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Published

8 November 2022

"In the end, what really counts is that you have some fun. It is so important for recording, because if you don't have fun, nobody else will have fun listening to your music." - Jan 'Yarn' Muths

About the 

host

With over 2 decades of recording, mixing and music production experience, Muths interviews musicians, producers and engineers from the Australian East Coast and the world. Always curious about production workflows, gear, software, techniques, and strategies. The Production Talk podcast is a must-listen for anyone interested in music production from the Northern Rivers and far beyond.

The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music

In this episode:

  • Preparing your band for a recording studio session:

  • Choosing the songs

  • Map out tempo and key

  • Record guide tracks if needed

  • Discuss which recording workflow you prefer

  • Click, or no click?

  • How much time do you need in the studio?

  • Consider coaching! Yes, it can make a huge difference!

  • Prepare your instruments

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Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at mixartist.com.au

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.

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Jan 'Yarn' Muths or mixartist.com.au, in the studio

Transcript:

(auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error)

Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, yarn of mix artists.com au. In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. This is The Production Talk Podcast, episode 68. Welcome back to another episode of the Production Talk podcast. At the beginning of this episode, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country that the following episode is recorded on the Iraq world. People of the. Jeong Nation. I'd like to honor the First Nations people's culture and connection to land a sea and community, and I'd like to pay my respects and express my gratitude and to elder's past, present, and emerging. In today's episode, I would like to talk about getting you ready for the studio. Let's talk about what you can do. To prepare yourself as good as you can. A little bit of planning should go into it so that when you get to the studio, you get the maximum result, and I find that this is not always the case. So I would like to share my experience here and share with you what you can do, um, so that the day of the recording is a breeze, a success and easygoing for you. First up as a band together, you all need to chat and have its, uh, talk about the songs that you would like to record. Put 'em all in a list and add a couple of notes to the songs. Which ones are harder to play, which ones are easy to play, which ones are absolutely crucial, and they have to get onto the album. Which ones are, you know, not that important? That is an interesting thing to note for you. I often find that, uh, when the pressure eventually gets to people in a studio, uh, and if people get a bit stuck somewhere, it's often a smart idea to put the difficult song on hold for a moment and just have a short break, and then go back and do an easier song and get the ball rolling again. I often find that after a little breakthrough with an easier song, the difficult song comes together pretty quickly afterwards. Let's say if you wanted to record a six song album, it is often a smart idea to put a couple more songs on your list. Um, prioritize, really tick the ones that absolutely have to go on the album, but add a few more than you really need for two reasons. First and foremost in the studio, you may be quicker than you think you are, and the last thing you wanna do is still have studio time left and nothing left to record. So in this case, you want to go to the, uh, move on with the songs on the lower end of the priority list and record those. And if you then record more songs than you really need for the album, you can, you know, decide a little bit later which ones turned out best and which ones, uh, no were the strongest songs and which ones are not so strong. And pick the best songs for your album. Even the ones that didn't make it to the album can eventually make it, uh, as a B side or a later release or a remix or something. So it's a smart idea to focus on, let's say, six songs and really aim to record six songs, but have eight or maybe even nine on your list just in case. Okay. Together as a band, you've made the decision and you decided for the songs you would like to record. Now map out the tempo and the key for each song of him. And in addition, also draw out an arrangement, name the parts, and counter the number of bars so that you basically have a map of how long each part is. Let's see if you can do this together as a band. And when you do so, I would be very surprised if you didn't come across a section or two where there seems to be disagreement or maybe confusion among the band. You better wanna find out right now and talk about it, rather than finding out about the what, two, four beat in the middle of the song that then causes struggle in the studio. Also, as a band, talk about how you would like to record. There are so many different