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How to get the most out of studio sessions?


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I agree with what they are saying. I recorded a friend's son band recently, He and I both told them be rehearsed and ready to record. They thought (they are teenagers) that 1 practice was good enough. They found out they were wrong. We spend a lot of extra time working on drum fills and parts. In the end, it was good, but they only recorded 3 of 5 songs they wanted

 

The good part of this session, they both worked with a click track with ease.

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The big thing I see is bands which wasn't mentioned there was the number of songs a band thinks they can play in a single session. Some come in thinking they can do their entire playlist then choose from them. I make it a rule not to try and record more then 3~4 songs in a single session. This will usually wind up in being 9~16 separate takes of those songs which is allot of work listening to find which ones are the best of the bunch.

 

If the band is exceptionally tight I may modify things and let them play more or id they nail a song by the the second take, I'll let them throw another on the stove just for fun. Its funny because thoses are usually the best songs of the night.

 

Main thing is, a band will use up most of its energy and concentration on doing three songs well. When you go much farther you wind up with mediocre or worse takes that don't do them justice. Endurance, energy drops can lead to stupid mistakes and lackluster performance, and like the article says you'll be condemned to hearing those songs over and over again. As those mistakes add up so does their bill trying to doctor them.

 

I'd rather do two or three shorter sessions with the band then one marathon. I can take the first session and get a raw mix, hear it in detail and do any additional tweaking to mics, instruments etc so the second and third sessions get even better results. It usually cost them less too because they are more familiar with what's going to happen and they can get right down to nailing what they need to right away.

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The entire album "With The Beatles" was recorded in a single session by a group that was well prepared for the studio and it has held up quite well after many repeated listens.

 

I think you might be confusing With The Beatles (their second UK album) with Please Please Me, their first LP. :)

 

Of the two, I've always thought Please Please Me was the somewhat better record, and it's the one that was waxed in a single (~13 hour IIRC) session, while With The Beatles was recorded in several sessions (seven) spaced out over a few months.

 

Please Please Me is definitely a great example of how much can be accomplished when the band is well rehearsed and ready to go into the studio.

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Older recordings like that were low tech compared to how recordings are made today. Its more like recording a live show where all the mixing is done when the band played and a good mono mix was the target. The bands that recorded that way had to be exceptional. They not only had to play their music flawlessly, they had to sound great so the mics could capture the music. Any kind of studio editing was extremely limited and primitive.

 

When I first started recording my recording setups were just as primitive. I'd often have a set of reel to reels either mono or stereo and I'd use a mixer and bounce tracks from one deck to the other. I'd use a mixer to enhance it as much as possible so the second generation bounce would suffer the lest amount of degeneration. I'd often record my backing tracks that contained bass frequencies first because you'd loose a good deal of treble and presence during the bounce down. You could also add your hardware effects like compression and EQ on the bounced track so it maintained a good level and even push it to produce mild tape saturation.

 

On the second deck you'd record the vocals and lead along with the first decks playback and because it was first generation going to tape it had a greater presence, detail and realism which gave it an up front three dimensional sound.

 

I learned a whole lot using that method and it also forced be to play all my parts through flawlessly from beginning to end. Even today with all the multitracking and editing capabilities, first with multitrack tape then digital, I hardly ever use the editing power available to me. I still play most of my parts in single takes from beginning to end like I would playing live with occasional punching in to correct a track. a good 90% of what I play is also being written as its being played, including the vocals so its a nearly all a stream of consciousness captured live.

 

I have nothing against building music from bits and pieces. To me its just a different art form. Where I have a problem is extending the time line of the music out that far and maintaining its natural emotional flow. Its more like a construction project or a brick wall where you shape all the pieces and have to spend a tedious amount of time making the bricks fit just right.

 

The projects I have built that way did turn out surprisingly well but when I hear them, I don't feel the same about them as I do the other works that have unedited tracks. I suppose its because I know what I did to create those recordings. If I had gone to another studio and let someone else do all that editing I suppose it wouldn't bother me. You can ignore what you don't know. Its not that it bothers me in a bad way either. Its more of a greater appreciation of how I can play live I suppose.

 

Also, If I can play the parts from beginning to end like that on a track where there is no audience to drive my adrenalin levels up, I'm able to play them many times better in front of a live audience. Recording has the added benefit of improving how you play live because the time I do get done mixing and mastering I usually have every note and every break of every track memorized as well.

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I thought you were supposed to show up an hour late' date=' take an hour to unload and set up, then disappear for an hour to get... er... inspired... then jam for an hour to warm up, then get in a fight over a mid-session "tweak" to the song and storm off?[/quote']

 

You sir, are obviously highly experienced. :lol:

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Older recordings like that were low tech compared to how recordings are made today. Its more like recording a live show where all the mixing is done when the band played and a good mono mix was the target. The bands that recorded that way had to be exceptional. They not only had to play their music flawlessly' date=' they had to sound great so the mics could capture the music. Any kind of studio editing was extremely limited and primitive... [/quote']

 

I don't really think they had to be exceptional. That's the way bands were in those days. They played the songs together from beginning to end. The recording process just captured what they were doing and put it on tape. The Beatles first album was basically them playing a set of this best material live.

 

Because they were good at what they did and the recording engineers were good at what they did, the excitement of the live performance was captured on the recordings.

 

… On the second deck you'd record the vocals and lead along with the first decks playback and because it was first generation going to tape it had a greater presence, detail and realism which gave it an up front three dimensional sound...

 

I always thought those old Motown records sounded like there were one or two bounces and the tambourine was put on last.

 

… I have nothing against building music from bits and pieces. To me its just a different art form. Where I have a problem is extending the time line of the music out that far and maintaining its natural emotional flow. Its more like a construction project or a brick wall where you shape all the pieces and have to spend a tedious amount of time making the bricks fit just right...

 

I was doing a workshop at the local high school last week. A couple of students wanted to record their guitar parts by just playing eight measures and looping them. I obliged them but felt that they were missing out on something they didn't even know about because they never needed to play a part all the way through.

 

Like you, I still use the computer the same way I used a tape machine - but without the need for a grease pencil and razor blades.

 

 

When people ask me to make them sound good I tell them it's up to them to sound good and I'll record it. I will encourage them to do their best but all I can promise is that I won't make them sound bad.

 

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I think it can be a bit hard to make generalizations about "how it was done" based on the year or era of a recording; there's simply too many variables. While the Beatles were still using BTR two track decks (recording the music on one track and the vocals on the second) folks like Les Paul and Tom Dowd at Atlantic records were waxing their stuff on early 8 track multitrack decks. While they were still using a J37 four track and eagerly awaiting the mods to the new Abbey Road 3M 8-tracks so they could use them, there were already 16 track machines showing up in the USA.

 

I do agree with the value of pre-production and everyone learning how to play their own parts well, and for the group to be well-rehearsed as a unit. I also see some value in today's neophytes learning how to bounce tracks and do "minimal / limited" recording since that teaches you how to commit and how to evaluate things and think ahead, but time moves on and techniques are constantly changing. I can't see many people mastering the art of the well-timed punch-in anymore - not when computers can easily do it for you and you can adjust the in / out points after the fact.

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