Interested in being recorded?
Well, maybe I’m interested in recording you...
Here’s the deal... I’ve got some more-than-adequate home recording gear, personal experience in recording rock bands, and a bit of free time on my hands. I’m always looking to get more first-hand experience recording, and of course, a little money for more studio toys never hurts.
You’ve got a band, a handful of songs, and the need for a demo. You don’t have a boatload of money to spend in a pro studio, and you don’t have the gear/time/patience/experience/etc. to try to figure out how to record on your own.
So for a modest price, I’ll record your band’s demo in my home studio.
Typically on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, we’ll go through the following process:
- We start out by talking a bit about the songs to be recorded--structure, arrangement, etc. Also, this is a good time to talk about your influences and listen to some tracks that capture the essence of how you’d like your band’s recording to sound. Bringing CD’s or MP3’s is encouraged.
- While you set up your instruments, I work on placing the microphones and setting initial preamp levels. Once everything is set up, we’ll do a trial run to get the right headphone mix and set levels within the recording software.
- With everything ready to go, we’ll begin recording the backing rhythm tracks (drums, bass, guitars, keys) live. Depending on how tight your band is, we can expect to lay down the backing tracks for 3 to 6 songs in an afternoon. In between songs, I’ll take a few minutes to do rough mixing and editing.
- Once the backing tracks are captured, we’ll do any necessary rhythm punch-ins/overdubs, solos, and finally vocal tracks. Again, between songs I’ll do additional quick mixing and editing.
- At the end of the first day, I will burn you a rough CD of the recorded tracks while you tear your gear down.
During the course of the next week, you will be able to listen to the CD for things you’d like to have “fixed.” Meanwhile, I will spend a couple of evenings going through the tracks in greater detail... performing additional edits, mixing, adding effects, and optimizing overall levels. As I make these changes, I will send MP3’s back your way for additional critique. Towards the end of the week, we’ll reconvene at my place for a final listening session, during which I will make some final tweaks to the mix based on your feedback. You will leave with a duplication-ready CD, a CD containing the final MP3 files, and a DVD with the raw tracks in Sonar 6 format.
A Few Tips...
So you’ve decided to record here, somewhere, anywhere. Here are a few things you might want to consider:
- Before entering the studio, you should have a good idea of what songs you want to record and have the final arrangements nailed down. When you’re on the clock, it’s not a good time to start discussions about “what if we did this song instead?” or “how about another verse?” or “how are we going to end this song?” Get that sorted out in advance, and the studio experience will be a lot easier.
- There’s a tendency for people to want to over-think and over-produce things in the studio. “What I hear in my head is a guitar solo with 6 harmony parts, doubled by keyboards, trailing into an acapella bridge with gang vocals...” My advice... keep it simple. You want your demo to be representative of what you will sound like live. Limit your demo to what you can reasonably perform in a club, and you’ll be far more likely to keep the club owners happy.
- Bringing friends, girlfriends, random people you meet on the street into the studio with you is a bad idea. Trust me... we don’t need any more distractions than necessary, nor do we need any more input into the creative decision making process. The only people who should be in the studio are your bandmates who are actually playing instruments.
- Similarly, the studio is not a place to party. Maybe you’ve watched a few too many episodes of Behind the Music where Ratt move into a house for 6 months to party non-stop and record an album in the process. Sorry to break it to you, but the studio is a place to get work done. If you wanna have a few beers, even take a break and order some pizza, that’s cool. But don’t bring a keg and 250 of your closest friends and expect to get anything accomplished.
- I would think this is common sense, but if you’re going into a studio, turn your cell phone off. Don’t turn it down, don’t put it on vibrate, just turn it OFF. I’ll be glad to help you figure out how to turn it off if you can’t figure it out on your own. Worse case scenario... if nobody can figure out how to turn your phone off, leave it in the car.
- Drummers: You need to arrive with a tuned drumset. If you can’t tune it yourself, find a drummer who can help. The studio is not a good place to embark on a major tuning project (though minor tweaking is ok). Only bring the gear you will use on the songs that will be recorded... it’s great that you have a 23-piece percussion tree, but if you’re only going to use 2 items on it, only bring those 2 items. Any unnecessary gear will be a potential source of noise while recording.
