Local Bands Are Hungry To Record

Posted: Monday, June 14, 2010 by •»¶hê ƒRëq»•-)•–––– in

It has never been easier to do recording of original material than it has been these past few years.  The market is simply swamped with recording software, computers, and harddrive recorders to help you create your own music at a reasonable cost.   Many of the Sault's bands are presently recording in various ways and the results are all quite interesting and impressive.
Options are vast for recording and it all depends on your budget, skills, drive to accomplish this task and most of all, focus.    The entire recording process is a long one and it has to be planned out in a lot of detail.  If you've got the money and really have your material worked out then it's probably best to visit a few of our local recording studios where for the cash, you pay an engineer to do it all which keeps your focus on playing the songs and paying the bill at the end of the project without major headaches.  The other extreme is to buy a simple multitrack recorder from your local music store, plug in one mic, and record.   There are so many options and steps to recording that like I said, you have to plan out what you want to do.   Most bands find it economical to just put out an EP which is basically 4 to 6 songs with minimal artwork.   This way, it keeps the cost down, the time to record to a minimum and it's a cost effective way to shop your music around the country for interested record labels.    Right now, 4 local bands have used Stereo Soul Studios here in our local community recently.  These bands are Wishbone, Garden of Bedlam, Sense of Truth and Big Wheel and the Spokes.   There are more  obviously but these are either in progress or recently completed.    These bands decided to take the route of using a studio to keep the most focus on their own playing but also to get the product done by experienced professionals.   There is cost for all this ease of pressure and it can run into the thousands of dollars, but if you've got it, spend it.  It's worth it.   Others like to do things themselves like me for example ;-).   This list is long with some bands that have done their own projects on their own gear in the Sault..  Bands like Stifflers Mom, Mike Yurich,  Sykotyk Rampage and others like The Billy Bastards, Catherine Taddo,  Big Suit and my own band Flat Stanley have gone a different route and adapted to using our own studio or recording gear to record the music we create.   With this method however, there are giant learning curves depending on the hardware and software  you use.
In most cases, that method is computer based with specialized software.    This is where the headaches start and you begin to see that writing the song was the easy part. |O|   The entire concept of home recording is quite simple really.   It's to  1. save money 2.  have full control 3.  allow the freedom to record anytime you want at any time of the day or night 4.  satisfaction having created your music entirely yourself  5.  To learn more about the recording process by the way of hands on experience.   Sure, there are more reasons but I think it's safe to say, these are the main ones at least in my opinion they are.

One of the main problems getting starting is "where to start".   In today's world of technology the easiest place to start is on your basic home computer.   Your computer has the ability to record no matter how old it is.   Think of it as a giant tape deck.   If you have a sound card in your computer, and a single mic with the proper cable and or adapter, you can use that single mic and computer to record your music ideas.  True, the more you spend on software and hardware, the better chance you get of putting out a quality product but honestly, I've heard bands record on the basics and get amazing results.   You have to remember, you're creating a demo of your work and it's the music that counts.  Production is always second.   Production only helps but it's not the selling point.   Remember that.  Most people who listen to the music have no clue on why things sound the way they do.  They're only interested in music and lyrics.

Now, computers come in drastically different configurations but they will all record at some level.  It's your budget that allows you a chunkier computer with more functions.  I originally started recording on reel to reel tape which seems like the dark ages now but at the time, tape was all you had.   I then moved to a simple Pentium 120 computer with a simple sound card and a microphone.   I utilized the music player that came with the computer which is software based and I also used the simple recording software that also came with the computer and operating system.    I just put a mic in front of me with an acoustic and sang.  I just made sure the mic was between my mouth and the guitar so I could achieve volume balance between the 2.  It's primitive but it works.    As I learned  recording back in my reel to reel days, I learned to "bounce" tracks" which is a process by which you take one or more tracks and record them to one track freeing up those previous tracks with stuff on them. Make sense?.  Most reel to reel tape decks were either 2 or 4 tracks.    With today's computers, you don't really need to do that but still, I have used it on occasion even on my computer.

