Planet Guitar: Recording Your Music
Just like many musicians, I got tired of having my music get mangled by producers and engineers that might have known about recording but didn’t know anything about my music or what I wanted it to sound like. After finally having enough of watching my music get twisted up in the recording process at the hands of others I finally decided to learn about the recording process myself .
I have been recording my own music and producing and engineering other artists in my own studio for over 20 years at this point.
I finally decided to get a 4 track Fostex cassette porta-studio in the 80’s. Of course, when I got it I didn’t know anything about recording myself even though I had already recorded with my various bands in pro recording studios. It was a steep learning curve but before I knew it I figured it out and learned most of what I know about recording from the Fostex. I also did lots of reading on the subject (This was decades before You Tube). After I figured it out I started making demos all the time for myself and for friend’s projects. I still use many of the techniques I learned from the Fostex to this day with my current ProTools system.
I thought I’d do a simple run down of my recording process for my music: I start off by demoing the music with me playing all the instruments playing to a drum machine, then I bring in the guys in my band to play to the demos. We replace the demo tracks on the songs one track at a time with the performances from my band mates until we have the final versions of the music.
First we lay down the drums. Sometimes we record the drums in my studio, sometimes my drummer does his tracks at his studio where he keeps a kit all mic’d up and ready to record. My drummer plays to the drum machine I have on the demo as a click track. After the drums are down and locked in time we get rid of the drum machine. I then have my bassist come in and play to the finished drums and the guide guitars from the demo. I always record 2 or 3 bass tracks simultaneously to have more flexibility for the bass sound in mixing.
I will record the bass through a splitter so I can feed up to 3 sources at once. I will have a clean direct signal, a distorted bass amp that I have mic’d up and sometimes something in between the two. I have my bassist sitting in my control room with me playing to the studio monitors. I can also sit there and engineer and produce the tracks as we’re going. I also like to have the final bass and drums finished on the track before I lay down my final guitar tracks because the song will have the right feel to it and it will affect how I play to the song.
After we get the bass down it’s time for the fun to start…since I play rock guitar instrumental music, the guitar is basically the lead singer in my music so it needs to sing the song…I have to really watch how I orchestrate the songs so that the guitar can really speak clearly.
I use many guitars, amps and pedals to do this, and often record several guitar tracks at once during one single pass using my Morley splitter. I’ll have one or more of my tube amp heads running a 4x12 guitar cabinet mic’d up in the far room (I have my amp heads in my control room and I have them peaking while I’m recording ). I’ll also run the guitar through a direct preamp and sometimes through another processor as well…the combined signals give me lots of options and make for a very cool guitar sound.
I almost always do my guitar tracks by myself so I can experiment with different sounds using my various guitars, amps and pedals. After tracking is completed I send out my music to a friend’s local studio for mixing. We have a great working relationship and he knows my music and how I like to hear things. Once he gets a basic mix of the songs locked in, I come down and I sit in the studio with him and we go through all the songs and I point out things I want changed. More often than not, he’s pretty much on it already and we end up just tweaking a few levels here and there and we’re good.
The bottom line is you want to put your music out so everyone can hear it and you definitely want it to sound the best it can be and sometimes you have to take the reins and learn how to do it yourself. In my upcoming columns I will go over lots of things about guitars, gear, your music and everything in the recording process and so much more….