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10 Questions Before Recording Your Album
on Tuesday 20 June 2006
by Brandon Drury author list print the content item {PDF=create pdf file of the content item^plugin:content.70}
in DJ, Mixing & Recording
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1) Why Are You Recording Your Album?

There are a number of reasons that a person would want to record an album. Some musicians have had songs laying around for years and would just like to slap them down onto some kind of repeatable device such as a cd. Others are looking to capture their latest batch of songs and hopefully intend to sell it. Others are simply looking for a demo. You need to look at your situation and see what you intend to do with it. This will effect many other aspects of the recording process.

2) What Are Your Goals for Your Album?

Are you hoping to get signed based on the songs on this album? Are you looking to make money off of the album without the help of a label? Are you just wanting to record the record for yourself?

3) Do you really need to record an entire album?

I get a lot of bands who want to record a $200 album and they want it to sound just like their favorite band who spent $200,000 recording their last record. Frankly, it's impossible to get the same sound at 1/ 1000 of the budget. It's just not going to happen. It takes time to make a great record that will compete with major label big boy bands. Even great musicians take a week to do drums or a week to do vocals (Sometimes much longer) in the major label setting. Are you sure you want to cram vocals in the last 3 hours on Sunday night?

I always recommend that bands on a very tight budget cut their song quantity down. Chances are that not all of these songs are great anyway. For most bands, you are better off recording your best material and giving yourself plenty of time to work on it. Think about it. If you really want to come out with a perfect record (which many people do) how is this possible without perfect songs? Your perfectionism (if you believe in perfect) should start before you walk through the studio door.

4) What are you expectations for the record in terms of quality and perfection?

You need to have clear goals of what you would like to achieve with your record in terms of how professional it sounds and looks. Again, your budget will play a huge part into the quality and perfection factor of the record. To sound great, you need great musicians, playing great performances of great songs on great gear. That's basically it. If any of these things are present, you are compromising. Be realistic. Odds are strong that if you are a 16 year old in a rock band, your record simply won't sound as good as the band that has 10 years of experience over you.

5) In any less than mega pro setting, compromises will I have to make?

I'm talking about on a recording quality level. For example, I'm limited to 20 inputs on my recording system. (Two Delta 1010 soundcards and two Mytek ADC 96s). When a drummer want to use 4 toms and 2 kick drums (and expects them to be close mic'd) I'm already using up 6 mics on the kicks and toms. By the time I put 2 mics on the snare and two overheads, I'm up to 10 mics. I always like to try putting a mic in front of the drum kit and also farther back as a room mic. However, when I know I'm going to need to a couple tracks for bass (DI and mic'd amp) and a couple mics on each guitar cabinet, I have to start rationing my microphones. In other words, I've had to compromise what I'm doing because a drummer decided to use an extra tom or two and extra kick drum. Those two tracks could have went to tracks that would have seriously improved the entire drum sound immensely, but instead went to a tom that will be hit 3 times on the album.

Be aware of this and go easy on the recording guy. The more junk you add on your kit, the harder it is to get right. Since most drummers do not balance their kit properly, most things have to be close mic'd. This is unfortunate because it usually reduces sound quality to make up for the drummers lack of playing.

6) How does your drummer sound?

Sit and listen to your favorite records. Then listen to your drummer play. In almost every rock record ever made the snare and kick drum cut through the mix easily. You can hear them clear as day and there are not a ton of washing cymbals drowning everything else out. How does your drummer sound? Does he smash his snare or is it lost in a wash of hihats, rides, and crash cymbals?

If your ears don't pick up the snare and kick as they should be, no microphone will either. It's up to your drummer to play his kit in a way that sounds good. About 20% of the drummers that I've seen naturally do this. Most have to learn to do it.

7) What is your plan for after the record is complete?

If you don't have a marketing plan made out before the record is even started, you've already messed up. Guess what. No one has every cared about an album that they never heard of...ever! If you don't have a plan to make sure that everyone in your county has heard your album, how do you expect to sell any to the people that will actually like it? Marketing an album is beyond the scope of this article, but if you don't have a clear cut plan for getting this album to the people, you will probably fail. Note: Playing a few shows and putting the cd in local music stores is not nearly good enough.

8) Have you thought about graphics?

Graphics are usually not cheap unless you have a talented buddy. You need at least 300 dpi graphics ready for the printer's specs. While the instructions to do this are not difficult, most people are clueless. If you are doing the graphics yourself, make sure you understand exactly what your cd replicator needs from you.

If you are hiring a professional to take care of the graphics, good. Make sure you save your money!

9)How many cds do you expect to sell with your newsletter?

In my opinion, if you don't have a large quantity of people on the newsletter, you aren't ready for an album. The newsletter is the most powerful way to promote your band without spending a dime or much time. All you have to do is send out one email every 2-4 weeks.

So if you don't have a large newsletter already going, don't waste your time on an expensive record. Go and record quick demos of each song and save them for a rainy day. The newsletter thing is so powerful and so easy to setup. If you don't have one, you probably have done a poor job of promoting your band. You are simply not ready to record a serious record.

10) What's the worst thing that could happen?

Let's say you go into debt recording the “perfect” record. You then go into more debt creating the graphics and shelling out the cash to pay for the cd replication. You throw your cd release party and you sell 7 copies. 7 COPIES???? You haven't even paid for the shipping on the cds yet? If you plan to make a great record, you had better have a plan or you'll end up with 993 copies of the cd in your basement and a huge credit card debt.

11) Should I use my money to impress a label?

Many bands are hoping to get signed. Great! If that's the case, you need to realistically look at your situation. If you have the budget to make a recording that sounds so good that the label doesn't have to do re-record it, you will save money. Of course, most bands can't afford the bucks it takes to do this. Hiring pro engineers is not cheap in most instances. Pro mixing is even more expensive. So you'll probably record with a studio that will give you results less than that of a major label recording. If that's the case, you've already compromised. You've already weakened a link in your chain. No matter how perfect the vocal take was or how amazingly you played the drums, the quality will be sub par.

In other words, if you are recording at a demo studio or project studio, you are wasting your time if you go for monster perfection. Labels are looking for great looking people to play extremely catchy songs. Most producers are paid to shape you into a real musician when the big bucks come. No matter how perfect of a record you think you'll make on your own, a real producer will find flaws...lots of them.


Brandon Drury has recorded too many albums for too many bands that didn't take band promotion into consideration.
http://www.recordingreview.com/articles/categories/Bands-and-Artists/Promotion-and-Marketing/




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