Thursday, June 19, 2008

You've Got Questions, I've Got Answers

This, from last night. Nevermind the the foreground you'll notice the ghostly figure of a Milam trying to take pictures through several layers of glass.

The lesson, as always: don't do that.

Yesterday went from 9am (starting with guitars) through 12:30am (finishing with other stuff). That puts this week's tally--through 3 days--at 40.5 hours. Actually, let's do some more math:

Estimated quantity of water drunk (counting by the 12 ounce bottle): 17
Number of times using the studio's bathroom as a result: 28
Average number of tracks per song RIGHT NOW: 23
Number of songs finished: 0
Number of songs nearly finished: 1
Number of songs finished by this time tomorrow: 5

I've gotten some emails asking how the recording process actually goes, what "tracking," "mixing," and "mastering," mean, etc. For Leaving Tennessee, the process was very, very quick because I went the more "Nashville" route. Session guys came in with demos and charts, the producer watched for pitch/timing issues, and all the tracking was done 8 hours. Here, I'm working session-to-session with a different member of the band (guys I've played with before), and we're really working on each part of the song as it comes. Some parts I've already worked out, some parts they bring something different to, and we just take it one song and section at a time in a more collaborative effort. Also, this record will end up having a bigger arrangement than Leaving Tennessee, which simply means there are more instruments to track, so that takes longer.

After all the sounds have been recorded, the producer and engineers mix the record. Mixing is basically the process of making a bunch of different recordings sound like a song. Right now, all the tracks are recorded at the same overall volume. If you hit play, every single track would play in a big, uniform cacophony. But mixing adjusts the volume for each instrument at every point of the song, to highlight the right things and also trim the fat. For example, if Stanton The Guitarist has a solo, we would bring him up in the mix so that the guitar stands out over the rest of the band for that section. Also, during mixing, you typically do some editing. E.g., "Stanton played this solo twice, once on this guitar, once on that guitar...which one do we like better and want to keep?" That type of stuff.

Mastering is the process of taking a final mix and giving it a good spit shine. Remember those old BASF commercials? "We don't make a lot of the products you buy; we make a lot of the products you buy better." Mastering takes a sound file and really makes it sound its sharpest and best. A big part of this process is simply compressing the sound files to make each track have more overall volume. Ever have a mix going and have to turn up the volume because one song is naturally quieter than the one before it? For example, you were jamming to....I don't know...Evanescence, and now Cory Branan's "Closer" is on and you need to turn up the volume to hear it. Evanescence compressed their sound in mastering to give them a lot more volume.

Oh, and "tracking" just means "recording an instrument." For example, "we're tracking jazz flute right now, I'll call you back next month."

No, seriously.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Horns? Good god you're making me excited for this release.

Please tell me its a concept ska album.

But seriously. Awesome. I just love horns.

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