Software is the  biggest headache in recording these days.  The market is swamped with so many products that just reading the reviews on them can drive you totally insane.   It is best to just download the demo versions of say 4 or 5 programs and experiment.   That's what I did.  Demos are normally free and allow you a chance to get familiar with the product.  You may not get all the features with the demo or the ability to save your project but you will get to try the product and see if it fits your needs.  That's what I've done along with many other local musicians.

One of the basic FREE recording programs out there that I have used along with numerous others is one called "Audacity" http://audacity.sourceforge.net/   It's a very simple basic multitrack recording software program that will get you started into the world of recording.  It's small in size and does a ton of cool things and it will keep you happy for hours.  Did I mention "IT'S FREE" !!!   I suggest anyone wanting to get into recording, try this program for a short time because after that, the programs become a little more mind bending. ;-)  Start with the basics ;-)  I've used this program for demo use and recorded many songs with it including one called  "Glen Thomas - Massive Machine" which you can hear by clicking the link.  It's just a demo idea recorded for possible future use..  It's not perfect and it's not great but the fact is,  it's presentable. I use Audacity still if I have a quick idea I want to record in a few seconds without the bells and whistles.   Local band "Browbeat" has also used it on their song demos as have many others.   Download it, READ the info and experiment but most of all have fun with Audacity..

The next step in computer recording is moving up to the big boys of home recording.  These software  programs include
1.  Cakewalk - Sonar
2. Digidesign Pro Tools
3. Steinberg Cuebase
4. Propellerhead Reason
5. M-audio Pro tools

These are just 5 of the most popular but there are 100's out there.  I personally use Cakewalk's Sonar 8.3 at the moment and have been getting great results.    Local recording studios and other basement dwellers use a light version of  Digidesigns Pro Tools as most couldn't afford the pro studio versions at 12 grand and up. ;-)
As you get into these heavier programs, you can still use the single mic concept however, how that signal gets into the computer will now vary due to some of these software requirements.   What happens now is a little bit of expense.  You have to purchase an interface for some of these software programs that take analog signal and convert it to digital.  Also, in the case of recording drums, you want the ability to have each drum on it's own track for editing purposes.  You will need an interface that allows multiple mic inputs but also one that has the ability to keep those drum sounds separate once they're in the computer.  A company called MOTU makes some great products for that.  I own one and love it.   It allows me 24 tracks of analog signal to be recorded at one time.  That's 24 instruments at one time but the key is that it keeps them on separate tracks once they're in the computer. ;-).   That is more than you'll ever need in a home studio situation.  Again, you can still use the single mic setup with these software programs but you now have the ability to expand your horizons if you get a matching hardware interface.   This interface is either a plug in card for your computer OR a stand alone rack mountable system that runs cables to a matched card that you put into your computer.   Yes, it's a bit complicated and in most cases, getting the hang of the software is even worse.  It takes years to get a good handle on achieving a solid sound recording.   Learning the computer and the software is only part of it.  Mic placement, types of mics,   how the room sounds, and so much more have to be learned or experimented with too.  So many variables can affect your recordings at this stage..

How far will all this get you?   It's up to you.  There is a hugely popular band called "The Black Keys" that have used a basic recording  rig and have produced absolutely great albums both in music and in sound by doing what we local musicians are doing.  Basic rig and technique with a whole lot of experimenting.   You just have to remember one thing.  You will not achieve the exact sound of  major recording acts ok?   You have to be realistic but that said, you can easily put out a product that sounds great where you can hear everything in the song and yes, it will appeal to almost anybody but most of all, you will created something unique.  It's up to you how far you want to take it.   My advise is this.   Try and master each step you take in recording.  When starting basic,  do more than one project with it.   Try and achieve better results with each song.   It will happen and you will learn so much from it.   Don't just do one song and abandon the software.   They all have more features than you'll ever use in one song and it's best to learn the most before moving on because it only gets more complicated as you get into heavier software. ;-)  Next,  be your own critic.  Do multiple versions of the same song.   See if you can improve or change it to make it stand out more.    I can't stress this enough.   Most importantly, play to a click track.   This will keep all you music parts in time and it will make your project sound tight and together and not loose and sloppy.

Listen to the local band "the Revue" on their basement recordings below. Simple recording but the songs sound great and complete.

Glen "the Freq"