Tag Archives for " recording "

The Pre-Session Recording Checklist

recording checklistOne of the keys to an initial basic tracking session running smoothly is the information that you receive pre-session. Here’s a recording checklist from my Recording Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition that shows the some of the info that really helps to receive in advance of the session. This will usually be provided by the producer, artist or band leader, and assumes that you’re unfamiliar with the act.

  • What type of music will be recorded?
  • How many songs do you expect to record?
  • Who are the musicians (If you know some of them it might affect your setup)?
  • Who’s the producer (if you’re not talking to him already)?
  • What time does the session begin? Does that mean the downbeat of recording or when the musicians are expected at the studio to load in?
  • How long do you expect the session to go?
  • How many musicians will be playing at once?
  • What’s the instrumentation?
  • How large is the drummer’s kit? How many toms will he be using?
  • Will the guitarist(s) be using an acoustic or electric?
  • What kind of amps will the guitar player(s) and bass player be using?
  • Do any of the players expect to use house gear like drums, guitar amps, or keyboards?
  • How many cue mixes will be required?
  • Will there be a scratch vocal tracked at the same time?
  • Will they bring any special outboard gear or mics that they’d like to use?
  • Will they be tracking to loops?
  • Do they require any particular instruments, amps or effects?

Following this recording checklist before the musicians hit the studio can go a long way to a quick and easy setup and an efficient session.

TIP: Don’t ask for the setup information too far in advance since much can change by the day of the session. Getting the info the day before the session is usually sufficient.

You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

New Music Gear Monday: GIK Acoustics Portable Isolation Booth

GIK Acoustics PIBIn these days where home studios proliferate we’re all faced with a situation where you have to record but have some room reflections that need some control. The problem is that there’s either no room to build a iso booth or not enough money, or both. Now GIK Acoustics have come up with a solution that can keep those nasty reflections at bay with the new PIB, or portable isolation booth.

The PIB is comprised of sections 6-foot 6-inches tall x 3-foot 7-inches wide – tall enough to easily accommodate most singers. It can also be folded down to become a 4-feet tall x 3-foot 7-inch wide isolation screen that can be used around acoustic instruments. It’s made of 2-inch thick rigid fiberglass which effectively absorbs down to 150Hz, and the thin wooden outside face has some interesting looking cutouts that improve absorption while providing some diffusion at the same time.

It only weighs about 30 pounds and you can use two of them together (as in the photo on the left) to build a larger booth.

The stock PIB uses black fabric over the fiberglass on the inside, with a blond wood veneer on the outside, but custom fabric colors are also available. The GIK Acoustics PIB portable isolation booth costs $325, which is a small price to pay for something so versatile and useful. That said, it’s important to remember that if you’re looking for total isolation from the outside noises, that’s not what this unit is mean to do. The PIB is meant to control room reflections, and as the video below shows, it does that very well.

Louis Armstrong In The Studio In 1959

Louis Armstrong studio 1959Here’s a great piece of archival footage that shows the only film ever taken of the legendary Louis Armstrong in the studio. This was during the 1959 recording of the album Satchmo Plays King Oliver and it shows Armstrong and his All Stars recording the master take of “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” as well as silent footage of them listening to the playback afterwards.

Also featured in the clip are Trummy Young (trombone), Peanuts Hucko (clarinet), Billy Kyle (piano), Mort Herbert (bass) and Danny Barcelona (drums). The original album was produced for Audio Fidelity Records by Sid Frey, who commissioned the film to be made.

The 33 minute film was discovered in a storage locker in 2012 and was brought to the Armstrong House Museum with help of Frey’s daughter, Andrea Bass. It’s amazing what you can find when doing some spring cleaning sometimes!

It’s very cool to look at some the gear that’s being used here during the recording. Armstrong is playing and singing into a Neumann SM2 stereo mic (although you can be pretty sure that the recording was in mono on just a single track), while Peanuts Hucko on clarinet is playing into a 251. Too bad we can’t see what’s being used on the other instruments. It’s also pretty cool to see a pair of Altec A7 Voice of the Theater speakers in the background that were probably used for studio playback.

Louis Armstrong is generally credited for ushering in the modern jazz age, so it’s very cool to be able to see this small part of history.

Overcoming The Self-Production Blues

Self-Production Blues imageOne of the things about having your own studio is that you can do a project at your own pace. The problem there is that some artists never know when to declare a production finished and they end up with “the project that never ends,” literally spending years on it. Here’s an excerpt from the upcoming 2nd edition of my Music Producer’s Handbook that looks at self-production and addresses the issue.

“Self-Production is simultaneously one of the most difficult things to do in music and at the same time perhaps one of the easiest. Every artist hears what their music should sound like in their head (that’s the easy part), but it’s sometimes difficult to get it to actually sound that way when it comes to real-life recording.

For many singer songwriters, that can lead the artist to overwork a song until it’s limp like a dishrag, or overproduce it until it has so many layers that it sounds like there’s a 30 piece band backing you up. Indeed, it’s difficult to get it to sound somewhere in between where your project is both exciting and vital, and still meets your vision.

For many artists, working in a vacuum can sometimes lead to new discoveries since you’re not beholden to any previously learned “rules,” or it can lead to frustration from not being able to get the sound that you want and not having anyone to turn to for help.

Let’s look at some ways to stay out of the self-production rut.

Overcoming The Self-Production Blues

One of the biggest problems for an artist is creating in circles. This means that the artist has so many good ideas that the production is never finished. As soon as a version is complete, the artist thinks, “Maybe the middle 8 should have a ska feel.” Then after that’s recorded he thinks, “Maybe the entire song should have a ska feel.” Before you know it there are versions in 6/8, speed metal and reggae (and maybe more), with each one sounding different, but not necessarily better.

If this is what’s happening to you, there are two words to keep in mind to help you out of your rut.

Instinct – Usually, the very first inspiration is the right one, especially if you’ve gone through more than a couple of different versions. You’ve got to repress the urge to keep changing things and learn to follow your initial instinct. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tweak or perfect what you’re doing; it means that you shouldn’t make a completely opposite turn in a direction that goes against your initial inspiration.

The exception to this is if you think it might be cool to have multiple different versions of the song available so you can give the alternate versions to your core fans as an exclusive gift, use them as a promotional vehicle, or because it’s been specifically requested by a music supervisor for a television show or movie. In any of those cases, a wholesale change in direction can actually be particularly useful and even profitable.

Deadline – One of the biggest problems with producing yourself is the fact that your project is usually open-ended time-wise. As a result, you end up with the “project that wouldn’t end” that keeps going for years (no exaggeration here).

The surest way to keep that from happening and to actually accomplish something is to set a deadline for the project’s completion. Many people do their best work on deadlines because they don’t have a chance to second guess themselves.

The final product may not be 100% of what you want, but remember that it seldom ever is, even with all the time in the world available to finish the project. Save yourself some heartache and impose a deadline on yourself so you can finish that project and get it out the door where it can do you some good.”