by Rick Slater[Madalyn's Note: here is part 2 of Rick Slater's article that is featured on the GoGirls web site this month so I thought I would pass it along here on the blog for your reading enjoyment. Rock on!]
So you have your game plan together musically and it's time to get a little technical. There are three things that I consider: the technical needs of the project, the vibe that will most inspire the group of people I am working with, and the budget. I try to balance all of this to come up with the best chance for a really great recording.
You have to consider that the studio you choose will need to be the right fit technically for what you do. If you play acoustic guitar and sing in front of a full band and play out three or four times a week you need to consider the acoustic space you need to be in to represent your band. Now let me say that in my (not always so humble) opinion you need to record basic tracks as a band. So many artists tell me they feel that the recordings they make do not truly capture the essence of the band. This always is followed up with me asking to describe what invariably ends up being a story of each musician going into a small room by themselves and cutting their track as the rest watch in horror as the aforementioned musician struggles to play with that intensity they usually would have playing with an ensemble. Having said that you need a room that you sound good playing in, has a great mic locker, and plenty of good if not great mic pres. Getting really solid tracks is one of the keys to a great recording. The other is catching that vibe quickly once the tape is rolling, which if you are my assistant better be when the band is ready to go. Most really great feeling takes happen within the first few passes. After that it gets a little stale and it's best to try a new song for a bit. If you are an artist who relies on samples and electronics then maybe a large control room with lots of good drum machines and synths would be the best fit.
As for vibe I find that each artist responds well to a particular environment and I need to determine that early on so I put the artist in the best possible situation for a truly inspired recording. I have artists who don't like big cities but small villages or remote studio locations. I have some clients who like funky little studios full of knick-knacks while others prefer clean and orderly environments. I would take a minute to mention that a residential facility can be a great experience for basic tracks. First it brings the whole team together with a singular goal in mind. Secondly since they usually are in more remote locations it removes the interruptions of daily life and keeps the focus on the record.
When doing basics I often find that between the excitement, the load in and set-up, that the band gets tired early on in the first day so don't be discouraged if you don't cover as much ground on day one as you expect. Another thing worth mentioning is to plan on purchasing two external firewire drives to store your files to. You can buy dual drives that will write to both drives so you save studio time backing up your data.
Once you have finished your basic tracking dates it's time to evaluate and check what you need to add. Usually a smaller, less expensive studio will be fine for overdubbing but be sure that the vocals are cut where the singer feels most comfortable. This in my opinion (here we go again) is NOT in the vocal booth. I much prefer a more open and live sound that excites the vocal.
As for choosing a place to mix, I would say to find the person you want to mix the record. Go to the spot they suggest. I personally have a couple favorite rooms at various prices but that are all solid rooms. I say this because you want the mixer to do what they do best in a room they are comfortable in. A good mixer can adapt to any decent control room but it's always faster in the room they know.
Well that covers the overview for now. If anyone has any specific questions maybe we can cover it in the Yahoo group or perhaps another feature.ABOUT RICK SLATER
As an independent engineer and producer I have had the pleasure of working with many talented artists including some GoGirls Music members, in a wide variety of studios from NY to LA. I am constantly seeking out people who are looking to create memorable recordings to work with. Between my audio background and associations with many different studio facilities I feel I can help artists realize their goals of creating truly great recordings. For more info contact me at email@example.com