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Record which instrument first?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Seedlings, Mar 10, 2009.

  1. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    I have a 8th grade metal band coming over to record a few songs pretty much pro bono (they said they'd pay something if they sold some CDs, you know...).

    How would you recommend STARTING to record a song for said 8th grade metal band? Track one live, then overdub? Listening to the mysapce page, they're all-over-the-place with tempo, and sloppy all around. I'm kinda worried about tempo...

    For my personal recordings I start with a drum machine track at proper tempo, then record (guitar, vox, bass, drums, etc) tracks around that. I don't think this method will work well with them.

    Thanks for your input,
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    good question,

    Young musicians can be very sensitive.

    I'd probably record them all at once, first! That will allow them to hear themselves as a band. Give it time to sink in. Then, if they want to get better... take baby steps forward as you train them to record and play better.

    Don't take it personal. Meaning, don't be worried that others will think you suck, if they can't keep time together and their volumes are all over the place at this point. You want to capture the attitude and vibe right now. They will rave about it if its a good experience. You will learn what hype is all about lol.
  3. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    I would definitely start with a scratch track with all of them playing together. It might be in your best interest to suggest a click track for the drummer. If it helps to convince them, many pros use click tracks live. It's not unusual. Of course that doesn't mean a metronome necessarily either. A drum machine is fine to play along with. If you have the inputs, just track it all. You may get a good take right off the bat. Otherwise there's nothing wrong with overdubbing.

    If the meter isn't too much of an issue, I personally think it's fine if the band slows down or speeds up slightly. As long as it isn't blatantly noticeable.
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Do you have the inputs to do them live in the studio? That's probably your best bet for getting their best performance. If you can do it, tell them that the drill will be three to five takes of each song. No BS. No messing around. Tell them they need to rehearse like this on their own at least three times before you will give them your time. (You'll probably be doing them a bigger favor by doing this than you will by recording them.)

    It is really unlikely that any of them has the skill to play with a click track. Takes practice, and it sounds like they are a bit short on that. If you have to go one track at a time, try record them in order of who has the best time. That is, try each of them out playing to a click or drum machine; grade them; record them in order of their ability to play with the machine.

    Best of luck
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    All great advice.

    They'll probably be a bit shy while at the same time arrogant as possible.

    Hopefully a parent will accompany them to the session.

    Theres two ways to approach this and it mostly has to do with your studios' ability to handle a lot of tracks all at once as well as floor space.

    Also be aware that they have probably done a lot of online searches and one or more of them probably thinks they know all about recording....maybe they got their questions answered HERE!!

    Anyway, if you have the space to set them up as a 'practice' and just let them go at it in as close as possible setup to a live show then do it. Mic it all and dont isolate a thing. Let them hear how their interaction with each other as well as the tones of their instruments sound ala natural.

    Then, once you have their attention, gobo them off, if you have the ability to, isolate them as best possible, get them a clear phone mix and do another couple of run throughs.

    Then keep what sounds good and replace the rest one at a time. As this process builds towards a better sounding product they'll get with it.

    All it takes is positive proof and they'll learn.

    Think about it. How many of us were recording our music in the 8th grade??

    You'll also know who the musical director is after a couple of takes and by watching closely you'll establish their particular pecking order and then you'll know who to run things through when it gets dicey.

    Treat them with respect but also treat it like a professional service and keep them on task.
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Does putting a cheap reel to reel deck in the middle of the practice room count? (What I wouldn't give to have a copy of those recordings...not that I'd play them for anyone.)
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    That's pretty much when and how I started. I would play duets with myself - 2 horns, 3 horns, 4 horns....sometimes with violin.
    I'd record, bounce, record, bounce, record, bounce...The recordings didn't sound great, nor did the performances...It's where my passion for recording started.
    The same may be said for these kids - if it's a positive experience for them, they may be the next all-star recording engineer.
  8. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    *in his best John Cleese* "Luxury. We used to live in a cardboard box with me dad and sixteen siblings. Every night we'd have to go to bed hungry after our farther gave us our evening whippin'....with a butcher knife."

    Does a twenty dollar cassette deck count? It was a luxurious double cassette deck. You know the ones roughly the shape of sausages.
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Spoiled brat! Well, in sixth grade we recorded by cutting grooves in a revolving plate of hot wax with our tender bits.

    And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.
  10. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Damn Bob - to hear you talk, I'm thinking you might whip out:
    "In our day, we had to record using clay pots on a spinning wheel and a piece of wheat."
  11. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Awesome posts, hat's off to all!

    First, I have a budget studio and budget abilities - which works fine for pursuing as a hobby. I do have the channels to track them all live, but the problem will be with headphones. I have (gulp) one headphone output. I may be able to rig up another couple of headphone outs via auxs.

    The second problem is the bassist has no amp, and expected to direct in for recording. I don't have a bass amp per se. The "most powerful" guitar amp I have on hand is the Crate monoblock and a 2x12 cab, which could be used for the bassist.

    3rd is space. I have a 15'x17' (sound treated with rigid fiberglass panels and floor to ceiling corner absorbers) room that will be empty except for the computer desk...thinking... I might be able to pull the computer outside and completely empty the space for tracking. I don't have gobos enough to get any real isolation.

    I taught the bassist how to play (didn't take much as he was very motivated), and know he and his parents pretty well, plus I know the drummer and his dad, but not as well.

    Again, great insight!

  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I really think this is where under age drinking is important?

    Drinking legally since I was 18. The good old days.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  13. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    I do serve some wicked espresso based drinks via my Nuova Simonelli and home-roasted coffee... although legal... caffiene kind of high may not help with speed metal and 8th graders.

  14. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    You could invent a new genre - speedspeed metal!

