Category: Recording Music

How To Spend Less Money Recording An Album – Part 2

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

This is the second article in the “Spend Less Money” series. To read part one, click here.


If you asked a professional sound engineer or studio manager what the number one way to save money in the studio is, they will probably tell you to come prepared. When time is wasted, the dollars begin to add up quickly. So how do you prepare well? We will be addressing this issue in our next few blogs, and today we start out with something you might have overlooked as you began studio prep.

Demos.

I know you’ve heard it before. Demos—from a simple recording on your smartphone, to a fully produced track—are an important step in the songwriting process. If you are hoping to pitch your song to another artist, a professional demo could help you get those placements.

But the demos we are talking about function a little differently. These are your pre-production demos. They are for you (and your band) to get to know your music better before you hit the studio. They are for tweaking the songs until you get them just right, and they give studio musicians or your band something to rehearse to. If done well, they can even function as a scratch track in the studio, saving you time and money as you begin the tracking process.

Creating Your Demo

In many situations, a simple recording on a smartphone will suffice for a demo. But to use pre-production demos to their full potential, you are going to have to go one step further.

Your demos don’t have to be so fantastic that you don’t actually need to go into the studio after they’re finished. But there are a few key elements that you will need to be able to control as you create your pre-production demos.

You will need a Digital Audio Workstation that will allow you to have control over tempo, and allow you to use a MIDI keyboard or controller. There are many different kinds of DAWs at all different price points. You just need to find one that you are comfortable using. If you already have a more advanced DAW like Protools, use that. Audacity is a free DAW, and Garageband comes pre-loaded on most Macs.

If you are able, I also recommend purchasing a simple USB interface, like this one. This will allow you to hook up a MIDI Keyboard, as well as plug in your guitar and favorite microphone. However, you don’t have to. Most Macs and PCs have built in audio recording devices, and Garageband will allow you to input MIDI using your computer’s keyboard. Although it may be easier in the long run to purchase a USB interface, you can still create a useful pre-production demo for free.

Tempo

The exact tempo of the music can drastically alter the feel of a song. Even just a few beats per minute (BPM) up or down can have a huge impact. Before you record your demo, rehearse the songs with a click track. If you’ve never used a click track before, this can be a big adjustment. However, playing to a click track is vital for studio work. The better you are at staying locked into the click, the smoother your recording process will be.

As you are rehearsing, try changing the BPM of the click, and playing the song at new tempos. You may find your song works really well as a ballad instead of the mid-tempo rock song you thought it was.

When you find a tempo you think works, create a click track in your DAW and record a simple track, guitar or keyboard and probably vocals. Have other people listen to the song. Have your guitar player or drummer play along with it. If they think it’s too fast or too slow, play around with it. If you record MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keys as your basic track, it will be easy to adjust them to a new tempo without re-recording. If you recorded acoustic guitar, you may need to re-record. That’s okay. Better to spend a little time up front on these demos than to discover halfway through tracking in an expensive studio that the song is too slow.

Key

As you are playing through a song, you may discover that the key you wrote the song in is not the best key to record the song in. The ability and range of the primary vocalist is the biggest determining factor when choosing a key. You need to make sure your vocalist is comfortable, and can achieve the sound you want in the key the song is written in.

It’s also important to remember that different instruments work best in certain keys. If you know you want to feature brass heavily on a song, it’s best not to record that song in a key with 7 sharps. Brass players usually feel more comfortable in flatted keys, string players feel better in sharped keys. Keeping your instrumentation in mind while you’re choosing a key can help you get a great finished song.

Production

Pre-production demos are also a great place to work out auxiliary parts for your songs. Once you determine the tempo and key, you can use your MIDI keyboard to do some experimentation. If you think that a song needs strings, try adding a string part with a virtual instrument. Doing some of your production this way will allow you to communicate better with session players, a producer, or a sound engineer.

This is also a good time to get your lead guitarist to nail down his solo. While you should allow for creativity to happen when you’re actually tracking, having a plan and knowing exactly what parts you want for each song will make your life easier when it comes time to actually record.

