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.
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?