After preproduction, it’s time to enter the recording studio to begin the magic. The recording is honestly my favorite as well as a favorite for many others.
A little advice
Before starting this little guide, I will give you some advice that I have learned over the years: A good mix starts from the recording.
This little phrase at first sounded confusing to me, but after putting it into practice I understood that when the session is well recorded, what has to be done in the mix is minimal, and you can focus on the merely creative aspect instead of correcting the errors of the recording.
How to make an effective recording
First of all, each producer has their own order to record and their priorities, so this depends on each person according to their intentions in production.
I’ve known producers who record first voices and then music, or certain instruments before others, etc., so the important thing is that you can develop your own way of recording yourself.
1. Arrival at the studio
I always try to arrive an hour before the musicians to the studio, to “set” the battery next to the audio engineer.
This is the slowest thing to do, due to the number of microphones and patching needed, apart from the fact that you have to mic the battery according to the style of sound you want.
2. Base recording
The bases of the song(s) are recorded with an acoustic guitar or a piano. This is the only thing that is done to record the chords while working throughout the production.
It is important that the accents, cuts, etc. are well marked and that the dynamics of the guitar & piano are really a good reference.
You can also record a voice line so that within the whole recording you have a reference of the parts which you are recording.
Remember that these bases do not have to come out perfect, so if you have time or tuning errors there is not much of a problem. In the end, they will be eliminated, and it is only to have a base.
3. Battery recording
When recording the drums, care must be taken that the drummer respects the accents and cuts very well, and that he/she plays it with the energy that is needed to be given to the song.
In my opinion, it is the instrument that best has to go out so that the recording sounds professional. In a mix, if everything sounds good but the drums are not well recorded, the song sounds amateur.
Focus on guiding the drummer to do his/her best and highlight all the arrangements, accents, cuts, etc, which he/she must do so that they do not forget the necessity of the drums.
4. Guitar recording, part 1
After recording the batteries, we can get rid of the bases to start recording the guitars.
It is good to do a small edition of the drums before this, in case there is a tempo error (and to not confuse the guitarist).
When I say “part 1”, I mean it’s best to divide the recording of guitars into two.
If the song includes acoustic and electric guitars, record first those that are more rhythmic, so that the song will take shape and leave the arrangements for later.
5. Bass recording
In my opinion, bass and drums are the instruments that define whether a recording is professional or amateur. When these two instruments are well “tied”, and you really feel the connection between them, the recording has already started well and the mix will have no problems.
When recording the bass, remember to follow the drums perfectly to really give a good feeling of the rhythm. Remind the bass player that he or she should also focus a lot on the cuts and accents of the drums when making his/her arrangements.
6. Keyboard recording
If the song includes keyboards, they can go excellent after the bass.
This is because, although the keyboard also serves as a harmonic basis, many times you can add some extra touches such as extra notes, or movements that can be the first arrangements with which the song will “decorate”.
7. Guitar recording, part 2
After recording the bass, you can proceed to recording the main guitars. These guitars make the arrangement, and already having the rhythmic base of the song you can start playing.
Remember very well to find spaces.
What I mean by this is that the arrangements should adorn, and not be something that distracts from the main thing.
Sometimes when wanting to show off with the arrangements, we forget that the voice line must be the main one, and the arrangements interfere with the attention that we must put on the protagonist element.
Look for free spaces, and if there are very noticeable cuts or accents in the song, then you can highlight them or make some counterpoint, etc.
8. Voice recording
Now that the music is ready, we can proceed to record voices.
Leaving the voice for this stage of music development process can make the singer really feel and understand the song and get a little more into his or her role.
Remember that there are certain important points that you have to take into account when recording voices as well as producing music, so you should take all the time you need.
9. Recording of synths, pads, extra arrangements, etc.
After recording the voices, you can proceed to finish the arrangements of the song and add that touch of nostalgia or emotion to the song.
In this part, you have to respect the same rule: find spaces.
This will serve to put the finishing touches to the song. And here is where you can do absolutely what you want, because it is the last part of the entire production process and you can find all those holes that were accumulated, filling them as you like.
Each producer has his or her own preference of order to record and this does not mean that one is better than another. However, each producer has different advantages and disadvantages, as well as intentions in production.
The important thing is that you develop your own way of producing so that you can reach your own creative intentions and soon become a professional.