Save Time, Save Money

The biggest reason that pre-production demos are important is their role in saving you time and money as you prepare to lay down tracks. This is true whether you use a home studio, or a professional studio. Pre-production demos allow you to tweak your songs easily, let you play around with sounds, tempos, and meters, and let you know exactly how the songs is going to be structured. That way when it’s time to record, you have a clear picture of what you want. This can be especially helpful if you are in a band and want multiple band members to have input on the overall direction of a song, but don’t want to spend time discussing it in the studio. Regardless of where you are recording, saving time means saving money and pre-production demos allow you to be prepared.

Listen, Listen, and Listen Some More

In addition to allowing you to experiment with your songs, pre-production demos can help with the song selection process, and deciding the order of songs in your project. Although you might already have a good idea of what you want, these demos can help you iron out the rough patches. Listening to the pre-production demos—and allowing other people to hear them—can give you a good idea of what songs are actually good enough to make it on the album. After you have a good idea of what your best songs are, you can begin to listen to them in the order you think they belong in. This allows you to listen for any odd transitions between songs. Pay special attention to what keys your songs are in at this phase. Transitions between keys can greatly affect the mood of your album.

You should also listen to how tempos are grouped. If too many slow songs are together, the album may drag. If too many high energy songs are paired with each other, the audience may get bored. A good way to combat this problem is to have a non-musical friend give you their opinion. Though they might not know exactly what is going on musically, they will be able to listen objectively and point out some issues you may have missed. Listening through your pre-production demos can help you solve these potential problems before you ever get into the studio.

The great thing about pre-production demos is that they are unfinished. Their point is to be a continual work in progress. Let yourself have the freedom to experiment and tweak them. If you use your demos well, you can have better communication between band members, producers, engineers, and session players. They can also help you to achieve a better finished product for less money.

Have any questions or tips on creating demos? Any advice on saving money when you record an album? Let us know in the comments below!




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Recording Acoustic Guitar & Vocals

By Damon Mapp - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Hello again, fellow musicians!

In today’s article, I wanted to tackle recording acoustic guitar with vocals and choosing the right microphones.

Recording Guitar with Vocals—How Many Mics?

A lot of you are probably wondering, “How many mics should I use when recording my guitar with vocals?” Well… it all depends on what type of sound you want.

It’s not uncommon for a modern recording session to have a mic (or several) or direct input for each instrument or vocalist, with each mic/input feeding into a unique audio track in the recording software. This allows the audio engineer to isolate sounds and control them individually.

But, just because it’s common practice doesn’t mean it’s the only way (or even the best way). Before multitracking, using a single mic to record a guitar and vocals was very common. As unusual as it might be today, some of your favorite bands of the past used only 1 or 2 mics to record the whole band, from drums to vocalists. Mics were selected, all the instruments and vocalists were positioned strategically, the engineer pressed record on their 4 track tape machine, and a record was made.

As I said above, the right number of mics for your project depends on the sound you want. To get the right results, though, it’s important to use the right mic and to position it correctly. Keep reading for more details.

Choosing the Right Type of Microphone

Dynamic Mics

Dynamic mics are considered your typical stage mic. Most concert venues, churches, and so on use dynamic mics because they can handle high pressure sound levels, and they are used when the sound source is close and loud. The most popular dynamic mics are Shure SM58, SM57, and SM7B.

Shure-Mics
www.shure.com

PROs: These mics are fairly inexpensive, rugged, and road-worthy. The sound is pure and focused. They do not require phantom power (48v).

CONs: These mics can produce a nasal sound. They lack some high end (in comparison to condenser mics). They also have a pronounced proximity effect (the closer your source is to the mic, the more enhanced the bass sounds), so some EQ tweaking may be needed depending on the sound you are after.

Condenser Mics

Condenser microphones are the most common types of microphones you’ll find in recording studios. They have a much greater frequency response and transient response (which is the ability to reproduce the “speed” of an instrument or voice). They also generally have a louder output but are much more sensitive to loud sounds.

PROs: Much greater frequency and transient response. A louder output.

CONs: Often more expensive than dynamic mics. They can be very brittle with little low end. They require phantom power (48v). They are very sensitive to loud sounds and may require a pop filter for plosives ‘p’ sounds.

Different Types of Condenser Mics:

Large Diaphragm Microphones – Large diaphragm microphones (LDMs) are generally the choice for studio vocals and any instrument recording where a “deep” sound is desired. A large diaphragm microphone generally warms up the sound of what it’s recording. If using a condenser microphone for vocals, you’ll likely want to use a pop screen; these mics are so sensitive to transient noises that the “P” and “SH” sounds you make will cause distortion.

