Some of you have asked questions about the process of recording a CD in a studio.
Quite honestly, I've never really thought about the fact that most people don't get much opportunity to see what actually goes into recording an album in a studio. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to highlight the process The Receders are currently using as we record our CD.
The place we recorded at is called Rockhouse Productions and is owned and operated by the Vee boys - the sons of the infamous Bobby Vee himself. It's an old bank building in downtown St. Joseph, MN that was converted to a recording studio.
Instruments are set up on the main floor and the engineers sit upstairs and watch the band through a large window. The vocals are actually recorded inside the original safe.
There are many ways to approach a recording session. Some bands like the "live" method where the band simply sings and plays their tunes while somebody records them. This is the fastest and cheapest way to get your songs recorded, but it's also the least flexible when it comes to making corrections and getting a quality mix.
The other extreme is to record every single instrument and vocal separately, one at a time, and let the engineers and producers reassemble all the pieces into an actual song. This provides the most flexibility in terms of song manipulation, but at the cost of the live energy that can only be achieved by playing off of each other. This method takes the longest and is the most expensive way to record.
We chose a style in between those two. Our sessions followed these steps, completed in the following sequence:
1. Record the base track of the song using the core rhythm instruments - drums, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, and keyboard all recorded at the same time.
here our guitar player is sitting in an adjacent soundproof room so the sound of the drums won't get picked up by his acoustic guitar2. While recording this, the lead singer also sings a "scratch" vocal track. This is a throw-away track designed to simply keep the band together so we know where we are while we're playing.
3. Record the lead vocalist alone.
4. Record the harmony vocals together.
5. Record any additional rhythm instruments such as extra guitar, keyboard or drum parts.
6. Record any instrument solos such as guitar or harmonica
Once we had all the parts "in the can," it was the engineer's job to assemble them into a rough mix. This is the point at which he will take all the individually recorded tracks and blend them together to make a song. In our case he was generally working with the following tracks:
1 - 5. individual drumsThat's at least 16 tracks he had to mix down - a relatively small task in the world of studio sessions. Imagine a band with multiple guitars, a horn section and several percussion instruments. This could easily require 35 or 40 tracks just for one song.
6. bass guitar
7. acoustic guitar
8. electric rhythm guitar
9. electric lead guitar
13. lead vocal
14 - 16. harmony vocals
On the day we were there we recorded 5 songs from top to bottom in about 8 hours. That's a pretty quick clip compared to some studio sessions I've been in. Back in '87 our pace with Livingston Fury was about one song per day - a much more standard pace for a full-length album project. Although when major record companies record national acts it can take months to finish a project. And if you think that's a long time, consider the fact that Bruce Springsteen spent over a year in the studio putting Born to Run together. The band was ready to commit mutiny by the time that album was done!
The Rough Cut
And finally - after leaving the recorded master tracks with the engineer for a few weeks, he will mix everything down to a final rough cut for us to review. This will be his interpretation of what he thinks we want to hear, and may include added effects such as reverb or digital delays to "wetten up" the sound.
This is exactly what you heard the other day with One Night Stand Again. Our take was that it was pretty close, but we will probably have him bring the background harmonies up a bit more and adjust some of the instrument volumes slightly - all of which he can do without us having to record anything additional.
So there you have it... Studio 101. I probably won't post any more rough cuts and will wait until all 12 songs are completely mixed and on a CD before I post any more. But in the meantime, I hope at least a few of you found this interesting.
I know I enjoyed writing it!