    For our band I'd look to have the band play, track the vocals/guitars - then record the drums with guitar thru cans - then record extras. Not ideal really, and it's an entirely different situation to you.

    So long as the tempo is as constant as the volume of modern radio, you should be fine to do overdubs.
  15. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    (voice of very very old codger....actually not far from the truth)

    "Back in MY day we had to shout really really loud at a flat piece of rock while hittin it with a pointy stick. Things got better when we discovered a big cave with only one of two sabertooths around....we'd shoo them little kitties outta there and we'd have ourselves a nice echo chamber....Course we'd have to stuff a big Mammouths ass up in there to control the dwell.....ya know....back in the day....."{cough cough weeeeze...}
  16. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Sorry for the thread hijack (though I think the question got answered). Here is a link to the Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch for those who have not seen it and missed the cultural reference. Here is a link to the a web site about At Last The 1948 Show (which I had never heard of) where the skit originated. I'd love to see clips of that. Too bad the BBC erased them.
  17. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    That's a great idea to get the vox and guitars down for the drums and bass to work around. Then with a working rythm section, screaming and guitar playing should be cake. I figure if the bass and drums are pretty good, and nobody can make out the vocals anyway, then if the guitars are fat enough for the guitarist, everybody's happy.

    Oh, I don't know about the cave or potting wheel, but don't forget to sing those brilliant lyrical episodes into your voicemail so you don't forget them later.

    You all throw down the wickederest tips.
  18. robcranmer

    robcranmer Guest

    Yo Seedlings...welcome to my world brother! We run a recording studio out of a music store. Many of our smaller projects involve recording students of our instructors and their bands. Here's what works for us...and I'm in no way claiming that this is "THE" way! One, we always do the bands live...in the same room, however, we run the speaker extensions out of their amps to an iso-box, if their amps are practice amps...they use ours! Bass runs direct through my Focusrite Octo-pre. drums are (MY Yamaha's) all running through dbx gates....with some slight compression...yeah I know most folks don't track with compression(more to come) Vocalist is in eye line(so he can see all players and myself for cues) in booth, Quite often I have to go through their songs with them to figure out timing/tempo changes, and usually with that age group I will literally conduct the band through the songs, so they catch any time sig/tempo changes...not to mention playing the song the same way without memory lapse changes between takes! Also I'll give the vocalist/guitarists cues when major key changes occur. We get tracks pre-set...like a live show...so that we don't have to spend a lot of time mixing/editing. Band saves big $$$, has a lot of fun, learns how cool recording can be, has an inexpensive demo that they can share for the rest of their lives! For monitoring, we run the headphone output of my MOTU 2408 into two(one on each side of room) Behringer headphone dist amps(cheap price, decent(for 8th graders) sound)...you can pickup the headphone amps for about 60-80 bucks used...then just pick up some decent economy headphones(closed-back) We usually have the band give us a jpeg that they want on their cd cover prior to session. We will print 5-10 copys on our Primera and have them ready to burn. Then bounce down the recorded tracks while band packs up and "voila" we are their heroes! Like I said, it's not the way...but it works for us...and many of our kids have gone on to bigger and better...Chiodos...the Swellers...to name a couple!
  19. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Nice! There's one for the portfolio.
  20. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Hi Chad,

    I finished recording a 4-piece. high-school band ( ages at the time 15-18 ) a couple weeks ago. The band consisted of electric bass, 6-pc. acoustic drum kit, electronic piano, electric guitar - using no click track. The recording was done at a neutral site over the course of two evenings. The first night I tracked the band all-together, recording several takes of each song. (generally 4 - 5 runs through each song) *about 2 hours tracking the band

    Those scratch vocal performances were probably good enough to keep, but the isolation was ok, but not good enough to suit me. There was too much drum bleed in one of the vocal mics, so that made the final decision to re-record the vocals pretty easy. I was leaning that way to begin with, and it was a no brainer once I heard the bleed in a more familiar environment. As I mention in another thread, I listened pretty carefully for the isolation of the vocal mic nearest the drums and it was very good. I figured since it was good, the other vocal mic 4 times farther from the drums would be even better, but that did not turn out to be true.

    In the two weeks between sessions I had time to select or compile the best instrument tracks of each song from the multiple takes of the first night's work. Then we went back and did the vocals. They sang 3 takes of each song - both singers at once. (had I not wanted to layer them, I could have quit after one take of the vocals, every vocal take was solid.) 4 songs, 3 takes each and of the 12 total takes I had to stop twice for a few seconds due to 'oops wrong words'. *about 90 minutes total re-doing the vocals - it was a school night*

    Now that it's done my only regret is - I wish I would have allowed myself a way to re-amp the electric guitar on the first night. The typical guitar tone for that age group is often over-saturated distortion and very difficult to sit in a mix. So I recommend you do as robcranmer does and make them use an amp with tone, and/or give yourself a re-amp option.

    Other than a couple minor glitches, things went pretty smoothly. The "neutral site" caused a certain amount of problems and I was rushed to get started. (it doesn't pay to rush these things, and I usually know better). So learn from my mistakes.

    Mistake #1: I rushed and should have known better.
    Mistake #2: I planned to mic the guitar cab AND use a DI/Pre for re-amping purposes, but ended up just micing *see Mistake#1
    Mistake #3: I failed to pay close enough attention to mic #2. Level was good, tone was good, but should not have assumed isolation was also good.

    Benefit #1: Getting 3 very solid takes of the vocals gave me the opportunity to triple-track the choruses at mixdown and really put the focus on their strong harmonies - where it belongs.

    I hope your experience goes as well - the teenagers I worked with were very talented and VERY well prepared and had VERY impressive vocal ability. Overall a pleasure to record.

    Good luck. Let us know how it turns out!

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