Small Diaphragm Microphones – Small diaphragm microphones (SDMs) are generally the best choice where you want a solid, wide frequency response and the best transient response, which, as we mentioned before, is the ability for your microphone to reproduce fast sounds (such as stringed instruments).

Good condenser microphones include the Audio Technica 2035, Oktava MC012 ($99), RODE NT1 ($199), and AKG C414B ($700)

www.audio-technica.com • www.oktava.com • www.rode.com • www.sweetwater.com

Once you have decided on the type of mic you are going to use, let’s go over mic positioning.

Mic Positioning

Recording Guitar and Vocals With One Microphone

Try to position the mic far enough away to capture the voice and guitar, but not so far that you capture the room sound. This is going to take some testing of various mic positions for the sound you want. Again, use your ears for best judgment.

As important as proper placement is, it’s even more important to use a mic with the right pattern. A cardiod mic in this scenario may work well because they reject sound from the rear. On the other hand, omni mics have a figure 8 pattern, which means they pick up sound from the front and rear of the capsule.

Recording Guitar and Vocals With Two Mics

If you’re using a large‑diaphragm condenser, you can achieve a useful improvement in the amount of separation by switching from cardioid pattern (where the null is behind the mic) to figure‑8 (where the null is perpendicular to the plane of the mic, and much deeper than in cardioid). How does this help? Using a figure 8 pattern or omni mic means that the null point will cancel the other mic out of its pickup. You may still have some spill, but you won’t have as much of a phasing nightmare.

Microphone Applications

Acoustic Guitar

A small diaphragm cardioid condenser is preferable here. As a starting point, aim it down so it’s looking at the 12th fret, and set it about 6-8 inches away.

Large diaphragm condensers can also work nicely on acoustic guitars, as well as ribbon mics. Have fun experimenting with different mics and placements to find what works best for you.

Vocals

When it comes time to overdub vocals, you’ll want a large diaphragm condenser mic. For a lead vocal, you should match the mic to the vocalist, who may have a personal mic preference.


As you can see, there are different techniques for different mics for different applications. There really is no standard setup. As I always tell musicians and engineers, use your ears to find out which mic and setup produces the sound you want.




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Recording, Mixing, and Mastering—What’s Really Going On?

Recording, Mixing, and Mastering—What’s Really Going On?

By Damon Mapp - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

written by Damon Mapp

As an audio engineer, I constantly meet people, including clients, who have no idea what the differences are between recording, mixing, and mastering. They might have heard the terms before, but they usually can’t correctly describe what each term means. For those not in the music industry, that’s both understandable and acceptable. However, for those of you in the music business, whether you’re an artist or a manager or an engineer, you need to know what those terms mean.

So, let’s get started.

Recording and Tracking

First, here are some basic definitions for you: recording is the process of capturing sounds, and a recording session is one instance where this happens (as opposed to a live performance).

A standard recording session involves multiple musicians, instruments, and vocalists. So, for the sake of this illustration, we’ll say your band has a drummer, guitarist, bass player, keyboard player, and two vocalists. Now, you could record everything on one microphone… but the drums might overpower the vocals, and the keys might blend into the bass line in certain sections. Recording everything together is like playing entirely unplugged; it can work, but most bands perform miked and plugged into sound systems to provide their audience with a good and balanced audio experience. That same option exists with recording. Instead of recording everything through one microphone, you can record each element separately to its own track in the workstation or mixer. This approach, which is called tracking, lets you (or, more likely, your audio engineer) go in later to perfect the balance of sounds.

Note that I said each element, not each instrument or vocal. That’s because some instruments consist of multiple elements, each of which will need its own mic. For example, a standard drum kit might have a mic for the kick, snare, floor toms, rack toms, cymbals, and high hats. This allows you to create a much more precise sound in the next phase: mixing.

Mixing

Mixing is taking the individual elements that were recorded as separate tracks in the workstation or on tape and adjusting their levels and tones to create the right balance. Remember when I mentioned that, without separate mics (and their resulting tracks), the drums might overpower the vocals? That’s a balance issue, and mixing allows you to prevent or correct that.

