Getting ready to record this summer. Advice?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Unregistered, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    My band is wanting to record our debut album this summer in a professional studio environment. We've written all original material and plan to tighten up our songs as much as possible in the coming months. I have a few questions that I hope some of you may be able to answer.

    One of my biggest concerns is with our drummer. He's only been a drummer for almost four years now. Over a year ago he said that it's not always necessary to play to a metronome in the studio. I knew there were exceptions to this rule, but thought it best to play to one in nearly all cases. I've since researched the topic more and have come to find this is mostly true. We play psychedelic metal. Not really hardcore stuff just heavy, melodic metal. Hell, people call Tool hard rock now since the advent of all the metal 'core' bands. I imagine they'll eventually get demoted to children's lullabies in another 10 years. I digress.

    My main concern is his ability to play to a metronome. We've tried it at rehearsals and it went about as expected. He couldn't groove to it and he found it very irritating. I've told him in the coming months he should try to get more acquainted with it. Hopefully he does this on his own time. Our demo we recorded over a year ago was done to a metronome and though it sounds amateur as one would expect I liked the way it came together with the metronome. A friend of mine who is a great drummer did the work on our demo after we let go of our first drummer.

    My main concern when we get to the studio is getting the best possible drum takes we can. When we play live with him he can really get on a role and find that nice pocket. But as of now the metronome kills his groove. I hear you really only want to record jazz artists and jam bands in a live setting and that harder rock/metal lends itself more to dubbing and therefore the metronome is key to a great production. I agree with this and I definitely want to be able to work with dubs to help get huge guitar sounds. I play rhythm guitar and sing. One of my questions is if we were to record in at least a semi live setting, will that make dubs next to impossible?

    I do play a lot of power chords and such since I play rhythm and would primarily want them to help produce a wall of sound for key parts in songs. I point this out so people know that I won't be dubbing super technical parts. I'm torn as of now. I don't want to sacrifice techniques we could use to polish our work in the studio due to our drummers possible inability to play to a metronome, while at the same time I don't want an uninspired drum sound.

    I'm wanting to make tempo maps in the next month or two. With something besides the incessant beep and have it replaced by more grooveable sounds (shakers and drumloops possibly.) I hear just making the metronome work for you can help immensely.

    This is where I am now. If anybody has any suggestions or anything to share about what considerations we should make before recording I would greatly appreciate it!
  2. sachit

    sachit Active Member

    May 20, 2011
    This is a very interesting question. Earlier, I always found the metronome to be a necessary evil, something that I avoided except when I was doing specific practice. But lately I've started recording, and I can tell you that there is no substitute for a metronome in a recording. Using a metronome will allow you to do overdubs, retakes of specific parts, and even add software instruments if you wish. Using a metronome is like nailing the project to a framework, making it extensible and scalable.

    In fact, if you play in a semi-live environment, without a metronome, you will lose the choice to overdub, not because of technical difficulties, but because you'll be playing in free time. If your recordings are not in fixed metronome time, how do you make sure your overdubs line up? It might be possible with today's technology, but it's something you would rather avoid.

    Another alternative is using beat mapping/tempo mapping. This is a common feature available today, that analyzes a recording and sets the tempo to sync up with it. In other words, if you have a recording at 116bpm, but the musician drifts to 121 bpm in between and returns to 116 at the end, beat mapping will analyze the change in the recording tempo and adjust the tempo accordingly. It's like having different tempi for different parts of a song. This may sound like magic, but it isn't that great. The disadvantage is when you record another dub over: beat mapping will make the metronome consistent with the EXISTING record, but the performer will feel thrown off when his metronome click itself goes out of time!

    It would be better if you could just make the tempo work, like you say. That will make the whole process much easier and more streamlined.
  3. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Vashon Island, Washington
    Home Page:
    Playing to a click takes practice... relatively few people are able to do it well right off the bat. Especially if the song is one you have been playing live a lot, the players will have developed muscle memory of their live playing, including tempo drifts. This muscle memory must be unlearned and replaced with consciously listening to the click as a tempo guide.
    Some will learn this more quickly than others. Encourage your drummer to keep practicing to a click and over time he should get it.
    Tempo mapping is a good alternative... it at least allows the song to align with your DAW's 'grid' which greatly facilitates editing. I don't see how overdubs would be so much of a problem... you're playing in real time along to the playback, should be no 'aligning' required. For overdubs turn the click off and play to the previously recorded tracks.

  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Why worry? With programs like ProTools & others, they can identify & synchronize drum tracks after-the-fact. Quantizing it's called. Of course not everything is 100% drive-through. It takes knowledge and talent to manipulate the software accordingly. It's time-consuming, laborious, mindnumbing but it's automatic at the same time. So just go for the groove and sweat the rest.

    The Native Americans were into " sweat lodges ". And they didn't have any software.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    OP here. So is the general consensus to just do whatever gets the best drum take? If he can't groove to the metronome, go without and I should still be able to do my dubs by simply playing along with them? Just trying to clarify. I have a feeling there's a song or two that might flow better without a click. At the same time there's some (if not most) I feel we should be able to nail to a click.

    Is it ever unheard of for a guitar track to go before the drums? There's two songs I can think of where that seems to make sense. Both are songs where the intro is very subdued and the drums are very soft and in the background.

    Thanks so much for the tips guys! Much appreciated.
  6. Beat Poet

    Beat Poet Active Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    Hertfordshire, UK
    Home Page:
    Sometimes the drums will be redone after the guitar has gone down, but in those cases there was some kind of drum track there in the first place. My best advice would be to figure out the tempos of your songs and nag your drummer to practise them at those tempos to the point where he ends up doing it just to shut you up! It's not absolutely essential that you do record to a click, but what is important is that the drummer gets his own internal metronome going at least.
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Good call on thinking about this months in advance. The more you do now, the better prepared you will be for the studio. The more your effort in the studio will be expended on sounding good rather than sucking less. Talk to the engineer/producer you will be working with this summer and bring along your demo. See what he or she recommends for your band. While a lot of people use a click today there are a lot of people who don't. (See this thread for a relevant discussion.) Clicks get used in metal a lot when people want to double or quadruple track guitar riffs - layering multiple takes of the same riff. This requires a lot of precision. A click helps. Layering harmony lines or counter-melodies may not require a click.

    Regardless of how you decide to go with the recording, encourage your drummer to practice with a metronome. It's one of the best tool for improving as a musician. (There's an old saying that the people who really need to record with a click are those who can't.) He might want to start out playing along to a beat box or drum machine and then slowly strip it down to just a click. (But pick a click sound that doesn't drive you crazy.) Then play with the click just on the 1 and 3, then just on the 2 and 4. Then just on the 1, just on the 3, just on the 2, just on the 4.
  8. ThirdBird

    ThirdBird Active Member

    Dec 4, 2007
    Toms River, NJ
    Playing along with the click in two or four is fabulous practice for developing groove in most kinds of popular music. Excellent advice Bob.

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