While you were at the studio recording the band you assembled for your demo session, you may have noticed that guy in the plaid flannel shirt with the beanie who looked cooler than just about everybody else.

After he grabbed a Mountain Dew from the fridge, he opened a door that you didn’t notice before. During the brief time the door was open you’re able to glimpse a windowless room with floor to ceiling gear, a keyboard, a large computer screen, a mixing board that rivals the one you’re using in the big room and not much else.
When you ask your engineer about the room, he kinda laughs and says, “Yeah, that’s our studio B.”
If your music is Hip Hop, Rap or Electronica, it is likely you won’t need a roomful of musicians…you need a roomful of computers.
And recording in this way saves you money as you don’t need to hire all those players. But, without that concentrated effort of all the musicians, you’re not going to have all your tracks in 45 minutes of tracking. Instead, each instrument will be recorded one at a time.
But still, tracking will move along at a fairly good clip.
Instead of painstakingly micing and dialing in the e.q. for each individual drum of the drum kit, you’ll be using digital samples of drums…or, maybe electronic drums.   These drum sounds will be used to create loops:  a few measures of a beat which will repeat throughout the song.
Other instruments, usually synthesizers will be layered on top of that though it’s not unusual for there to be samples of guitars, horns, bass and/or occasionally something gimmicky: like a portion of a scratchy recording of a phone conversation, a car alarm, a police radio or some industrial machine stamping out die-cast parts.
Live instruments may be added as well. These may be recorded at the studio, but it’s just as likely that the engineer will send a copy of the mix off to a musician friend via email. After recording his/her part the musician will upload their high-quality file of their part (the files are much larger than the inferior quality mp3 files commonly used for data sharing) to a data server, where your engineer will retrieve it and add it to your recording.

It’s highly likely that these parts will be further manipulated by the engineer; they may be cut and spliced, run through various processors, reversed…

The same is true for the vocal. After the initial recording, it may be auto-tuned, run through Lo-Fi processing, have auto-harmony added to it, or all of the above. Often the vocals are processed different ways at different parts of the song.

More conventional elements, such as a horn section or live harmony vocals, may be added as well.

As each track is being added, your engineer will be making micro-adjustments and saving them, so each time the track is played back it is auto-mixed. So by the time all the layering is finished, the track is basically done.

The real good news is that all of this can be done with a single computer, a USB mic and decent software. But, you have to know what you’re doing, and that’s why the engineer makes the big bucks.

Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and L2Pnet.com.


Originally posted 2010-11-22 18:08:05.