- Bassists: I typically run bass direct in my studio, which means you will be monitoring your playing during headphones. This makes managing the sound in the room a lot easier. However, I understand that not using an amp can impact the “feel” of your playing, and I’m sympathetic. If you want to bring a bass amp, that’s fine, but do not bring an 800-watt head and an 8x10” cabinet--bring the smallest amp you can find that will get you through the recording session.
- Guitarists: Before showing up, think about what effects you will need for the songs you are going to record, and only bring those pedals. If you’ve got a pedalboard with 15 vintage pedals on it and are only planning on using 2 or 3, then plan on re-wiring it to only have the necessary pedals in the signal chain--any unused effects in the signal chain are a potential source of noise while recording. Similarly, if you have a POD/V-Amp/etc. you’ve probably got 200+ tones available... you should not feel obligated to try to use all of them in a single studio session. Try finding two or three tones that will work well for all of your songs... that will make the recording and mixing process significantly easier and will make your songs sound far more consistent with each other. I’d rather work with one killer guitar tone than with 15 crappy ones. Finally, smaller amps are typically easier to manage when recording. So given the choice between a 150w Mesa full stack and a 15w 1x12” combo, I’d rather work with the 15 watter. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, the secret to “big” guitar tones is usually less gain (not more gain, which makes your guitar tone overly compressed), but since playing with less gain requires a little more effort, you might want to try rehearsing your parts with your gain at half your normal playing level. You’ll thank me later...
- Vocalists: Typically we’ll record vocal scratch tracks while the band is recording the backing tracks, then go back and record the “keeper” vocal tracks later. This is a good opportunity to warm up your vocal cords; however, you also need to be careful that you don’t over-exert yourself on the scratch tracks and have no energy left for the real tracks.
What I’ve Got
The core of my studio setup is a custom-built PC-based recording workstation running Sonar 6 Producer capable of recording 16 simultaneous tracks (32 with a little planning). The following gear may also be used during the recording process:
- Preamps/converters by Focusrite & Presonus
- Compressors by ART
- Dynamic mics by Shure, Sennheiser, & Audix
- Condenser mics by Studio Projects & KEL Audio
- Other mics (ribbon, boundary, reference) by ShinyBox, Nady, & Behringer
- Direct boxes by Behringer & Horizon
- Software plug-ins by Akai, Lexicon, M-Audio/iZotope, Sonitus, & Timeworks
- Loops by Drums on Demand, Cakewalk, others
- Monitors by M-Audio + headphones by Carvin & AKG
(for more details on the gear, explore the website a bit more)
If you have mics that you prefer using with your drums, guitars, voice, etc., then by all means, bring them along. In addition, I’m almost always willing to let bands use my personal musical gear, including my synth (Korg Triton rackmount w/ MOSS expansion board), amps (Egnater M4 preamp + VHT 2/50/2 power amp), cabinets (Avatar 2x12’s loaded with different Celestion models--Vintage 30’s, G12H-30’s), effects (Lexicon MPX-G2), maybe even guitars (PRS/G&L electrics, Guild & Takamine acoustics).
What I Do
First and foremost, my role is to be the studio engineer. That means it is my job to handle the technical details of the recording process... everything from mic placement to editing to mixing. As such, you can show up, record, and leave with a CD without having the foggiest clue of what’s technically going on. Of course, if you’ve got some ideas that you want to try, or if you wanna talk shop as we go to learn more about exactly what the heck it is that I’m doing, I’ve always got the time.
Second, I play the role of producer, which means I will work with you to find the right sound for your band. Producer is not a technical role... it is a creative role. As such, I may make suggestions throughout the recording process, most of which you will have the choice to take or leave. My primary concern is making your band sound as good as possible; however, if someone in your band can’t “nail the part,” I will interject and I will keep interjecting until the part is nailed. I promise not to be an ass about it, and you need to promise that you won’t take it personally. I can’t afford to spend a lot of time trying to isolate your blunders later to “fix it in the mix,” so if it takes 15 takes to get something right, then we’re gonna do 15 takes.
