What is involved in the recording process? There are a number of activities and processes involved. As we go through the various stages below we will present the general practices we’ve adopted as well as a look at a number of other ways of achieving the same goals in your professional home recording studio. Typically the home studio recording artist will derive his/her concepts, technologies and proficiencies from the professional studio environments. We look at each stage of the music production process with the same high quality expectations to ensure we’ve been able to achieve the best possible end results.
The Composition Stage – An Overview
Some songwriters prefer to lay their ideas down on manuscript while others are perfectly happy diving in and writing while tracking. Midi notation is another tool you can use to lay down ideas, manage your arrangement and apply instrumentation. Some may write their lyrics first and then write the music score, or write the music first instead. We have found that generally speaking the ‘original idea’ for the music more times than not presents its own direction as to which process would make the most sense to use to get started. There’s no right or wrong way for this. Whichever method is comfortable and allows you to capture the ideas you want to present is perfectly acceptable.
Home Recording Studio Software and Equipment – Helpful Points
As with the composition stage there are many different ways to record. A few things to keep in mind though is the use of appropriate professional recording studio microphones to track each instrument and vocals. Many factors come into play depending on each instrument. For example it might be appropriate to use a ribbon mic for trumpets instead of a large diaphragm condenser mic, or a dynamic mic might be a good solution. Your drummer might have a preference for the mics mounted a certain way on his kit. Your lead vocalist might demand a certain mic.
If you’re recording a live session, this raises concerns around the need for the isolation of instruments and vocalists as the sound will bleed to other mics in the room causing issues in the mixing stage. This is where isolation booths are important for live tracking. Remember, the goal is to produce the most Brilliant Sound you possibly can!
As you progress in the tracking, invariably there will be many other ideas that come to play with regard to the sounds of each instrument, their quality, and how you may want to adjust each sound with various digital plugins. You may also want to add, take out, or punch-in some sections of your score depending what you feel makes good musical sense.
Another important consideration is the best home studio headphones to use for tracking. In some cases open-back headphones may be appropriate for vocalists or wind instruments, particularly brass players as this allows the artist to hear the room as well as what is being tracked in the software. Sometimes it is difficult for the player to hear what he/she needs to hear to perform well. For the most part string instrument players and drummers won’t find the open-back concepts necessary.
In terms of software, there are many digital audio workstations (DAW’s) in the marketplace that are very effective. A quick look at the top ten should not bring many surprises but it all comes down to your personal preference. We’ve been using Pro Tools in both Windows and Mac environment variables for many years and although it has some misgivings in both environments, it has performed very well for us. There are many supporting arguments out there for both. Depending on how your home music recording studio equipment is configured, a Mac OS may be an appropriate fit, or you may find Windows has more favorable characteristics for you. You may also find that your preferred DAW’s work flow is easier to manage on a Mac OS than in Windows – or vice versa. In either case, whichever environment suits you best should have the characteristics that best match your expectations for the most brilliant music you wish to write.
A Look at Mixing – Refining your work
Mixing brings all of your recorded tracks into one stereo track where a balanced blending of all of the sounds takes place. A lot of mixing the can be done with good high quality headphones while you’re still in the business of tracking. Keep in mind that at this stage there will be more ‘tweaking’ taking place as you’re looking for that ‘certain’ sound. These adjustments could include a number of things like doubling a vocal track, giving various parts more or less presence, changing various plugins or whatever might come to mind to accomplish this. The intent of this exercise is to analyze and separate the sounds for listener clarity. But as you get closer to reaching satisfaction with the mix it will be time to change your perspective to hearing the mix through studio monitors to get the real true sound in its current state. The final mix should easily flow into the mastering stage.
Mastering – Putting on the Final Touch
This is the process of preparation and transfer of the recorded audio in the final mix to The Master. This is the polish that optimizes playback quality on all devices. Part of this process corrects mix balances and as well as enhancing audio characteristics and giving the mix the final touch.
In keeping with all the preceding stages, we maintain the same pursuit. This is where the Real Brilliance of our Sound is captured!
This is a short snapshot of how we manage our recording sessions and processes and hope it relays some clarity for you as you pursue your music recording goals. Remember, it’s all about creating that Brilliant Sound you set out to achieve!