With mixing, you can ensure that certain tracks aren’t overbearing or piercing or, at the other end of the spectrum, too soft and buried by the other elements. You also apply EQ, compression, editing, and effects if they are needed or desired.

Once the mixing is complete for a track, the engineer saves a “mixdown” of the song, which is turned into an album in the next stage: mastering.

Mastering

Like the mixing process, the mastering process involves finding balance. However, instead of balancing elements within a song, you’re balancing the different songs into a cohesive album. This involves:

  • Balancing the level and tonal settings (EQ) of the songs
  • Controlling the dynamic range (how loud and quiet each section is) for the right musical blend of variety and power
  • Editing the “tops and tails”—the beginning and ending of each song—and the gaps to create a compelling sequence
  • Fixing any outstanding problems from the mix, if possible
  • Protecting your content by including PQ information, UPC/EAN codes, ISRCs, and CD Text
  • Creating finished files that are ready for manufacturing and/or distribution

Mastering is an important part of the process that many artists overlook or undervalue. It’s more than just cranking up the volume, which is what many artists request. It requires a big picture approach and an eye for detail. Without both efforts, the finished album isn’t… well, it isn’t finished.

With today’s technology, it is becoming increasingly easy to record and mix in your bedroom or home studio. While this can be a viable option (which I will elaborate on in a future article), I honestly recommend hiring a professional audio engineer for your recording project. In addition to having the gear and software, a good engineer and studio will have proper room acoustics, training, experience, and an ear for what they do. Those valuable tools aren’t acquired easily, nor are they sold on store shelves.




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Understanding Music Copyright—Live Performances, Recordings, and Sales

Understanding Music Copyright—
Live Performances, Recordings, and Sales

By David Frazee - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

written by: David Frazee

I know how important copyright is, and I know that it can also be completely confusing and overwhelming… so I’m breaking it down and going through it, bit by bit.

This is the second article in the Copyright series. If you missed the first article, please take a moment to go back and read it before continuing this one.


Performing Live

Let’s say you’ve got your first big gig coming up, and you need a set list to fill 90 minutes. You have a bunch of original content, but you also know that the cover song can really bring in a new crowd. There are a few songs you have in mind, but you’re worried about copyrights. How do you protect your songs, and how do you avoid trouble for doing cover songs?

If you have not given all of your public performance rights to someone else, you have the right to perform your own songs in public. However, because you are performing your songs in public, you should ensure that you have done everything you need to secure your rights to the song (such as filing with the copyright office).

If someone is asking to perform one of your songs, you may be wondering if there is a benefit to granting another artist performance rights. In short, yes. The benefits include the royalties you receive for the use of your musical composition and, of course, exposure of your music to more potential fans. If you have signed some of your musical composition rights to a publishing company, the publisher may have a right to some of your royalties.

If you want to perform a song someone else created, you will need a “public performance license.” There are two ways to obtain this license.

First, you could go to the copyright owner. Likely, the artist’s publishing company administers the licensing for the song, so you will need to find out who the publisher is and contact them to obtain performance rights. Contracts for performance rights negotiated directly with the publisher can vary in a number of ways, but it will be a non-exclusive right (meaning you do not own the song) and, unless agreed to otherwise, you will need to negotiate this right for every song and every performance.

The second, and easier, way is for the venue to go through a Performance Rights Organization (PRO). PROs work with restaurants, concert halls, nightclubs, hotels, and other venues to grant performance licenses. There are three main PROs that copyright owners use to track and issue licenses for performance rights: Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI); the American Society of Composers Authors (ASCAP); and Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC). Nearly 100% of recorded artists are registered with one of these organizations. Venues typically (but not always) receive a non-exclusive “blanket license,” which will allow performing artists to use any of the PRO’s songs. It is likely that the venue you are performing at has already obtained the proper license from the PRO and is responsible for making sure the royalties are paid. So, look online for which PRO administers the performance rights to the song you want to cover, and ask your venue if they have the rights from that PRO.

Lastly, and this is important: obtaining the rights to perform the music does not allow you to record your live performance of that song!

Creating Recordings

Speaking of recording… Let’s say you’ve been gigging a while and have developed a loyal fan base—so loyal that they keep asking if you have music they can buy and listen to when you aren’t playing gigs. (Awesome!)