methods and it really doesn't matter how you'd wanna do it as long as it works for you. You could of course, record all one after another using the typical overdub method, if that's what you wanna do. It might be wise to have some guide tracks and you can of course record those in the studio. But if you have the means, why don't you just lay down a guide guitar, just a di will do, or a guide vocal at home. You gotta get the tempo right, though sound doesn't really matter. But if you bring in a wave file to the studio, you might be able to just fly it into the session and have something for the drummer to play long term that can save you time. The other option is to, uh, record the entire band life in the room together as one. We've spoken about this once more than once in the podcast, and it's really not about wrong or right here. It's only ever about what works best for the band and also what works best for the genre. Some genres just lent themselves to playing together in a room. Others, uh, let me think about something. Let's say metal are often best produced when you record one after another in overdub method. Would you like to record on a click or not? Well, this is a difficult. Question. Of course. Why not record on a click if you can? But in all honesty, there are pros and cons for and against the click. And uh, in the end, the decision to do one or the other should rest with you and the band and whatever feels best and whatever makes you perform best. So there are some. Bad reasons to use the click that I would like to point out here that I don't really accept, and they go along the lines of, I wanna be able to copy paste the chorus around. That's not a good reason to record on a click. You may still wanna record on a click for other reasons, but that by itself is a pretty bad reason to, for, uh, force the entire band onto click. Assuming it might not be the best choice for them, for the reason of being able to copy paste a song, because you can still do this with a little bit of knowledge of how to do it in protos and it will lock in perfectly. Even if the first chorus was a little bit, uh, faster than than the second one. Just ask a sound engineer. That's for them to sort out. They can do that. It cannot be done. It's easy, but it's bad. Reason to decide. Uh, for a click just for the convenience of production, that shouldn't be the case. Anyway. Um, if you're unsure, well, why don't you just do a test, give it a try, and put your mobile phone in the middle of the rehearsal room, hit record and play the song without a click, and then you did the same again, where the drummer listens to the click and play. Again, compare the two versions and talk about it. Which ones do you like better and why? Those are good things to discuss. Okay. If in doubt, do a test. That's my point here. And of course, you can always change your mind later in the studio. Also as a band, talk about your goals. What are you actually trying to achieve with this album? It's not just for you. Um, and, and your close mates. Is it? You probably want to release it, you want to get it out there, you want the public to hear it. Chances are you want to, um, play tours. You may want to get gigs with that, or, um, sell CDs or whatever that is. Make vinyl, um, talk about the goals, uh, and be be realistic about 'em. Next up. If as a band you can pull off one day a song, that's a fantastic outcome, that's really good. Some bands can achieve more, but if you, if you head into the studio with a goal of recording five songs a day for two days or 10 songs all up in two days, well, there's a chance you might be setting yourself up for disappointment here, because even if you can do it in the rehearsal room. In the studio, you are under the microscope and the microphones hear things that you may not hear in the rehearsal room. What I'm trying to say is that when you listen back to your recordings in the rehearsal room, they're pretty raw and rough sounding, and some of the details that may be important to you may not even uh, come through. But once you're in the studio, all of these details will come to the foreground, and then you might wanna go back and do it one more time. And maybe one more time and, uh, time Yeah. Flies by pretty quickly there. So if you have the firm goal to record way too many songs and not enough time, there's a good chance that you might run overtime, that you might start to stress yourself, that you run out of time and get under pressure, and that's not the best place to perform from. So be realistic about it. Be very realistic. One song a day is a really, really good outcome. Two songs a day. Well, some bands are comfortable doing that, but not everybody is, and that's okay. If you are not quite sure whether your goats are achievable or maybe too ambitious, maybe just speak to your recording engineer and ask them for their opinion. They can probably give you some guidance. All right. Let's move on to the individual band members. Now that we've had this chat As a band, it's time to have a little chat with yourself, and in all honesty, ask yourself, okay, am I ready for the studio or is there something that I need to practice? Well, I. I guess everybody gets better by practicing, so let's just assume