You love songs. You write songs. You want to present your songs in the best possible light with a top-notch recording, but you want to do it at home.
Look no further. This blog series is for you!
I offer a special welcome to my fellow members of the Songwriters Association of Canada. Together, we enjoy camaraderie, mutual inspiration and some really great music. If you are in Canada, and you write songs, I strongly recommend that you join the SAC. It’s a great organization. Thanks to the economic realities of our business, songwriters need to stick together now more than ever.
Go to http://www.songwriters.ca/ if you’d like to find out more about the SAC.
The series will take a while to write and post, perhaps three months in all. I’m aiming to be done by July 1, but I think it’s likely to be July 21 instead! It’s a lot of information, perhaps 200,000 words in all, the equivalent of two and a half full-length novels.
I assume that you want great results from your recording set-up, and that you are not made of money. I also assume that you don’t have a handy recording engineer and don’t know anything much about recording. If I talk to you like an idiot, I apologize in advance, but I do want to be sure the least informed readers are not left behind. I am well aware that most songwriters don’t want to be an engineer, but knowing how increases your artistic options and helps you to show your work off – and it can save you a great deal of money over the years!
It may surprise you to realize that there are quite a few really simple (and free or low-cost) things that you can do to bring your work to a new realm of audio quality.
I am talking not only about the technical aspects such as where to put a microphone, or how to make the bass LOUD while not muddying up the mix overall, but also about generating the desired emotional responses in your listeners.
Recording studios certainly have mystique but it’s really not that mysterious once you get a few basics squared away. If you follow my blog for the next two months you will find yourself gaining an understanding of the process from one end to the other, and adding lots of useful tips and tricks to your arsenal, and, I hope, making the best recordings you have ever made at home.
You’re probably wondering about my own background. I have been recording in various studios professionally (and at home) since the late 1970’s and I have specialized in mastering records since the 1990’s. I have worked on consoles of all sizes and shapes, such as SSL, Neve, Sony, Mitsubishi, Soundcraft, and others.
I have written, performed, sung, played, tracked, mixed, mastered and gigged in Canada and the UK and I have had the best and the worst of times in many recording studios, from very large and famous multi-room complexes (places like Abbey Road and Battery Studios and The Strongroom) to very small and smelly studios (places I would rather not name) and they all taught me something valuable.
These days, I am in West Vancouver, BC, Canada, and I work as both a mastering engineer and a performing songwriter, which neatly satisfies my love of music, words and science.
I will cover the following areas.
1 SONGWRITER WORKFLOWS
2 TOOLS OF THE TRADE YOU REALLY DO NEED
3 TOOLS OF THE TRADE – SOME COOL STUFF TO CONSIDER ADDING
4 PRE-PRODUCTION – WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?
5 PRE-PRODUCTION CHECKLIST
6 SIGNAL FLOW, ROUTING AND PATCHBAYS
7 YOUR MONITORING ENVIRONMENT
8 HEADPHONE MONITORING
9 CLICKS AND VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTS
10 MIDI PROGRAMMING – MIDI = Musical Instrument Digital Interface
11 MIDI PROGRAMMING – WHEN TO USE MIDI
12 MIDI PROGRAMMING – DRUM MAPS, SAMPLES AND SLICES
13 MIDI PROGRAMMING – SYNTHS AND SOUND DESIGN
14 SYNTHESIZERS – A WAY TO DESCRIBE SOUND
15 SYNTHESIZERS – COMMUNICATING IDEAS TO OTHER MUSICIANS
16 SYNTHESIZERS – FUN TO BE HAD WITH SYNTHS
17 SAMPLING – AN OVERVIEW
18 PROCESSING – EQUALIZATION (EQ)
19 PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 1
20 PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 2
21 PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 3
22 PROCESSING – DYNAMICS Part 4
23 PROCESSING – MULTIBAND DYNAMICS
24 PROCESSING – TIME-BASED EFFECTS Part 1
25 PROCESSING – TIME-BASED EFFECTS Part 2
26 PROCESSING – REVERB Part 1
27 PROCESSING – REVERB Part 2
28 PROCESSING – OTHER FUN STUFF
29 MICROPHONE TYPES AND A CLASSIC LIVE BED TRACKS MIC PLAN
30 LINE CONDITIONERS, PREAMPS AND D.I. BOXES
31 MICROPHONE STANDS, TUNERS, ACCESSORIES
32 TRACKING AUDIO IN GENERAL
33 TRACKING DRUMS AND PERCUSSION
34 TRACKING ACOUSTIC PIANOS
35 TRACKING ACOUSTIC GUITARS
36 TRACKING ELECTRIC GUITARS
37 TRACKING BASS INSTRUMENTS
38 TRACKING BRASS PLAYERS
39 TRACKING STRING QUARTETS
40 TRACKING A SMALL CHOIR
41 TRACKING MANDOLINS, FIDDLES,, CELTIC OR BLUEGRASS
42 TRACKING BACKGROUND VOCALS
43 TRACKING LEAD VOCALS
44 EDITING AND COMPING
45 MIXING PART 1
46 MIXING PART 2
47 MIXING PART 3
48 MIXING PART 4
49 MASTERING PART 1
50 MASTERING PART 2
51 MASTERING PART 3
52 MASTERING FOR iTUNES AND ONLINE DISTRIBUTION
53 CD REPLICATION
54 MASTERING FOR VINYL
55 TOP 5 BANG FOR THE BUCK UPGRADES FOR YOUR HOME STUDIO
56 STAGEBOXES, GOBOS, AMP DOLLIES AND ISO CABINETS
57 SETTING THE MOOD FOR RECORDING
58 SETTING THE MOOD FOR MIXING
59 RECOMMENDED READING
60 RECOMMENDED LISTENING
61 FINAL THOUGHTS