January 30th, 2012, 03:44 AM
Let me say first: we are a live band and don't have much experience in the studio. Yesterday we recorded 4 songs and frankly it felt terrible - especially recording solos - the sound in my headphones was thin and tinny. I never had the feeling to be "inside the music", although the band was playing together in one room.
I used my usual "small gig setup" of telecaster 52 RI and blues jr amp with a sennheiser 609 close to the amp. Volume on 7 and master on 2,5.
I would have liked to turn up a bit more (not that much, on stage I usually set the master to something around 3) but the engineer said I was already the loudest in the room. As we had acoustic piano and drums I didn't insist.
But I felt that my solos sounded all without power. I tried to emulate as much of the feeling I have on stage but it was difficult. I hope the sound will be better on the recording than on my headphones. My bass player said the headphones I was given were not very good, so that may be part of my problem.
How do you record the guitar - do you play very soft or do you insist to turn up your amps to the sweet spot?
Is it common sense to play that soft or do other engineers deal well with live levels from the guitar?
January 30th, 2012, 06:21 AM
It's always going to be hard to do what you tried to do - ie record live as a band in one room. I manage it sometimes and there are ways round it, eg turning my amp to face a wall or throw a blanket over it or have the amp in a separate room.
Also a good studio will be able to fine tune the sound in the mix if the amp wasn't sounding its best, maybe with a touch or overdrive or something. I used to be against that but frankly the results they can get with the various effects plugins are pretty good. Ultimately it doesn't matter too much what it sounds like to you when recording: it's what the end result sounds like that matters.
Alternatively who not do the solos as an overdub?
The trick is to get a studio and engineer that are willing to listen and work with you...and to be willing to work with them also.
January 30th, 2012, 07:52 AM
If you don't like using headphones or can't get used to them there are a couple of things you can try - sometimes putting them on only one ear can help so you can hear the sound of your amp "live". You could try standing in the control room to play with a lead going out to your amp and listening over the studio monitors.
If you're recording everything together, you could dispense with headphones or, if you need vocal cues, have the singer record in a vocal booth or the control room and just have the vocals coming through the phones (again, only over one ear).
With studio recording, you are totally at the mercy of the engineer to get a sound you can work with so find a good one. If the phones are distorting like heck or you have a horrible headphone mix, it takes a lot of the fun out of it and this will reflect in your performance.
Personally, I prefer the "all play together" approach, or at least putting bass/drums/rhythm guitars down together but everyone finds their own preferred way of working - other people prefer the click track/one instrument at at time route. Different styles of music will work better with one or other method. If you're recording the rhythm parts live and are happy that you may not be able to go back and correct any mistakes, then overspill between instruments may not be a problem and may even enhance the sound.
January 30th, 2012, 07:56 AM
I agree. It's the engineer's job to record the sound you want, not compromise your performance with his own limitations.
Either have a talk with the engineer or find a different studio and be fussy about getting the vibe right. You don't have to get confrontational about it, jusst confident in knowing what you want. A good engineer will rise to the challenge.
There was a time when all music was recorded live in one room....
January 30th, 2012, 08:45 AM
Yes there was a time when all music was recorded live in one room BUT often with professional musicians, smaller/quieter drum kits (or no drums at all in many cases), smaller/quieter guitar amps and so on. I do sympathise with recording studios that have people bring in 50watt amps (or even 15watt amps that are way louder than amps used to be - Django's was 6watts and he was often told to turn down at gigs), big drum kits and are expected to do a 'live' recording of several songs in a few hours...and are expected to do it for really low prices. It ain't easy.
January 30th, 2012, 09:08 AM
It is hard to capture the live sound in the studio with that same fire and energy. A lot of bands struggle with it and some do better than others dealing with it. Maybe he solution is a mobile studio recording at a live event. A dear friend of mine was in a up and coming band in the 70's that made three good studio albums, that still sell well today but they were never quite satisfied with the studio recorded results compared to their live performances, so they did 2 EP's, both of which are fantastic performances, typical of what they were truly capable of live. And it's those that are revered by the fans because that's what they remember.
So, in my home studio, I record us at the volumes we want to play at and adjust from there. And we use really good headphones, nobody ever complains about sound quality, they only ever want adjustments on levels in their headphones so they an hear more or less of something. So, that should be your experience, not what you saw yesterday.