the answer is yes, I need to practice some more. So get yourself a schedule together and practice every day if you can. Even if it's just 10 or 15 minutes. But the um, Uh, the consistency is really important and definitely focus on the parts that are hardest for you, not the ones that you play Well, already. That's what I did as a young drummer, and that didn't serve me well. So be smarter than I was. Practice the hard things and do it again and again, and again and again. Practice like crazy leading up to the studio. What else can you do to get yourself ready to the for the recording session? Consult your teacher or coach. Wait a minute. You say, I don't need a drum teacher. I'm a great guitar player and I can sing phenomenally, so why on. Earth would I want this? I actually am a little bit insulted. No, actually, I need to talk to you about exactly this because you shouldn't be. If my suggestion of you getting yourself a guitar teacher or a drum uh teacher or a singing coach is insulting to you, well, let's talk about this. Why is this? I find this again and again and again, and when I bring up the phrase vocal coach to a singer, I often find. It's almost like a taboo, and it almost feels like I'm, I'm trying to hurt their feelings, but it shouldn't be like this. Be super honest with yourself. Are you the best player in the world? Chances are there's somebody who's better than you and get that person into your corner so that they can make you an even better player. This is a normal thing, an absolutely normal thing for everybody who performs at their top level. I just did a little Google search, famous singers who, um, who have a vocal coach and names come up like Celine Dion and Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson. All of the best of the, best of the very best. They all have their vocal coach on a regular basis, so I. Why shouldn't we all have one? I think it's a great idea, and if this is uncomfortable to you, get over it. It's worth it. Trust me. There's nothing embarrassing about it. It's something that will make you better. Actually. It's not just us musicians. Think about sports. The highest performing athletes. All of them. Huck have coaches and every soccer team has a coach. That's a given. We assume this is a normal thing. Still many musicians, uh, are reluctant to take that on. Business leaders, business coaches, there are heaps of business coaches and some of the most successful business leaders have have coaches on their side. So you should get yourself a guitar teacher or drum teacher, or vocal coach, whatever it is, and help. Yourself to this or un treat yourself to a little bit of close attention to your strength and weaknesses. There are just so many things a recording engineer can do in the studio. The difference that a vocal coach can make to your singing performance is significantly larger than all the choices of microphones and preamps and compressors that, uh, that you could possibly find in a studio. Trust me with that. Good. Okay. So now that we've had this difficult talk, let's talk about individual musicians. And I would like to address the drummers and percussionists first. It's time, uh, to get your instrument ready. Um, probably something you can do along as you practice. Um, check your. Drum hats are they actually fit for the studio? Look at them really honestly. Are there heaps of marks on there? Are they dented? Well, maybe you need to consider fixing them up. So start by removing any damping material that you might have on the drums. Is there any gaffer tape on there or any tissues taped to it, or, you know, whatever people use to dampen. Just take it all off and, and see how it sounds. That's where we need to start. We need to tune it up. And if the drum heads are worn and you don't get a tone out of it without significant damping chances are you actually due for new heads. Definitely get a brand new one for your snare drum. It makes such a difference in the studio. If you can get some new heads for your Toms as well, and probably for the kick as well. Now that you've got good hands. Make sure you tune them. Right. So when it comes to get, uh, to, to drum tuning, there are different methods. Uh, we had a couple of episodes with, uh, professional drummers who shed some wisdom on that. Um, my tip is very simple. I just put my finger right in the middle of the drum hat and press it down a little bit, and then I just take my tuning key and. Hit the skin next to each lug and wait for the tone, and then I go all around and just listen and first focus on which lug is most out and just start tuning that up or down until they're all even. That's a very simple way to get started. And then I've now focus on the. Relevant pitch between the beater hat and the rezo hat, uh, and find a nice balance there. And then I move on to the next one. And really, doesn't have to be very hard, but if you have damping material already on the drums, tuning properly is pretty close to impossible. Or if the hats are really old and worn, so they need to go, then replace them oil and clean your paddles. I mean, that. Very honestly, have a very close look at them and listen very carefully. Can you hear your pedal? If you can hear it, then the microphones will hear it and