Pumped, you start pulling together your best songs for a recording session. You’ve got eight or nine solid originals, but there are two cover songs you do that get the crowd up and dancing, every single time. You’d love to record those, too. Can you?

As far as songs you’ve created, you have the right to sing, record, and distribute your songs freely (unless, of course, you have given your rights away).

To record your song, you may have to give up some rights. Often, record label contracts will contain a clause that prevents you from recording other versions of your songs without the original label’s permission. The contract might also have you give up some or all of the sound recording rights to that final product. Read all contracts carefully, with a lawyer, before signing! While you may need to give up some or all of your sound recording rights, you should still own the rights to the underlying music.

If another artist wants to record your original songs, granting them recording rights can bring you exposure for your songs as well as royalties.

To legally record your version of songs someone else created, you need to obtain reproduction rights from the copyright owner. Specifically, you need a “mechanical license,” which gives you the rights to reproduce and distribute others’ songs on your own album.

You can obtain this license from the copyright owner through negotiations. Since it’s a complicated and time consuming process to track everyone who wants to use your songs, most copyright owners use the Harry Fox Agency to manage their mechanical licenses. This is a good place to start if you want to obtain a mechanical license.

All copyright owners are given the rights to “first use” of their songs, meaning they get the opportunity to release the first public version of the song. After the song has been published, anyone can obtain a “compulsory license” by providing notice to the copyright owner and following a specific process. This allows you to still legally record the song, even if you’re having trouble obtaining a mechanical license from the creator or original artist.

Please note that a mechanical license does not give you the right to post your version of the song on YouTube. We will get to this later.

Selling Copies

You’ve gotten your songs back from the recording studio—fully mastered and ready for release. You want to order physical albums to sell, since they have good profit margins and some of your fans like buying merch at shows (they’ve asked, repeatedly, if you have any CDs). You’re also interested in selling digital versions of the album and individual songs—including those cover songs.

Manufacturing and selling songs you’ve created incorporates your reproduction (copying) and distribution (selling) rights in both sound recording and the underlying music and lyrics. If you use a record label, you may have to give away some or all of your sound recording rights. In doing so, you likely give them the right to distribute and reproduce copies.

Also, by publishing your music to the public, others can now obtain a compulsory license to reproduce your music now. The benefit is of course the money you received in exchange for these rights.

Now, let’s talk about legally manufacturing and selling songs someone else created. As discussed above, you need a mechanical license to create and sell your new songs without infringing the copyright of the songs you covered. If you are working directly with the copyright owner, make sure you obtain the right to “distribute” the cover song; otherwise, you may have the right to use the musical composition in a new recording but cannot do anything with that recording.

As discussed previously, the easier method of selling your cover songs is to obtain a “compulsory license” by providing notice to the copyright owner and following the specific process laid out in statutes.

There is something else to consider: digital versus physical copies. These are two very different mediums, and the music industry rightfully makes a distinction. You can obtain the right to sell permanent copies in either medium by obtaining a mechanical license or a compulsory license, but having the right to one medium does not mean you have the right to the other. The Harry Fox Agency has two different forms; make sure you have obtained the right license!

There’s one more thing worth noting on mechanical licenses: they are for a set number of specific sales (for example: 1,000 CDs, or 10,000 downloads) and will need to be renewed for additional copies.

Next in the Copyright series: Streaming, Creating Music Videos, and Licensing Music. Be sure to check back and find out more!


Disclaimer: The above article is not legal advice; is it not intended to, nor can it, replace professional legal advice in any way. It is only intended to provide a short guide to basic legal terms and practices in the music industry. In your own interest, consult with a copyright attorney before entering into any contractual agreement or taking any action against copyright infringement.




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What Makes a Hip Hop Album Great?

What Makes A Hip Hop Album Great?

By Julian Keaton - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Written by: Julian Keaton

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Nas’ Illmatic album, and there are several reasons why this particular album is still relevant today. Illmatic has a unique and collaborative production sound, superb storytelling, cultural transcendence, and originality. It’s no coincidence that other timeless hip hop albums—like OutKast’s ATLiens, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city—also have these characteristics. If you want your hip hop record to withstand the test of time, these are important factors to consider.