January 30th, 2012, 09:41 AM
Yes there was a time when all music was recorded live in one room
...and there still is.
As long as you are well rehearsed and aren't planning to go back and fix bum notes, there's no reason you can't all play in the studio together at rehearsal room volumes and get a great sounding recording. And, yes, lots of people still do it.
Toerag Studios is one great example of a studio that predominantly uses this method and their live room isn't huge (Hugh Cornwell's Hooverdam album sounds great and you can download it free from his website, by the way) and they record loud bands with drums.
There are many more studios all over the world that can (and do) record the same way if required.
January 30th, 2012, 10:06 AM
Studio and live are apples and oranges, microscope vs telescope. The reckless abandon that works so well live will get you nowhere in the studio, and the careful attention to detail that makes for good studio work would seem stiff onstage. They're two different disciplines.
That said, don't despair at the sound of your raw tracks if they're clean and well-played ... if your engineer/producer is any good, he can turn them into a sound that might surprise you.
If you're a good live band and aren't happy with your studio results, consider spending your recording budget on a good live recording of one of your shows.
January 30th, 2012, 02:19 PM
Twang I wasn't disagreeing with you and I think we are along the same wavelength - it can be done, but it does require everyone to know what needs to be done. Drummers for example need to know how to play not-too-damn-loud.
I suspect that the studio the OP used is a small, local place and not somewhere that records name acts for studio release, but I could be wrong. I have found that many low budget studios nowadays are not used to recording live in a room, so issues like the one the OP mentions crop up quite a lot.
January 30th, 2012, 05:39 PM
Nosuch, you don't say whether you've heard any playbacks of the recorded tracks yet, but it sounds as if you haven't. You may find that the guitar SOUND is fine on the playbacks and that it's the headphones and/or headphone mix that was the problem. However, even if that's true, it sounds the bad headphone sound affected your playing and therefore your playing wasn't up to your own expectations because you weren't "in the pocket".
You may be able to overdub your guitar parts and try for a better take, but if there's a lot of bleed into the piano and drum tracks that may not be possible and you'll hear ghosts of the original guitar part coming through.
In my own recording projects with a band, we did drums and bass together live, with guitar and vocals also being recorded purely as guide tracks. We didn't care if the vocal was bad, so long as we nailed good drum and bass tracks. Then we went on to overdub guitars, voice, keyboards, etc afterwards. This is a pretty good compromise between a layered approach and a live in the studio approach. At least the rhythm tracks sounded live and organic.
I would only add that working in the studio is as big a learning curve as live work. Often it's very discouraging at first until you get used to different ways of working and the microscope that your playing gets put under in recording. It can be very disconcerting to realise that what you really sound like is not what you think you sound like. The tracks don't lie!
Good luck in your new journey. It's worth the pain and effort.
January 30th, 2012, 06:23 PM
Thank you all for taking the effort to answer.
Yes, it was a small studio and we recorded everything together - like in a rehearsal. We had acoustic (a Steinway actually, one of the reasons I booked that studio - only to hear from the keyboard player he didn't care and would be fine with a digital fake so he could fix things in midi later) and electric (actually a digital fake - clavia) piano, acoustic drum set and bass. I was playing guitar (telly over the 15 watts blues jr.) and singing. There were no tracks recorded before, we were well rehearsed - still some mistakes did happen, this is real life.
I didn't hear the tracks yet, my "complain" is about the uninspiring sound (thin an tinny) in the headphones - which makes it kind of hard to play "with fire and passion" - I hope the guitar will sound better in the mix, but I felt like I was playing under my possibilities - have yet to get the results.
I chose this approach mainly because I had done a recording with overdubs before and to me it sounded all sterile and the performance was kind of shy.
After the gig I thought I shouldn't have been so shy and turn up to my normal rehearsal level which usuallly blends well with the piano and drums (I use the guitar volume to boost my solos a bit) and doesn't overpower anything - we do stereo recordings in the rehearsal to control our performance and optimize arrangements. So my initial question - put simply - was: How loud can I play in the studio? I like my sound to be clean and fat, I doesn't have to be loud but with some authority ...
