets and other ghetto ways to deaden ugly frequencies. All in hopes that it will make your music sound sexier.

Last summer, while recording my band a few demo tracks, I seriously underestimated how long it would take to prep for each recording session. It was the sole reason our demo project turned into a rush job, and our recordings definitely suffered because of it!

Vocals, in particular, were a super-robo-bitch. It figures I’d find an article giving advice on how to prepare effectively NOW, and not 6 months ago. Anyway, this little ditty makes some excellent points that I’d like to share!

Microphones

1. WRITE DOWN THE LYRICS!! There’s nothing worse than a singer showing up for a session thinking he knows all the words and starts brain farting all over what could have been some great takes.

2. Set up the microphone prior to the session. The microphone should be positioned accordingly and the preamp levels should be set to some sort of baseline level so only minor adjustments need to be made once the sesh starts.

3. Patch reverb into the monitoring chain. Not necessary but it helps the singer and you get an idea of how the track will sound in the final mix

4. Digital sessions are organized and ready for playback. In the actual project file in whatever sequencer you are using (ProTools, Sonar, Cubase, etc), make sure to create several empty tracks in advance so time isn’t wasted moving things around during the session. Also, make sure you are able to playback the entire mix when needed – freeze some tracks if necessary!

5. IMPORTANT – MAKE SURE THE VOCALIST IS COMFORTABLE. Keep extra people, friends, enemies away from the session. The last thing a vocalist will want to hear is people cracking jokes about the session. Make refreshments available too! (water, wine, lemon juice, whatever their preference).

6. Don’t make them practice too long beforehand. Vocalists tend to give their best performances during the 1st hour of recording. Don’t waste it with a bunch of do-re-me’s.

7. NO Negative Feedback! Don’t tell a vocalist that a take was bad, or flat, or sharp, or poopydoodies. He/she will most likely start to hate you. Keep everything positive, compliment them when you hear something you like and ask them what THEY thought of the take if you thought something was off. Usually they will admit it.

8. Is the material ready? Are the melodies tight, rehearsed and polished accordingly? Is the singer satisfied with the arrangement of the lyrics? These questions must be addressed pre-session. I know from experience with my band because we skipped this vital step and ending up having to tailor some things here and there. This took lots of time, and our recordings suffered.

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity” -Henry Hartman

_chris

Blue University

Posted in Recording Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2007 by Chris Bracco

While browsing the homerecording BBS the other day, i stumbled across a post that linked me to a place called Blue University. This is an absolutely incredible site if you want to learn about Blue Microphones and the process of recording. Sign-up is free, and the “curriculum” is seperated by degrees. It goes from B.A.S. Level to M.A.S. Level to PhD. Level, and you can take whichever ones you want (take ’em all!).

Sure, since this is being offered by the Blue Microphone company there are going to be lots of references to their products. But there is lots of valuable information about microphones in general that you can take away from this website.

Soooooo, here’s the link: http://www.bluemic.com/

Sign Up NOW!!!!!

_chris