It’s important to have talented producers working on your album, but they have to be able to work together. When working as a unit, studio sessions go smoother, the songwriting is better, and you can bounce ideas off everyone to get the best out of the song. Illmatic had five producers who worked together to make a well-knit, well-produced album. The Marshall Mathers LP had three main producers. ATLiens was mainly produced by Organized Noise. Because these groups of producers were tight-knit and able to collaborate, they created unique sounds that cannot be replicated.

In today’s music world, it’s no secret that labels arrange writing camps, where they pull together a team of the best songwriters in the country with the sole purpose of writing songs that will be commercially successful and, hopefully, lead to hit records. This approach, which utilizes the complimentary strengths of each writer, can result in songs with superb storylines, catchy melodies, and solid beats. It’s less common in hip-hop than in other genres—like R&B, pop, and country music—but it does still happen. In fact, some of the most impactful hip-hop songs come from collaboration, including Run-D.M.C.’s “My Adidas” and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message”. While you don’t have to collaborate to come up with quality music, doing so can open you to the ideas and methods of other artists.

Superb storytelling in these songs is what allowed them to transcend and impact culture. For example, many of the songs on Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut dealt with economic disenfranchisement, gang violence, and peer pressure—all of which are core to the culture of hip-hop. These same themes, though, connected Lamar’s songs with the millennial generation, made the album so influential, and caused a paradigm shift in the culture.

Lastly, and just as importantly as the other factors, each of the above albums stands out and stays relevant because the artists focused on maintaining their originality. A perfect example of a group focused on originality is Odd Future. Odd Future made a huge splash in the national music scene in 2010 because of its originality and unpredictability. Being able to stand on your own beliefs and ideas keeps your music fresh and original, while being different and intentionally not following trends makes you stand out. Fans definitely notice and often appreciate this focus on originality.

These factors can help your hip hop album stand out, be impactful, and withstand the test of time.




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Recording Studios: The Process

Recording Studios: The Process

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

If you’re heading into your first recording session, you might not know what to expect. To help, we’ve assembled a basic outline of the recording process below.

Please note: each recording session is unique, and preferences will vary from one band or recording studio to the next. Some artists do as many takes as necessary to obtain the elusive perfect version, then carefully blend the tracks together. Other artists use software as their recording studios and do only one sitting, adjusting it digitally as needed. Other artists prefer to record live performances, including variations, flaws, and audience interaction. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve looked at the basic process using organic instruments.

The Backing Track

This is the skeletal framework of the song. Start with the drums, then the bass, then record the rest of the instruments. Remember: not everyone nails it their first time out of the gate. In fact, the unpredictability of artists is one of the things that makes recording so exciting. Tip: you may want to use a metronomic click track to help your rhythm section keep time.

The “Scratch” Vocal Track

Once the backing tracks are set, you will likely record a reference or “scratch” lead vocal to serve as a guide for backup singers. This also provides a preview of the finished product—which is often encouraging and inspiring.

Backup Vocals

How do you want the background vocals to sound? Like the Beach Boys? Like ELO? Or do you want something a bit simpler? While your music should be ready before you enter the studio, this is when you officially decide what path the song will take.

Solos and Overdubs

Consider this the “season to taste” portion of the recipe. Does the song need a little guitar solo here or some extra oomph there? Listen to what you have so far. What is it calling out for?

The Lead Vocal

Time to give the performance of your life. You might get it in one take, or you may nail it on the thirtieth. Give it your all, and be patient.

The Mixing Session

If you thought you were done when the recording wrapped, think again. Mixing is the art of squeezing a studio full of music into a space the size of a human ear. Scrutinizing every square inch of the track and making sure every level and sound is perfect takes time. Put the coffee on and get cracking.

It’s that simple. Now, all you have to do is repeat the above ten or twelve times, and you’ve got yourself an album.

Have you been through the recording process? Did it flow like we described, or was it different for you? Do you have any advice for first-time recorders?




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Music Recording Equipment: Finding the Right Headphones

Music Recording Equipment: Finding the Right Headphones

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Headphones may be overlooked when people think about what equipment is needed to make music recordings happen, but they are an important part of the recording studio. In a recording session, artists may want to use headphones to hear their voice or other parts of the arrangement. The headphone mix may affect their performance, so it’s important that you have good headphones to help the artist hear clearly and perform their best.