Finally, as a musician and graphic designer, there are other roles that I can play in the recording process. I’ve been writing and playing music for 15+ years, everything from rock to folk to jazz, and I’m willing to help compose and play electric/acoustic guitar parts, bass parts, and even keyboard parts if you feel they would be of benefit to any of the songs. On the flip side, if you need a logo for your band, or even a few pictures taken for your CD liner notes, I can assist with that as well.
What I Expect
It is important for you to understand that recording bands is something I personally enjoy doing... it’s fun and it’s a great learning experience, but it’s not my primary source of income. Thus, if I deem that recording your band will be more hassle than it’s worth, I reserve the right to not record you. Period.
Now just why would I decide not to record you? Here are some possible reasons:
- You can’t keep it together musically -- I try to check out bands before I agree to record by stopping by a rehearsal or a gig. If you can’t play tightly under those circustances, you’ll likely sound 100x worse on a recording. All it takes is one sloppy player to ruin a whole band.
- You can’t keep it together emotionally -- I don’t need to be dragged into your band’s latest drama, and I don’t have time to provide counseling to people who can’t take constructive criticism. I’m an engineer, I’m a producer, I’m not a psychiatrist.
- Unreasonable expectations -- If you think a demo recorded in my basement is going to get you the record deal of your dreams, think again. I’m not downplaying my studio, but rather, just being realistic about the Cincinnati music scene. So don’t expect to have a shiny limo waiting in the driveway to whisk you off to LA as soon as your CD is complete.
- Complexity -- I’ve got limited space and limited gear, and can easily handle bands with four to six members. If you’re part of a 10-piece Jazz ensemble, it’ll be tight. If you’ve got a string section, you’re pushing your luck. If you’re planning on featuring a children’s choir on one of your tracks, forget about it.
- Crappy gear -- I didn’t use to make a big deal about gear, since I know that some people can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on drum kits, guitar rigs, etc. Let’s face it... if your instruments sound like crap to the naked ear, the recording process will not make them sound any better. I’m talking about guitars that won’t stay in tune, amps that buzz & hiss & crackle & pop, and drums that sound like cardboard boxes. If it helps, I might let you use my gear. I’ll even drive you up to Guitar Center or Sam Ash to pick out something inexpensive that sounds good. But I don’t have hours to devote to making your 1987 solid state Crate combo with a blown speaker sound like a Marshall stack.
- You’re seedy -- Moment of honesty... by recording in my studio, I’m inviting you into my house for a day. If I get the feeling that you’re going to steal stuff during a break, I’m probably not going to invite you over. If you ram a guitar headstock through my basement wall, you’ll probably be asked to pack up & go home. And if you firmly believe that you need drugs to make it through the recording process, you’re better off finding another place to record at (you can do all the drugs you want on your own time, but my place is drug-free). Respect me, respect my place, respect my gear, and we’ll all get along great.
I didn’t go through all that to scare people away. Quite honestly, 95% of the bands I’ve worked with have been great experiences. It’s the remaining 5% that are a real pain in the ass who ruin it for everybody else. All I’m saying is... don’t be one of those bands.
What I Charge
Having covered all that, if you’re still interested in recording here, you’re probably wondering what the cost will be. Overall, cost is negotiable upfront, but typically I charge about $100/song to record a demo CD. If you only record one or two songs, it may be a bit more per song; if you record five or six songs, it may be a bit less per song. I’m not trying to make a fortune on this, but rather, be fairly compensated for my personal time and earn a little play money to use for new studio gear. I’m cool with cash, money orders, Paypal (sometimes even cool musical gear in trade) for payment. Half the payment is due up-front before recording starts, and the other half is due when I turn the final CD/MP3’s over to you.
If this sounds agreeable to you, shoot me an e-mail and let me know who you are and what you’d like to record, and I’ll do my best schedule a session for you.