- If you intend to record a solo CD with just you and your instrument of choice, then you don’t need much of a plan. Choose your songs. Rehearse them well. Be well rested. Make sure your instrument is in good shape (e.g. put on new strings). Show up on time dressed comfortably.
But if you intend to do a lot of over dubbing or have backup musicians and singers involved, then you need a plan.
I love it when a plan comes together…
The first step in a more complex recording is to create a production plan. You can develop this on your own or with the help of a producer. We are more than happy to help you produce your own project. Or we can produce it for you. It’s up to you, but having a producer allows you to concentrate more on your music.
Time spent on a plan saves money and results in a more professional product. A good plan evolves with the project, but off the top it should include the following:
charts (lyrics and chords at a minimum)
instrumentation for bed tracks
selection of musicians
schedules for rehearsals where necessary
schedules for studio time
We can handle whatever you require, whether solo, full band “live off the floor”, or over-dubbed track by track. Every project is unique.
It’s all about capturing you at your best…
So put some new strings on that old guitar. Hollis, our chief audio engineer, will get you into the spirit and warmed up to where that magic moment happens.
We have great gear, a requirement for any good studio, but it’s not just about the gear. It’s about how the engineers use it. We’ll listen to your voice and try a few mics and preamps until we have that special combination that captures your unique vocal quality. We’ll listen to your instrument and find the sweet spot every good instrument has.
Rooms with a view…
Good sound requires a good room. Acoustic treatment removes unwanted echoes and standing waves. We have three acoustically controlled, sonically separated rooms with windows providing line of sight among the performers. In addition, we can move guitar and bass amplifiers into other isolated spaces.
So you’re a gear junky, eh?
Okay, so it’s about gear too. Every year we get more…it never ends! Here’s a taste:
Presonus Studio One 2.5
Protools LE 7.4 (32-tracks)
Genelec 1038a tri-amped monitors, JBL subwoofer
High-end condenser, ribbon and dynamic microphones, including:
Rode Classic II large diaphragm tube condenser
Neumann pencil condensers
Audio Technica 4050 large diaphragm condenser
Royer and Apex ribbon mics
Shure “Beta” series dynamic microphones
Variety of mic preamps, including:
Stereo AEA TRP (super clean)
Focusrite Platinum Octopre (8 strips)
Digirack II (4 strips)
Hardware and software based limiters and compressors
Extensive software plugins, including:
Sonnox (Sony/Oxford) reverbs
Bomb Factory compressors
BNR noise reduction
Comping…did I really play that?
Oops…you blew that first run in take five but the rest of the take was great! Don’t worry, you nailed it in take four, so Hollis will move the intro from take four into take five and voila…now you sound as clean as Eric Clapton! “Composing” a track from multiple takes has been a staple part of mixing for decades. Les Paul was doing it over sixty years ago. But with the advent of digital recording, comping is much easier and less expensive than it was in the old “tape splicing” days.
Not every session needs comping but most do…even full band live-off-the-floor sessions…even Eric Clapton! In fact, 99% of everything you hear on the radio was comped by some talented but sleep deprived studio mix-master.
Editing…I can’t believe it’s seven minutes long!
Sometimes it’s necessary to re-arrange a song after it was recorded. “Hey Hollis, can you eliminate the second chorus and go straight into the third verse?” Yes he can. Editing also involves operations like synchronizing the bass and kick drum, or auto-tuning a background vocalist. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, “All musicians sing in tune some of the time; some musicians sing in tune all of the time; but all musicians don’t sing in tune all the time.” Don’t worry. Be happy. Much can be fixed.
Mixing time often equals or exceeds tracking time. It is both a highly technical and artistic endeavour. Common to most mixing sessions are the following:
composing or “comping” tracks
editing tracks to improve timing and pitch
taming dynamics with compression
controlling frequency distribution with equalization
adding realism with echo and/or reverb
setting the track levels and stereo separation
creating a stereo mix for the mastering engineer
Compression…take two aspirins and listen again in the morning
Compression was originally invented to keep the needle from jumping out of the groove on old 78’s. Basically, it makes the loud parts quieter and the quiet parts louder. Pop music is characteristically so compressed it no longer has any soft parts. It’s all LOUD. Compression is a spice in jazz and folk music…just enough but not too much. And in classical music, a pinch is sufficient. All broadcasts are compressed again, so there’s no point saying you don’t want any. Death, taxes and compression are all inevitable.
EQ phone home…
One goal of equalization is to place each instrument in its own frequency zone to remove sonic competition. Often, a hole is created for the voices to shine through. This separation can also be achieved with stereo spacing…like putting the guitar on the right, the piano on the left and the lead vocal down the middle. But what happens when the mix is collapsed to mono as often happens in real life? Just phone 1-800-equalize.
What what what Did did did You you you Say say say ?
The number and quality of effects available in digital mixing systems is staggering. In pop music, effects are often turned up to ten. The so-called “Cher Effect” is an auto-tuner turned up all the way. But in folk, jazz and other non-commercial genres, effects are used carefully to add depth and realism to the sound. Often you wouldn’t notice an effect until it was turned off. Echo on drums, timed carefully to the tempo of the music, can be very effective and almost invisible. But when turned off it is conspicuous in its absence. The old stand-by’s are still used the most: reverberation, echo, and slap-back delay. But the list is endless.
Leveling the playing field
Finally, the levels and stereo panning are fine tuned. The bass should be just loud enough but not over powering. The lead vocals should be out front. The band should sound like it’s on a good stage in a great sounding hall. Every musician and vocalist in their place. At this point the engineer is making dozens of micro adjustments that most people would not even notice. But it all adds up to a polished sound. Ideally, any sense that the sound is engineered vanishes. All that is left is beautiful music. Mixing engineers are hermits by nature. They don’t want the listener to notice them. They want the listener to notice the performance.
Yes Hollis does this!
Over the years, we have dealt with many different mastering engineers with an amazing diversity of results. The most expensive engineers rarely produced the best result. None ever met our expectations on first try. Communication back and forth was time consuming and often frustrating for both us and our clients. So a few years ago we made the decision to acquire the equipment and expertise necessary to offer our clients this last essential step in the CD recording process.
We learned we needed three essential items: a great sounding room, additional equipment, and…educated ears!
First, we continued to fine tune our control room until the acoustical characteristics were smooth and consistent from bass to treble. Then we acquired a new set of software and hardware tools specifically for mastering. Finally, we began to review dozens of commercial CDs from all genres listening for what distinguished a polished result from a poor mastering result. The best sounding commercial CDs became our gauge for comparing our own efforts.
We now confidently offer this service to all our clients.
Mastering is an art as much as a science. There are continuing controversies raging in the elite atmosphere of mastering engineers: the loudness war, analog vs. digital components, and more. Despite all that, in our view, the final arbiter on how good a mastered disc sounds should rest with the client. Constant Sound Studio works hard to produce a master that shines on all levels of consumer systems. Give us a try whether your project was recorded here or in another studio.
Room: bass traps in all corners, soft front of house, lively back of house, angled reflection surfaces,
Software: ProTools, Isotope Ozone, Sony CD Creator and more
Hardware: Creative SB X-Fi Soundcard optical to PreSonus Central Station
Channel A: Genelec 1038a tri-amped monitors (state-of-the-art speakers!!);
Channel B: Tannoy Reveals (excellent but less bottom end);
Channel C: B&W DM310N (average home stereo speakers)
Channel D: Realistic Minimus 7 (the boombox test)