Independent Records
Independent Records
Independent Records
Independent Records

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Recording? Read This First (Part 1)

Are you getting ready to go into the studio and dish out some of your hard earned cash? Well, be prepared, cause it ain't gonna come cheap. But there are a few ways to make your dollars go further, and I'll offer you my best advice as a recording artist and a studio owner myself. Hope you find it helpful.

The first task at hand, before you even book any studio time, is to make certain decisions about what you want from your experience in the studio. Is it a finished CD? Or do you just need a demo to get gigs at the clubs? Each of those, and all the options in between, need a specific approach when it comes to planning and budget.

First, a word about "demo", which is kind of like the word "alternative" at this point in time. There's demos you do live for clug gigs, songwriter demos usually meant for publishers who put the vocal and lyrics right up front, there's the kind of demo a record company might ask for, which is usually a lot like a finished master in the rest of our minds. And what it's going to cost you to record each of these "demos" can vary by a huge amount. So have a clue about this before you call your local studio and say " My band wants to record a demo, how much will it cost?"

If you want to record and release your own disc, you probably want to spend the cash to do it right. There are bands who do it on a shoestring budget and get great results. Make sure your fans would buy it in that form if you chose this route. Because I've met a lot of bands who did this, had a reasonable amount of success with it, and then came back saying they had a chance to get some radio airplay, but the station didn't think it was radio quality. Oh shit.

Still, an album can be done on a modest budget these days. Planning is the key. A lot of bands want to record "live" to keep the feel of their music on tape. This works best for punk bands, but even then, it's not a bad idea to overdub the vocals and lead guitar.

A reasonable and cost effective way to record is to cut the drummer and bass player together, with the bass lined in as opposed to having a miked cabinet. You can have the guitarist lined in, too, and either use his tracks or overdub them later. And the singer can even cut a scratch vocal at the same time. This gives you the essence of playing live, but with the cleanest tracks and greatest flexibility when mix time comes. You simply overdub the guitar and vocals, and it all sounds good and clean, none of that nasty bleed-through that can cause you problems in the mix. If you still feel compelled to do the whole thing live, you better be well rehearsed. One mistake means either a.) living with it for a long, long time or b.) cutting the entire song over til there is no mistakes.

On the subject of finished masters, definitely consider having some post-production, otherwise known as mastering ( another word in this biz with too many definitions ) done. A lot of studios offer computer-based mastering and editing. The results can be OK, but most times it is just as cheap to have a real live mastering engineer do it. Mastering is a step that adds an undefinable finished quality to your mix. These guys are usually mix engineers for at least 10 years before they even get a shot at learning mastering. The mastering engineer's job is to tweak the finished stereo mix so that it sounds good on any audio system it's played on. If you've invested this much, consider the relatively small amount needed to master it as essential. Trust me, it does make the difference between good and professional. An excellent mastering engineer is DRT Mastering in Peterborough, NH. This guy comes highly recommended, and he even offers a money-back guarentee.

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