FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Why should my band record its music?
- As a Demo to Get Gigs
- As a Demo to Get a Recording/Management Contract
- As a Product to sell at your Gigs - on your website
- To get Radio Play
- As a record of your artistic development
- As a tool for improving your playing and songwriting
Why should my band record in a studio?
The quality of recording depends on
- Quality of Equipment
- Acoustics of the Recording Space
- Quality of the Sound Engineer and other staff
- Seriousness with which you take the process
Which songs should we record?
- Songs which reflect you as a band most.Which songs are the most commercial.
- Songs which get the best reaction from your audience.
- Songs which are technically within your abilities - a hard song needs practice not
- On a short demo the songs should present a coherant picture of the what the band
is about. On a longer EP or Album the listener will require some variety in terms
of tempo, key and emotion.
Should we record covers?
- A record label is looking for your songwriting ability.
- An audience is only interested in a cover that is better or significantly different
from the original.
- Covers are only useful if you are using the demo to get work as a covers band.
- Songs in copyright cannot be sold without permission from the copyright holder.
How do I pick a studio?
There are 2 main things you are looking for:
- the results a studio typically achieves
- the experience of working there
- Listen to examples of music recorded at a studio.
- Ask your music friends about their experiences at studios.
- Find someone who you work well with, and who cares about your music, rather than
just being after your cash.
Isn't Home Recording equipment just as good?
- If you have £50,000 to spare maybe - but even then the results really depend on
the skills of the sound engineer. If you are not qualified/experienced you may have
fun, but not achieve the result you were after.
- Most people who record at home spend a huge amount of time finishing projects. Its
amazing how paying for your time focuses the mind.
- Paying a studio is far cheaper than buying equipment of the same quality, only to
How much does it cost?
- Depends on the rate charged and the time it takes.
- A studio may charge by the hour or have various package deals available.
- but a better engineer/producer may help you get your results quicker, so this is
not always a simple calculation.
- Even a cheap recording will feel expensive if you are not satisfied with the results
or the experience.
How long does recording take?
This depends on
- the number of songs
- the complexity of the songs
- your technical proficiency and how self-critical you are
- the result you are aiming for
- Some people want just a record of how they are playing, others want technical perfection.
The ones who want technical perfection are not always the ones who get everything
perfect on the first take:)
- For a simple 4-piece band 3 - 4 songs are achievable in a weekend using the tracking
- I prefer to hear a band play live before I record them. This is useful so that I
am more familiar with the songs and the sound, and so that I have some reference
to the sound I am trying to capture. If that is not possible I will try to sit in
on a rehearsal.
What is the general process involved in recording?
- There are two main kinds of recording - Live and Tracking - find out what each studio
offers. A place that only offers live recording may do so to push more bands through
on their conveyer-belt approach.
- Live Recording - Bands plays together
- Pros - can be quicker, Can capture the energy of playing live, Can be quicker
- Cons - poorer sound quality, less forgiving of mistakes, requires a large studio
with isolation rooms for best results - not suited to smaller studios - therefore
can be more expensive studio
- Tracking - Instruments recorded separately
- Pros - Best Sound Quality, Easy to have as many takes as required
- Cons - Can have less of a live feel than a great live band
Roles in the Studio
- Broadly the Producer is concerned with the performers and the performance, and the
Sound Engineer is concerned with the equipment and capturing the sound.
- Producer - all the notes were there but it didn't have the feel. We'll try that
again with emotion.
- or - the end of the chorus was flat. Shall we do just that part again.
- Engineer - it was cool loud, but you just fried my levels, I'll just reset and we'll
try that again.
- or - I can hear your kick-drum pedal squeaking, could we try a little oil and then
- Either - perhaps the guitar would sound better with a little less/more gain.
- Obviously these roles overlap somewhat and in many studios the sound engineer fulfills
all these roles.
How can Windmill Sound help with your Production?
- I am a trained and experienced musician.
- I am a trained and experienced teacher.
- I am a trained and experienced sound engineer.
- I can coach both playing/singing technique and performance.
- I can advise on arrangements.
- I can capture your sound.
Members of the band may help with the production side. A band member is good for
spotting if something is not 'how we usually play it' and can speak candidly to
the performer, because they have an established relationship, Wheras a producer
has an objective pair of ears. Hopefully the producer is a trained musician, and
has exceptional ears.
Occasionally I will suggest changing a backing vocal or thinning the arrangement.
Even more rarely I will suggest adding something or reworking the song in some way,
But mainly I'm just trying to capture the essence of the music, the energy or vibe
of you playing live.
It really helps if the producer/engineer has seen you play live before you come
into the studio.
What gear should we bring to the studio?
- Its better to bring it and not use it than wish you had brought it.
- That said try to go with the arrangements you play live rather than carrying on
adding layer after layer that adds little to the song.
- As for the quality, bring the best you can get your hands on. - If your own gear
isn't up to scratch why not borrow or hire something for the occasion. The sound
engineer can't make your budget student guitar sound like a PRS through a Mesa Boogie.
- Also make sure that your instrument is in tip-top condition, i.e. change the guitar
strings, have a set-up if required, fix noisy jacks, rattling machine heads, squeaky
kick drum pedals, change the heads if required. Give your voice sufficient rest.
- Bring spares - drum sticks, heads, strings etc.
- Also copies of the words/music are really helpful to the engineer and producer.
How should we prepare for recording?
- Have a plan - which songs, and the exact arrangements.
- Practice relentlessly - try breaking down instrumentally i.e. play the songs just
kit and bass together - do the bass and kick drum parts work together?