wait until I add some compression. All of this little tiny bit of squeaking will come out and bite us in the mix. So you need to fix this right now and, uh, oil your paddles. Make sure they, they work perfectly, smoothly, and quietly. Check the beater. Is it an old felt beater from about 20 years ago? And is it pretty round and fluffy? Well, chance are, you won't get a smack out of this kick drum anymore with an old worn beater. I. They're not expensive. Maybe consider a new one. Uh, I personally really like the ones that have a felt on one side and a plastic hat on the other. So you can actually switch it pretty much from song to song. Makes a huge difference to the sound. It's definitely worth checking out. I. Good. Now that we've got, um, the beaters oiled and the drum hats all tuned, um, let's think about some good methods to dampen your drum hats if you need to. Moon gel is what I recommend, doesn't cost the world. It comes in a little black box. It's some sticky stuff that you just throw into the drum and you can nicely tune the amount of dampening by going closer to the, uh, To the rim or further to the middle makes a big difference. Add one or two, put 'em closer to the mic or further away from the microphone makes a big difference. And it's, it's allows you to really fine tune your dampening very, very, uh, very well. Um, so that's a good thing to have. Moon gel is definitely worth having in the studio. Next up, check your symbols. Cracked symbols may be okay. Uh, for a live show maybe. Maybe actually not, but they're definitely not okay in a studio because that crackly sound is not okay. And it will come through the microphones and will actually, uh, cause trouble later on the track. So if your symbols are cracked, don't use them. Use another one. Borrow one. Doesn't matter. But you can take a crack symbol to the studio as a journal rule, you never want to have any metal on, metal on the symbols, so not check the point where they're mounted on the, on the stand. There should always be this, uh, Plastic sleeve among, uh, and they should be sitting on felt if they don't, um, and metal rubs on, uh, metal, they will eventually keyhole and eventually break. That's the be beginning of the end of that symbol. So it's actually a good investment to by yourself. Some felts and underlay felt underlays and keep your symbols protected. And of course, metal and metal sounds really bad and the felt underlay in the plastic sleeves protects it really nicely. And sounds better. That's how it should be. Good. Let's have one last look at your drum set. Check all your hardware when you play. Can you hear anything rattling? I. Are there any maybe loose parts somewhere? A wobbly stand where something clutters or a maybe a buzzing sound coming from, a loose lag or so. If you hear anything like this, get in there, fix them up. Tighten. Tighten the screws or bolts or whatever, holds it together, and make sure that your drum set actually sounds like a drum set and not like a kid's toy or shaker. Okay, good. That was enough about drums. Let's move on to bass and guitar. Let's start with your strings. Um, of course the same thing applies to you guys and girls. Old strings are actually not meant for the studio, so new strings are a standard preparation for the studio. I. But don't put on your new strings the day before or on the day. Um, give yourself a day or two, uh, before the recording session and break them in. So stretch them, play them, make sure they are settled in nicely. I. Did I just mention that strings shouldn't be put on in the studio? Well, strings break, so you need to have backup strings with you of course. And if something breaks, you need to put them on in the studio. So that's fine. That can happen. Uh, but uh, definitely have some strings ready in the studio just in case. Then check your guitar action for the drummers in the room. Uh, who may not know what that is. Um, the guitar action is the distance between the fret and the string. If that's not adjusted well, it might make it harder to play. And worst case scenario, if the distance is way too too big, you might be struggling with tuning. You might tune your guitar up and it sounds good, but the moment you play it and press the string in it stretches the string and changes the pitch. That can be really annoying if that's the case. So there are definitely a couple of things that you need to, uh, consider there and just make sure that the guitar action is actually really comfortable, easy to play, and sounds very good. Okay. Um, why don't you just plug your A or guitar into a DI box and record yourself for a couple of minutes playing something that involves all the strings. Then put on some headphones and carefully listen back and ask yourself the following question. Did you really play this note so loud and the other ones so quiet? Is that, was that your playing or could it be that one string sounds louder than the other? So if your a string or e string always sounds louder, chances are there still something not quite right that can be related to the distance between the strings at the pickup. The pickup might need to be adjusted to pick up or the strings equally loud. And if that's not the case, um, you typically find that one string or