Studio Tips and Techniques

Look At Me, I'm a Star!

Can a studio recording make you sound "better than you really are?" Well, yes and no. We can certainly give you a big, rich, warm, detailed recording that sounds as good as your favorite commercial CDs. You'll have the same sound quality the stars have! Of course, you supply the talent. But we can make you sound your best, with a little teamwork between the engineer and the musician, as well as some attention and discipline on your part.

Here are some tips for maximizing your studio bang for the buck:

Play It Again, Sam

Be really well rehearsed. Know your material backwards and forwards. For a week or more in advance, sing and play daily so your voice and your fingers are thoroughly warmed up. Put new strings on your instrument and allow time for the tuning to settle. On the day of the recording, be well rested, eat lightly, try to be in generally good health. As the saying goes, "The best way to make a great sounding recording is to record great sounding music."

Alive in the Studio

In many cases a "live in the studio" performance, solo or ensemble, is the most straight-forward kind of recording. You sing and play, we capture your performance with utmost fidelity, and costs will be very reasonable. But edits and overdubs don't work as well with this kind of recording. Can you come up with an (almost) perfect take in just a few tries?

The Big Buildup

We can also build up a recording track by track, which can provide the tightest control over your sound and performance, and often the best final results. Some may find that working with headphones and overdubbing seems awkward, or not to their taste. But putting a little effort into learning studio techniques can take a recording to the next level. Multi-track recording doesn't necessarily result in a highly-produced or processed kind of sound. Sometimes it can make a natural acoustic recording sound even more alive and real.

An Unnatural Act

Often, people don't consider the fact that when they listen to music on their stereo, they're really listening to a couple of pieces of vibrating cardboard (their loudspeakers). To make that cardboard sound like musicians playing and singing requires quite a few technical tricks. For practical purposes, it may very useful to consider a range of studio techniques, even if you want to end up with a "natural-sounding" recording.

Nobody's Perfect

If your performance is less than perfect, can we "fix it in the mix?" Some kinds of mistakes can actually be fixed, but it's not a good idea to depend on that. It doesn't always work well, and it can be very time-consuming. It's one more reason to rehearse really well. And of course we can always do another take! Performers can be their own worst critics, so try to be realistic about your expectations your performance might sound great to everybody else. If the recording is built up track by track, it offers the most possibilities for editing and overdubbing.

His Master's Voice

The process of making a studio recording is often broken down into three phases: tracking, mixing, and mastering.

Tracking refers to the recording of individual tracks; mixing is the process of blending those tracks into a stereo mix. Sometimes all the tracks are recorded before mixing begins, sometimes both happen more or less at the same time.

After the mix is finalized, there's an additional step called mastering.

In its simplest form, mastering is just preparing the recording for production. For example, if it's going to go on a CD, it needs to be in the correct digital format for CD. If there's more than one song on the CD, they all need to be about the same loudness so that none of them jumps out or gets lost when the CD is played. The sequence of the songs, and the length of the gaps between songs, need to be considered.

A good mastering engineer will do more than that. For all the songs on a CD to sound like they belong together, subtle changes in tone quality (EQ) or loudness (compression) can create a "glue" that gives the whole project a more professional sound.

Mastering can be done, to some extent, by most recording studios, but there are places that specialize in it. A good mastering house will have highly accurate listening environments and measuring devices, and engineers with specialized skills. At All Ears Audio, we can do an effective job of mastering our own projects. But we always recommend that for the very best results, the project be sent to a mastering house. A good mastering engineer can put a highly professional sheen on an already good recording.

Let's Make Plans

Because there are so many options, it's important to plan the project in advance, keeping the final outcome in mind. The product you'd like to end up with, your intended audience, the people, time, and budget available, all need to be considered to make the project a success. At All Ears Audio, we take a practical approach, geared to the needs of the client. Part of our job is to make sure we stay focused on the final result, so that you don't waste your time or money, and you end up with a recording you can be very proud of.

Where Do I Go From Here?

The first order of business is to decide what's appropriate for the project at hand. That's why we offer free consultation. Talk to us on the phone or visit the studio at no charge. We'll help you decide what options are right for you, and offer you a package deal so you won't have to be watching the studio clock. We're confident we can make your recording experience enjoyable and inspiring, and give you a finished product that will exceed your expectations, for a price that's amazingly affordable. Contact us - we're All Ears!

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