- Try the Bass and rhythm guitar together, and rhythm and lead - do all your chords/voicings
- Vocals are often hidden by the guitars in the rehearsal space, so concentrate.
- Try practicing just the vocals - do the backing vocal work? do they need to be thinned
out? Are there any unattractive vowels? Try to get the timing and phrasing exact
between the main and backing lines.
- If that guitar solo is just beyond your technical abilities, you either need to
get it right or change it. - You don't want something that sounds like you're struggling
on tape for posterity.
- If you practice in less than ideal acoustics you may not be aware of how tight or
loose your playing is. Its not unknown for someone to point out an error in a recorded
part only for the player to say "but that's what I always play".
- The studio is, comparitively, an expensive place to practice, and one player struggling
to play his part is challenging for both the band and that player - make sure everything
- Get your gear serviced if required - that crackly jack socket on your guitar is
going to plague you in the studio. The drum heads that are past their best will
give your drumming a lacklustre sound and ruin your performance - and the same with
guitar strings. The voice strained by the late night the day before etc.
What is the recording process?
- Recording parts - gererally
- Drums + Bass (others may play along to aid timing and feel)
- Any Bass corrections
- Main Vocals
- Backing Vocals
- Editing parts - choosing best takes, cleaning up starts and ends etc
- Mixing - which involves choosing and scultpting the sounds and balancing the sounds
against each other.
- Mastering - optimising the sound for the intended medium
- Adding IRSC Codes
- Ordering, topping and tailing tracks
- Adding fades, crossfades etc
- Reproduction/Duplication - creating copies of the finished master.
What are basic do's and dont's?
- Be Professional
- Be Sober
- Be Rehearsed
- Bring Everything you need
- Be on Time
- Respect the studio equipment, rules and staff
- Enjoy yourself
- Give of your Best
- Be Nice to the Engineer
Why is it harder to play in the studio?
- Sometimes called 'red light syndrome'
- Nerves - lead to mistakes
- Lack of audience - make it harder to perform
- Lack of practice
- Parts are to difficult
- You are not going to play better in the studio than when you practiced. If you want
perfection, then be perfect before you enter the studio.
- Do say if you feel you have performed as well as you can on the day.
- It could take you 5 minutes to record something good and several hours to record
something marginally better. Be honest with yourself - do you usually play it much
- Fatigue can lead to the rest of the session going worse.
- Fatigue comes in three studio flavours - physical, mental, and hearing.
- Keeping going when your concentration is below par, gives worse results.
- So have break - the engineer might need one too. Remember you have only played your
parts, but he has had to listen intently to eveyone's.
What is the mixing process?
- Parts are first edited, removing noise between sections, choosing best takes, sorting
timing issues etc.
- Sounds are balanced against each other both in terms of level and sound quality.
This will involve adjustments to EQ and Dynamics. Also effects may be added.
- The mix can also be seen as a performance in its own right as the mixer tries to
tell the story of the song. In certain circumstances parts may be dropped or copied
from other sections.
- Generally it's a good idea to let the engineer work the mix up to a fairly complete
state without you there - it can be pretty tedious to listen to the same song 20
times, and also leads to ear fatigue - also the engineer may be focussing on some
very small detail and will not appreciate you chiming in with a demand about your
- Then when he gives you a basic mix - give your opinions.
- Generally the equipment in a studio will be better than your own hi-fi - it is possible
to be wowed by this.
- All speakers sound different - a good engineer knows his system and how it will
translate onto other systems. If you think it needs more bass - it might simply
be that that the studio monitors don't produce much and it will sound fine on your
home system - trust the engineer.
I want more me in the mix
- Generally the loudest things in a commercial track are the drums, bass and vocals.
Everything else is in the background and generally panned to the sides.
- There is a miximum level that everything collectively can occupy. If you push in
more of one thing, eveything else gets quieter. Sometimes the interactions are quite
- The body of a track is the guitars and bass. Bringing down the vocals and drums
can make the track louder.
- I was asked recently for big drums, big bass, big guitar, and big vocals - its kinda
- Its worth listening to some commercial recordings of music in your style and checking
how loud your instrument is.
I don't like what the producer's doing
- So say so.
- Also say how you would like it to sound.
- Even after I've given the Master to the band, I'm quite open to changing the mix,
if you're unhappy, within reason.
- Windmill Sound does not hand over the master to the band before payment. Simple.
- Go for CDs - nothing else counts these days for demos.
- Many people burn their own CDRs and print their own inlays. For certain kinds of
music even a handwritten cover photocopied can be acceptable.
- Getting them done professionally has a lower unit price and looks more professional
- but usually have to be ordered in quite large quantities - so you would have to
be confident of selling them.
- CDs can either be burnt as CDRs - called duplication, or stamped as proper CDs -
- CDRs have just a unit cost.
- Producing proper CDs involves producing a glass master which is then used as a moulding
stamp. The glass master costs hundreds of pounds, and then the units cost is lower.
- This means that for small runs CDRs are cheaper. Proper CDs are produced for runs
of 1000 CDs and up.
- Added to the CD you need to add in printing costs for the Booklet and inlays, possibly
an on CD printing charge, jewel cases, and possibly cellophane wrapping.
- 1000 proper CDs with 4 colour printing on CD and 4-page colour booklet and inlays,
Jewel cases and cellophane wrapping can be had commonly for around £1000 and if
you hunt around about £800.
- On smaller runs CDRs also come in at around £1 a shot.
- Proper CDs look more professional and last longer