DT 770 PRO by beyerdynamic

These crazy-comfortable closed-back headphones may be the very best on the market in their price range (or perhaps in general). They fit around the ears tightly but comfortably. Their clarity is amazing – if you solo a vocal, it’s like you are standing right in front of them. There is also a semi-open back model called the DT 880 PRO, and a fully-open back for critical listening and mastering called the DT 990 PRO. Price: $299

K240 Studio by AKG

The K240s are semi-open studio headphones that also have very comfortable pads. These headphones are very light while wearing (240g). The cable that comes included is a mini-XLR to 1/8th inch adapter, allowing for very easy cable replacement. Price: $149

HD 280 PRO by Sennheiser

Sennheiser makes a great set of headphones that isolate very well. This is important for recording. If you are trying to record a quiet, intimate vocal, you don’t need the music leaking out of their headphones and being recorded into the vocal track. The solid construction doesn’t hinder comfort and helps durability. This pair of headphones are built with closed construction. Price: $99

SRH240A by Shure

The SRH240A headphones are a rugged set of closed headphones. This more affordable pair is comfortable and isolating; again, perfect for recording with minimal bleed, and also great for music listening. Price: $75

Other Tips for Choosing Headphones

When choosing a pair of headphones for music recording, keep in mind your needs. Will you be mixing with them? Make sure they are comfortable and honest sounding. Will you be using them for artists to be monitoring while recording? Choose a pair that are closed and isolating. Before listening and trying them out, make a mix of music you are very familiar with. Listen to what the high end, low end, and mids sound like. Make sure the headphones replicate each well.

Have you established a recording studio? What type of headphones do you prefer to use, and why?

See also: Recording Music: Pros and Cons of Creating a Home Studio, Recording Music: Essential Equipment for a Home Studio, Music Recording Equipment: The Best Microphones, Music Recording Equipment: Digital Audio Workstations.




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Music Recording Equipment: The Best Microphones

Music Recording Equipment: The Best Microphones

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

In both live performances and music recording, there are a lot of components that affect the way the final product will sound. Because they are the initial pieces to capture and filter the sound of instruments or voices, microphones are very important.

If you’re setting up a studio, here are some different microphones to consider:

U87 by Neumann

One of the most popular microphones, this large diaphragm condenser (LDC) is mostly used on female vocals or breathy vocalists because of the way it beautifully captures the “air” of a voice. In 2012, this microphone was rated by Sound On Sound magazine to be the “best microphone”. $3,600

TLM 103 by Neumann

With the same capsule as the U87, this more-affordable LDC is also great for capturing the air and presence of a vocal. It has a flat response to around 5k, then a 4 dB boost. This mic has very little noise, so it can be used for very quiet things (radio broadcast, foley recording) while still handling high SPL (for use as drum overheads). $1,100

C1 by Studio Projects

This mic is very, very affordable, but the low price doesn’t mean low quality. This microphone can be found in high end music studios recording some big records, and it has been compared to microphones 10 times its price. The C1 has the ability to close mic high SPL sources (such as guitar cabs and drum overheads). $300

C414 XLII by AKG

This is another versatile microphone that is mainly used for drum overheads and vocals. This LDC is often sold in pairs for the application of recording stereo rooms or overheads. Acoustic guitars and other acoustic instruments also sound great through this. $1,100 (single) $2,300 (pair)

SM27 by Shure

This mic is another affordable, flexible LDC. Compared to the other, more expensive microphones in this list, this one might need some shaping in post, depending on what you are using it for. It can take the high SPL of drums and capture all the light nuances of vocals. $299

Capturing the sound during music recording sessions as best as possible is an important part of the recording process. Although they aren’t the only element that matters, the right tools make a big difference.

Do you have a favorite mic for recording? Is it one of the above mics, or something else? Does your go-to mic vary depending on what you’re recording?

See also: Recording Music: Pros and Cons of Creating a Home StudioRecording Music: Essential Equipment for a Home Studio, Music Recording Equipment: Digital Audio Workstations, Music Recording Equipment: Finding the Right Headphones.




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Music Recording Equipment: Digital Audio Workstations

Music Recording Equipment: Digital Audio Workstations

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Before the rise of computers, recording studios had tape machines that they recorded to, and editing was done by cutting and pasting pieces of the recording with a razor and tape. Today, Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) have taken the place of those tape machines, bringing with them a multitude of options that didn’t exist previously. If you are setting up a recording studio, DAWs are a necessity, especially you plan to collaborate with other industry professionals.