two strings just resonate louder than the others. Well, don't leave this for later. For the compressors, you need to get this right at the source and get your guitar or bass sorted. Is all of this a little bit too much? Well, you know what? You can just take your instrument to the local guitar shop and hand it over to them. They are happily do that for you and you'll get it back, uh, wi within, you know, a couple of hours sometimes, uh, in, in perfect shape. Okay, good. Last thing, check your cables. You wouldn't believe how often it happens that, uh, bands come into my studio with dodgy cables. Here's the thing, I have a couple of instrument cables and so should every proper studio in the world. Um, so there's backups of course, but what if it's your socket on the guitar or bass? Then that becomes really tricky then. So plug and lead. Wiggle it a little bit, very carefully. Not to, to firmly, of course, and check if the sound cuts in and out. If that's the case, you need to get it fixed before you come to the studio. Cables can be exchanged, but the sockets, that's where the trouble is. Those things can, those things have the potential to stop a recording session. We don't want that, of course, so get it fixed. Then check all your pedals and defect pedals and patch leads and so on. Do you hear any buzz? Is there any, uh, significant noise coming through them? Is there anything not quite right? Then get it fixed for the studio. Bring nine, nine volt batteries are possible. Um, power supplies, of course work as well. Uh, however, sometimes, uh, pedals tend to buzz more when they're connected with the wall ward, and a nine volt battery in some situations might solve those things. So it's good. It's a good idea to have a battery or two in your bag. Next up, let's plug it all into your amp and have a play. Listen carefully. You've got a bit of tone control on your amp. Adjust it. Mm. See what happens. Get the sound right. Do you need to adjust it for different songs differently? Think about that. Make some notes. Maybe. Maybe just throw a microphone in front of it if you have the means. And record yourself and listen again. It churns out. Comes out. Mm, somewhat different. Work on your sound and do little adjustments. Drive it in the right direction. Speak to the other musicians in the band what they think. Don't just think about the sound for your instrument by itself, but think about how it integrates with the other ones. Does your guitar sound, uh, sound beautifully with the other guitar? If there's another guitar player in the band? Of course those are things to consider. Just the sound so that you sound like one band rather than two random guitar players who just met for the first time. Good. Alright, I think it's time we move on. We already dedicated the entire episode 57 to vocalist sound and preparation for vocalists. So please go back to this episode and listen one more time. There's heaps of great stuff in there for you. Good. We are finally ready. It's about time to get to the studio, so get yourself ready on the recording day. Start early, be there a little bit earlier. Have all your instruments ready. Check it that you've got everything in the car. Also, bring some food, um, uh, and some water drinks maybe. Uh, I often recommend fruit and snacks and so on. Um, drink plenty of water. Uh, tea, coffee if you like. Um, Drinks and alcohol. Well, um, I recommend to leave this till after the session. Okay. I think you've prepared yourself as good as you can. If you look into all these things, you can probably get something out for yourself, and you can definitely do your thing to arrive at the studio as relaxed as you can. You've prepared yourself. Now it's time to actually have some fun. Get in there. Crank it up, enjoy yourself. Don't get too worked up, uh, with, you know, perfection. Of course, we all wanna have perfect takes, but in the end, what really counts is that you have some fun. That's the part now that is so important about recording, because if you don't have fun, Nobody else will have fun listening to your music. So this is an order. Get to the studio, enjoy yourself. Have a fantastic time. This is all from me for today. I hope you enjoyed, uh, this episode, preparation for the studio. I would really like you to do me one big favor, if there was one. Tiny little element in today's episode that was useful to you. Please, please, please share it with all your friends and fellow musicians. You can probably think about a phase or two who would benefit from this episode. So do me a favor and reach out to your friends and recommend the Production Talk podcast. That would really make my day. Thank you for subscribing and thank you for sharing. I really appreciate this. You can always reach out to me directly. If you want to speak to me via my website, mix artist.com au. That's a place where I offer online mixed on services and of course, studio recording services. If you want to produce your band, there's a contact form. There's my email address. Uh, you can easily contact me this way. If you want to talk about your music. I would love to hear from you. And that's all for today. I'll speak to you again next week, and bye for now.
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