We’ve put together a number of thoughts based on frequently asked questions from prospective artists and producers.
Take time to decide exactly what you have in mind and what you want to spend for your recording. The scope of your project will most likely be based on purpose and budget. What do you hope to use the recordings for? For gifts for family and friends? To sell directly online and/or at gigs? Song demos so established artists can decide if they want to record your song(s)? To attract label attention/recording contract? Are you looking to sell the songs or the artist/band?
NUMBER OF SONGS
Choosing the best from your catalog of songs can yield an excellent one-to-six song demo. If you don’t have enough songs to record an entire CD, a number of solid original songs plus some well-chosen covers can give you a full-length finished product.
The most important thing is for the musicians involved to be as prepared as possible. If they are seasoned professionals they might not need much, if any, rehearsal. If not, a healthy rehearsal schedule for 3 or 4 weeks or more prior to the sessions may be in order. When your musicians are thoroughly prepared, it will make the recording process relatively simple and easier. And it will definitely be more fun for all involved. It also makes the mixing process move faster and more smoothly when the tracks have been played well and don’t have to be “fixed in the mix”. Sobriety on everyone’s part at rehearsals and sessions will also enhance the product immeasurably.
Practicing to a metronome is probably the single most effective thing you can do to make your recording as good as it can be. Not only will it improve your internal meter but also it will allow recording to a click track which can then allow many options later in the recording/mixing process. It may feel “mechanical” at first but as you get used to it, that natural feel returns — the groove will be found within the click once you become accustomed to working/playing with it. And if you plan to use a drummer, picking one who practices to a metronome and is comfortable playing to a click track will enable you to add the drums at any time during the recording process and also to add analog and MIDI instruments with ease. If you have a drummer who doesn’t practice to a metronome, let him/her know how important this can be to his/her musical growth. It’s guaranteed you’ll feel and hear your music becoming tighter and more professional sounding.
You have a number of choices here: to go “live”, record and overdub everything one track at a time, or do a combination of the two. We can record up to 24 digital audio and two midi tracks simultaneously.
Mixing is the process of making the recorded tracks of a song sound like a cohesive whole. It’s making sure the balance between instruments and vocals are where they need to be so everything can be heard the way you want it to be heard. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Figure in at least one hour mixing time per song for a full-band demo, if it takes less than that, then you get to be pleasantly surprised. For a finished product, assume more time will be spent in mixing your songs.
Mastering is similar to mixing in that mastering is the process of making your collection of recorded songs sound like a cohesive whole. Mastering involves EQ-ing the mixed songs and adjusting the overall levels so the sound is even throughout your CD and your CD volume is at radio level, as well as setting the song order and the spacing between songs.
Spouses/significant others/friends/parents/children generally should not be present at recording or mixing sessions, although the final decision is up to you. It may seem like a good idea to have someone here for support but, realistically, they tend to be a distraction at a time when your focus is of the utmost importance.
DEMOS & SONG DEMOS
Demos are generally relatively quick recordings made to help an artist or band get gigs, finding what you’ll want on a finished recording, and/or attract label interest. Song demos are made to sell the song itself. Song demos for other artists don’t need intricate arrangements and big production. Basically you’re showcasing the song rather than a band or yourself.
Both can be as simple as an instrument and/or voice. But then there is how perfectionistic you want to be. The more picky you are the more time involved and consequently, the higher the cost. A demo can be recorded in a few hours or over many weeks/months (for example, we finished an artist four-song demo that cost the artist over $4,000 due to his producer`s insistence on tight performances with rock-solid tempos, numerous overdubs, and other high production values). We’ve also recorded demos for under $200.
A CD will generally require more hours than a demo simply because it will entail more songs and the artist usually wants it to sound more “finished” than a demo would. However, CDs can be — and have been — made relatively inexpensively by the artist being thoroughly prepared and remaining focused on budget. Again, this depends on how much production you want and how perfectionistic you are. We did a full-length acoustic guitar-and-voice CD a few years ago for under $800. The artist was totally prepared (first and sometimes second take performances) and committed to keeping the price at a certain amount. Essentially, the final cost really comes down to how good/polished you want the final product to sound combined with how prepared and focused you are.
We have an array of vintage and new amplifiers, basses and guitars, Kurzweil keyboards, and percussion instruments, as well as a 1965 Ludwig “Ringo” kit, which you and your fellow musicians are welcome to use free of charge during the recording process. See the “Hardware” page for particulars.
BobDog Studios` rates are $50/hour for recording and mixing and $75/hour for mastering. The higher mastering rates are not charged when the recording is also done here. However, many artists prefer to have the mastering done at a studio other than where their CD was recorded so they can take advantage of fresh ears. Also, a number of clients bring their home recordings to us to be mixed and/or mastered.
Some artists want to and can afford to block out days or weeks in advance. Others schedule as they go, and as cash flow allows. We’ve done a number of projects where the artist calls every few weeks (or sometimes months) and books a block of hours. Of course, the more notice a client can give, the better the chance s/he will be able to book the time frame s/he wants.
Since we are a digital audio recording studio, your songs are kept in computer files and file folders. When we know in advance the names of the songs, the instrumentation planned for each song, and the beats per minute (BPM) when a click is to be used, we can set up the files before you arrive, saving valuable session time, and we don’t charge for advance file setup time.
When your recording is completed, you will receive a CD of your finished product and, if you choose, a copy of the data files on DVD or flash drive. There is no charge for this service.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line is the more prepared you are, the faster every aspect of your project will go. This directly affects the cost of your daily sessions, the overall cost, and the sound of the finished product.