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beerski's picture
Jun 2003
8 months ago

I'd like to get a bit of a discussion going on the topic of recording during the songwriting process. What is your typical cycle for a song from the first idea to the final version? Do you use successive more fleshed-out recordings, or mostly live development? What gear helps you along in the process?

I'm trying to work out how best to organize my band's practice time.

We currently have about 3 hours, twice a week in a facility where we can leave our gear set up. The singer, bass player and drummer all want working recordings of new song ideas so they can contribute on their own time (which I fully understand, and think is a good idea). The problem is that they all want personalized mixes - ie. no vocals in mine, no drums in mine but a click track to keep timing instead, no bass in mine... I can quickly see all of our time being consumed by the trivialities of recording - set up, level checks, previewing the recordings, multiple takes etc.

We can leave our gear set up, so we could come up with a modular recording rig where all I'd have to do is plug in my laptop when I get there and go. Do you think this is feasible? For me, its frustrating me and killing the creative vibe to jamming. It feels like for every hour of creative output we now need 3 hours of rehashing and recording to make everyone happy.

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GMGM's picture
Omaha, NE
Apr 2010
2 years ago

I face the same issue at band practice.

I record every band practices (16 channel multi-track). This is excessive, sure, but its in my basement studio - so why not?

I keep everything mic'd 24x7 so I can go downstairs and record an idea anytime I want.

I keep generic levels, the same mics, setup etc. I've developed a template in my DAW (SONAR). This template keeps the levels consistent, so that I can 'normalize' each track after we're done practicing and the template will basically produce the same mix quality every time.

If I want to bounce a mix without vocals, I simply mute the vocals and bounce.

I'm all for the scratchpad idea - but I'm an avid recordist - many folks won't have a passion for recording the same way they enjoy playing.

The one main advantage I have over your situation it seems is that I live upstairs from my studio.

[EDIT TO ADD: Recording this way allows me to record the entire pratice session without interrupting practice every few minutes to stop start the recording. Hard drive space isn't an issue because you just bounce the files to a DVD when you're done (or just delete them if you have the mixes you need). ]

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beerski's picture
Jun 2003
8 months ago

That would be an ideal setup, I did a bit of planning after posting here and I'm shooting for a simpler version of that. We also share our space, so levels would probably have to be checked each time (although we'd get to know where to start off eventually).

I've got it down to a scenario where the drums would get a condenser mic overhead and the other 3 instruments would go direct in to avoid bleed through later on. Bass into a preamped input, guitars into pods or something and then direct in. We'd have to wear headphones to monitor it all, but this would make for a simple one-shot versatile scratch track.

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p_s_f's picture
Milwaukee, WI
Nov 2009
3 years ago

You could do the same thing as GMGM with your laptop dropping in like you want. Just get an external solid state hard drive to dump your recorded files onto when you're done.

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joeinthebox1980's picture
Santa Monica
Nov 2002
3 years ago
Originally Posted by beerski

I'd like to get a bit of a discussion going on the topic of recording during the songwriting process. What is your typical cycle for a song from the first idea to the final version?

I tend to have the song completely written before I start recording it. Along with the basic musical structure of the song.

Then after the basic parts are tracked, I then start adding some layers - if necessary - to the songs. Sometimes I'll figure out an intro and add it to the beginning. Figure out an outro.

So, lyrics and structure (verses, chorus, bridge, etc.) are generally set when I walk in.

So the only thing I'm really adding is instruments and vocals.

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