Decades ago, musicians who wanted to create an album used to go with their band to play in bars and clubs every night, and prayed that some big-shot producer would be present in the audience. If they were lucky and impressed them enough to break a deal they’d have made it.
But that was then, and times have changed drastically. Today, the trend in music production is shifting more toward home studios. Great music is being produced all the time in bedrooms, garages, and basements, often with little more than a computer, a USB mic, and a pair of headphones. And the next steps would be to record a song, post it online and simple watch it go viral and gain fame overnight.
While it’s not that easy, it is that simple. But before any of that can happen, you must first know the process of how music actually is recorded. Let’s break it down step by step…
The Recording Process
In the earliest days of the music recording, the process was much simpler than it is today. Whole performances were recorded in single takes, sometimes with merely 1 or 2 mics. Nowadays though, a more intricate method known as multitrack recording is used, where each instrument is recorded separately, then combined later in a “mix”.
This provides two huge benefits, because it allows:
1. Engineers mould and shape the sound of each instrument individually
2. Each instrument in a song to be recorded separately
With this innovative method, what used to require an entire team of engineers and musicians can now be done by one man. While the actual steps in the process vary from one engineer to the next, below is a general guideline of how it works:
Create a Track to Follow
The initial stage is creating some kind of guideline for the other music instruments to trail along with. Usually a simple click or metronome is used to set a tempo. However, because not all performers can follow clicks, a pre-recorded drum loop can be used instead. Moreover, because not all songs have steady tempos, a third alternative could be to create a scratch track. This is where an instrument or group of instruments are recorded as the guide, then “over-dubbed” separately, until the original can be deleted or “scratched”.
Record the Rhythm Section
Any musician would know that the rhythm section is the basis of any song. When bands play together, everyone follows the drums and bass. It makes sense then, that these are the first music instruments to be recorded. For songs that lack drums and/or bass, another rhythmic instrument (such as acoustic guitar), can be used in its place.
Record the Harmonies
Once you’ve built a good footing, it’s now time to add to it by creating a chord structure. This depends greatly on the song, which could mean adding rhythm guitar, piano, synths and so on. With the rudimentary chord progressions now in place, it’s recording time…
Record the Melodies
Since the majority of songs use an amalgamation of music instruments to form the melody, it makes sense that whichever ones are most central (normally the lead vocals/lead guitar) are the ones you record first. Later, you can fill in the gaps with all the auxiliary tunes.
As for the final additions to the song, all those little nuances that give colour and flare to the main tracks are added. Common examples might include:
• background vocals
• percussion fills
• piano fills
• sampled sound effects
As you can see, recording an album – even in this day and age, requires a considerable thought and planning, and isn’t simply recording a collection of tunes and voices, hoping for technology to bring it all together. If you’re interested in kick starting your own recording studio, anything from a podcast to a professional recording studio, give us a call or come down to our shop in Mosta and we can hook you up.