A typical multitrack recording project has four stages:
1. Recording: First we'll set up the instruments and microphones. I'll start recording, and you play as you do at a gig. If your band has both loud and quiet instruments, we'll record them separately. We'll record up to 24 tracks with a "scratch vocal." The scratch vocal is just to help the musicians keep their place in the song. It will be erased and recorded over later. Finally, we'll fix musical mistakes with a technique called "punching in" -- record correctly played parts over mistakes.
2. Overdubbing: After all the song's basic tracks are recorded, we'll add vocals and solos if needed. Wearing headphones, the vocalists will sing along to recorded tracks.
3. Mixing: Once everything is recorded, we'll combine the tracks to 2-channel stereo. We'll balance the instruments and vocals, adjust the EQ (bass, mids and treble for each instrument), panning (stereo position), and effects (reverb, echo, chorus, compression, etc.). Most pitch and timing errors can be corrected. Thanks to automated mixing, all the mix settings are remembered by the computer, so they can be updated later if necessary. Finally, I'll record the mixes for all the songs on the computer hard drive.
4. Mastering: In this process, I edit out noises between songs, add a few seconds of silence between songs, put the songs in the desired order, match song levels, and add EQ if necessary. I'll make the CD as "hot" or loud as possible without adding distortion or compression.
Demos usually are three songs long. Albums are about 10 to 20 songs and can be up to 78 minutes long on a CD.
Typical sessions will take this amount of time:
Recording: 4 to 12 hours Overdubbing: 2 to 4 hours Mixing: 2 to 8 hours Mastering: 2 to 3 hours. If it's a mastering-only job, the rate is $200 for mastering.
The studio rate is $55/hr for all services. An average album will cost $600 to $1800, not including CD duplication. To keep costs down, practice at home so all the band members know their parts. Work out each song's arrangement ahead of time. Consider recording fewer songs. A 10-song album costs about half as much to make as a 20-song album.
BEFORE YOU GO TO YOUR SESSION:
Record yourself at practice or at a gig to see what needs to improve.
Put on new strings and new drum heads if necessary.
Bring tuners, batteries, spare strings, drum key, hard kick-drum beater, and song lyrics.
Eat well, get enough sleep, rest your ears.
AT THE SESSION:
The feeling of a recorded song is more important than technical perfection.
If you mess up while recording, just keep going. Mistakes can be fixed later.
Feel free to quit when you are tired.
When recording classical music on location, I usually position just two mics and record into a stereo flash-memory recorder. Typical sessions will take this amount of time:
Recording: 2 to 4 hours Mastering: 2 to 3 hours
Total cost for a typical classical album recorded on location is about $250 to $450, not including CD duplication.
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