Overdubbing / Layering
Overdubbing is the process of recording parts one-by-one to build a complete multi-track recording. For an average rock/pop band this would typically mean recording the drums first. A DI (Direct Input) of other instruments can be used to create reference / scratch tracks to help the drummer with the song layout. Because the other instruments are being DI’ed, the drum sounds get tracked without bleed from other instruments. A vocalist can also be placed in a separate recording room, creating a scratch track to also help with general song layout.
Once a “keeper” drum take has been recorded other instruments (guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals ext.) can be recorded one-by-one building on the drum track. Each instrument is properly mic’ed and sound adjusted to create a final track replacing its previous scratch track.
Additional song ”sweetening” can then be done by adding additional guitar tracks, backup vocals, ext.
This method is the best way of capturing each part to the highest standard. Individual instruments and vocal-lines can be focused upon getting the best sound from the source without acoustic bleed from other instruments. Mistakes during performance can simply be addressed by doing another “take” without affecting the other parts of the arrangement.
Mixing is the process of taking all of the individually recorded tracks, blending and balancing the volumes and frequencies to create a coherent and pleasing piece of audio.
Some of the things done during mixing are:
- Balancing relative audio levels
- Spatial positioning (the placement of a sound within a stereo or surround field)
- Equalization (affecting the relative frequency balance to help keep tracks from competing with each other so that they sound clear and work together as a whole)
- Dynamics processing (controlling the volume dynamics of tracks so that they “fit” better within the over all mix)
- Effects processing (adding reverb, delay and/or other effects creating depth and space to tracks and the overall mix)
Mastering is also an important step in creating a finished album. Mastering is the process of turning a collection of songs into a final product by making them sound like they belong together in tone, volume and timing. In essence it is the process of smoothing over any level and spectral imbalances and to present the final recorded project for its intended media form.
Another result of mastering is achieving the overall optimum volume level. Traditionally, the industry as a whole tends to set the average level of a project at the highest possible level without distortion.
Mastering can often be done in-house at the studio that the songs were recorded at however depending on the intended use of the recording, it may be desirable to have a dedicated mastering facility and a professional mastering engineer master the work. This also has the added benefit of having a fresh set of trained ears to add the necessary final touches to the album.
In order for Artists/Bands to have a successful studio experience, it is recommended that musicians be very well rehearsed on all songs they wish to record before coming into the studio.
Click Track Practice
During the recording session, it is recommended that drummers record along with a metronome to keep a steady tempo throughout the song. This is not always necessary but is highly recommended. Drummers should practice playing along with a metronome and know the tempo/time signatures for their songs before coming into the studio.