There are many different DAWs to choose from, so we’ve pulled together some of the best and most popular. Take a look through these options and see what is best for you.

Pro Tools

Pro Tools is arguably the most popular (or perhaps a more appropriate word is common) DAW. Pro Tools Express comes with an interface and a basic set of plug-ins for $499. Compare the different versions on this comparison chart. A free trial of Pro Tools 11 is available. Available for both Mac and Windows OS.

Logic Pro X

The latest version of Logic Pro X comes with awesome new features which previously required third-party plug-ins (Drummer, a drum programmer; Arpeggiator; and Flex Pitch, a tuning application). The now-included plug-ins are a step forward, making this program excellent for programming and making synths and beats. The dark interface also allows for less strain on your screen and battery.
$199 on the App Store; Mac OS only.

Cubase

Like other DAWs, Cubase offers versions of the program at varying price points and with various features, allowing you to choose the level that fits your budget and your needs. This program has many plug-ins, including pitch correction (standard in all versions). Prices range from US $99 to EUR $699; available for both Mac and Windows OS.

Studio One

This program is made by Presonus and also has varying programs (Free, Artist, Producer, and Professional) at varying prices. Compare their different features and prices, and find the version best suited to your needs and budget. Available for both Mac and Windows OS.

Reaper

Reaper is a one-version program with much of the same functionality and ability as the other DAWs listed. It offers a 60-day free trial, after which the license is only $60. Available for both Mac and Windows OS.

While it may be obvious that you need this equipment, the choice may not be as clear. Our best advice is to identify your studio’s needs first, then research and compare your options.

Have you purchased one of the above DAWs? Or is there another version that you use? How has it worked out for your studio?

See also: Recording Music: Essential Equipment for a Home Studio, Recording Music: Pros and Cons of Creating a Home Studio, Music Recording Equipment: The Best Microphones, Music Recording Equipment: Finding the Right Headphones.




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Focus Your Time: Performing vs. Recording

Performing vs Recording: A Musician’s Focus

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Should you start recording or keep performing? This is an inevitable dilemma for any musician who wants to promote their music, but it shouldn’t be a hard one to figure out.

Thanks to the plummeting cost of recording technology, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to record and produce a demo of your music. The rise of social media platforms and online content has pressured many artists into thinking they need music available now. Before you book a studio session or rush off to craigslist to find discount microphones and a bootleg copy of ProTools, consider the following:

Why do you want to record your music?

Are you sending press kits to venues, trying to book shows? Are you sending demos to record companies? Have your fans been begging for recordings of their favorite songs after you rock a show? If you answered yes to any or all of the above, it might be time to think about recording.

Did you come up with your band name last week and finally finish writing your second song today? Don’t even think about recording—yet. It’s just not time. Your sound will inevitably change and, hopefully, improve as you continue honing your craft. Focus on developing and polishing your sound. Keep rehearsing, and take every opportunity to play in front of real people. Build your music portfolio and your fan base. When you have a cohesive, well-rehearsed set that you have played for cheering crowds, you can consider recording.

Can you make the time for recording?

Recording a song well (by yourself or in a professional studio) can take days to weeks depending on the circumstances. It’s a serious time commitment and requires patience and skill to produce something desirable. Can you take time off from work, rehearsal, gigs, and your personal life to get this done?

Who will do the work?

Whether you visit a studio or record your own music, recording can be a frustrating and creativity-killing process, especially if you’re inexperienced. Using a professional studio can reduce some of the stress, but it can also be a pricey investment. Are you willing to take on this task? If not, have you found a studio you can work with?

Keep quality in mind.

While it is important to give fans access to recorded music, do not record your songs on a whim under less-than-ideal circumstances just so you have something to put on your website, MySpace, or BandCamp page. Remember, a sloppy recording can hurt you just as much as a well-recorded demo can help you. If you can’t do it right, it’s probably better to wait until you can.

If, after considering these points, you’re ready to record, congratulations and good luck! If you need more time, don’t be discouraged; you’ll get there soon enough.

Have you made the transition from performing to recording? How did you know the timing was right? What advice do you have for artists considering recording their first album?




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