I thought rehearsal level would be fine but the engineer was making fun of me to already be the loudest. Hm - not so inspiring. The guy is a very experienced musician which I respect very much and the original plan was that he kind of "produces" the recordings Ė he originally introduced the idea and conducted the multitrack recordings. Well, we had some disagreement about the style of the music then (he thought blues rock - which I don't like), that may be the reason why he backed down. Asked for his opinion about our performance he said he was just the engineer. Only when I insisted he said our performance was a bit shy and we should play in a mood so we would be tired after the session - which helped already. I'd hoped for some more motivation and guidance which may be part of my disappointment. Well he also adviced us to smoke a bit - and frankly our bass player and piano player did and played more relaxed after that (kids, don't try this at home).
I felt like we warmed up and played better which each hour we recorded, and originally thought we could work like 6 or 8 hours but when we started he informed me that he would have to leave after 5 hours. It took like 1.5 hours to set up which left us with like 3.5 hours to record. Half an hour before the announced completion time he said we have to finish - it turned out the clock in his computer was set wrong. Hm, not so inspiring.
Well, let me add that I am not totally new to recording, I did compose and record music for films, digital games and theater plays before - mostly in my home studio but also in professional studios on a few occasions. Let me also add that in my home recordings I usually get the guitar sound I want. :roll:
Well, I have to wait to hear the rough mixes but so far I think next time I use another studio with stuff that hopefully is a bit more enthusiastic and commited. I would have much hoped for a more inspiring and creative mood and will look for that before I spent the next couple of hundreds ...
January 30th, 2012, 09:47 PM
A moot point now, but for next time when you record the whole band together ...
1) I have my own set of headphones that I like.
Sennheisers ($100.00 model) or sometimes I use 'extreme isolation' brand phones http://www.extremeheadphones.com/
2) Even if it's a closet, bathroom, etc. ... get your amp in another space. The Bass amp too.
I record a lot with the whole band in small studios that really aren't cut out to do that.
You can still get the 'feel' of the live thing and have the luxury of fixing some things later. Possibly even replacing an entire track.
January 31st, 2012, 06:46 PM
Ah, so studio experience isnít an issue. Sorry for making assumptions there!
Something about that engineer doesnít feel quite right to me. Itís a little unfair that you should find yourself subjected to time pressure like that. It should have been made clear before you went in. Thereís also role confusion going on. First he decides heís also going to act as a producer, but then he backs off from that when it becomes clear that he doesnít agree with your musical vision. And either he hasnít made sure youíre happy with the sound youíre getting from your phones or his gear isnít good enough to deliver a good headphone sound.
It does seem odd that you didnít get to hear any playbacks as you went, at least to see if youíre happy with the sound before proceeding.
On the other hand, the set-up time is quite normal in my experience and the engineer would have had have quite a challenge managing bleed with those instruments in a smallish room (especially an acoustic piano up against amplifiers and drums). That may have been why he wanted to turn you down, even if the level sounded balanced in the room.
My suggestion is next time try to find some-one to act as a producer. Some-one who is not also the engineer or playing on the record. It should be some-one whose ears you trust, who you can work well with, and who understands and is committed to your musical vision. Their job is to do the listening for you while you concentrate on your performance, listening for technical matters to some extent, but primarily musical matters, taste, hearing the whole band, balance, arrangements, clashes etc, and trying to coax the best performances from the musicians, giving them feedback and direction when they need it.
IMO the engineer should concentrate on technical matters and recording the best possible sound. Itís extremely difficult for one person to do a good job of engineering and producing simultaneously.
Iíd try to do as much pre-production, rehearsal, and planning as possible with the producer before entering the studio, and definitely make sure the engineer is answerable to the producer.
January 31st, 2012, 07:00 PM
The amp should have been in a separate room just like the vocals.
February 1st, 2012, 08:37 AM
Just received rough mixes - the guitar sounds actually good (even in the rough mix through the iPod headphones) and the piano-sound really justifies the investment and decision for this studio.
I think I have learned two things:
1. I must communicate better with the engineer about his role (producer/engineer?) and the time frame
2. Next time I bring my own quality headphones
February 6th, 2012, 12:18 AM
It really comes down to experience. You'll learn what translates well, as well as what makes you comfortable. Glad the recording exceeded your initial impression.
February 6th, 2012, 01:22 AM
Nosuch, I used to call that the Dog Du syndrome ó raw tracks often sound like that. But if the players are executing good parts and everything's grooving, a good mixer can spin straw into gold. Let the wheel spin, and I hope you have a pleasant surprise.