Our friends at Guitar Center have sent me details of their Memorial day savings event.
Click on the text below and use coupon code: MEMORIAL 14
Our friends at Guitar Center have sent me details of their Memorial day savings event.
Click on the text below and use coupon code: MEMORIAL 14
Last time we looked at getting a demo recording done in a studio. This week it’s the home recording studio. At the end of the day, for professional sounding recordings there’s really no substitute to a studio BUT; It costs money. The advantage, if you can afford it is that you and your band mates are free to concentrate on the creative side of things. You don’t need to worry about placing mikes, minimising spill, and a host of other processes. You just play your parts.
However things have come a long way in recent years in terms of what you can do yourself. You can now arm yourself with a home recording set up that can be little more than a laptop and some software. You even get Garage Band free with an Ipad or Mac and there are obviously PC equivalents.
Personally though I’m from the old school and prefer plugging into a dedicated bit of recording equipment. For a long time now that’s been a Roland digital 24 track recorder and if needs be the recordings made on that can be moved into the Mac and further processed. This all depends on how hands on you want to be when it comes to home recording. I personally like playing with microphones, compressors and machines in general – you might not.
What we used to do was cart the Roland, and a pile of mics and headphones to our rehearsal room and record everything there. I went to the extent of recording the individual drum sounds onto separate tracks and using them to trigger midi drum sounds later so that there would be no spill.
I was looking for perfection on a budget and lost site of the fact that perfection is not really necessary on a demo. We were not thinking demo at the time though as we were producing CD albums that we sold at gigs to finance support tours – so it was worth the extra effort. For home recording demo’s I’d take the following approach.
I’ve assembled a few inexpensive home recording devices here that will do what you need. If it won’t offend your drummer I’d also programme the drums – our drummer was ace at doing this and so didn’t feel miffed at not actually being on the recordings – it was after all what he would play in real life. The drums also sounded a lot better than they we could do recording them live in an old barn.
Later on we invested in a set of electronic drums and they were a godsend. We could record everything live in a bedroom sized home recording studio, at hi-fi volume using a pod for guitar and bass. The keyboard was just plugged in direct and vocals done later. This is a great way to work and you can get some superb results.
Here then are a few bits of kit you could look at investing in. Given the comparative cost of studio time they will pay for them selves many times over in a short space of time. Click on pics to learn more and buy them (these are all from Amazon so if they are not available in your country click through to one of our preferred partners on any of the banners to the right)Hint: Older home recording equipment is a steal right now
As promised lets have a look at how to get signed and the all important demo – a must have for getting gigs, promotion, support slots and maybe even the elusive record deal. This used to involve going to a recording studio and paying to record your songs. That’s still a good option if you have the budget but these days there are other options depending on what skills you and your band members might already have. Lets deal with the studio first.
Back in the distant mists of time when my first band started to record a song or songs for demos, things were very different technology-wise so the recording studio was the only option for us. We would decide based on feedback from our fans and gigs what were our best 3 -5 songs and we’d rehearse those like crazy till we could play them in our sleep.
We would then book 15 hours in a studio to record and mix them. This I have to say is optimistic – we soon realised that a separate session for mixing was a better bet. When recording a song you need to factor in a few things: Are you going for a live recording or are you going to record the instruments one at a time? Basically recording a song will be a mix of both. Normally the whole band will play and a guide recording will be done at that stage. That gives you a basis to then re-record the separate parts. A live recording with just vocals overdubbed can be an option as you’ll see later.
In an ideal world we want the drums done first as A. They are the loudest and B. they usually take the longest time to get sounding good. The engineer will be looking to get those down while everyone plays but in booths, listening to the overall sound in headphones. You should all have eye contact even when recording a song in this unnatural situation to preserve at least some of the – band playing live feel.
Most demo type studios have a single soundproofed room so that spill from the other instruments can be eliminated. The very expensive, professional recording studio setup often just has huge rooms and build partitions around drums and amps that allow a degree of spill into the mix through the drum mics to give a liver feel but for your first demo you probably won’t be going there.
So with drums done you now have the basis for the rest of the recording. Bass would be next. The bass player then goes into the booth, straps on the cans and lays their parts down over the great sounding drums and the guide recordings of the other parts. If the studio set up allows everyone else to play along again do it. Even if everyone else just mimes it keeps the band feel going.
Remember when recording a song you are trying to capture a performance – to “sell” the song.
Repeat the process with guitars, keys, trumpets – whatever else is in your band and then it’s time for the vox. Although you might feel a bit miffed to hear it, the important parts of the mix when your record your song are the vocals, kick drum, bass and snare in that order. Vocals might take as long as everything else put together.
So when all of the above is done to the engineer’s and your satisfaction (you may need to do any number of re-takes during the process – it’s worth getting it right but bear in mind this is costing you money…) It’s time for the mixing.
Mixing is a subject in it’s own right but here are a few pointers that will save you time, money, frustration and agro.
Try and keep the objective in mind. It’s about a finished, polished sounding representation of your song or songs – it’s not about individual parts. It’s actually a very good idea to take a break before mixing – even to come back another day. Ears get tired and the constant repetition that recording a song often involves is doubly tiring. You get sick of the song to put in bluntly. A common mistake is for the whole band to gather round the desk each chipping in opinions – usually about how their parts sound. Not good for the mixing engineer or for band relationships.
In the ideal world just one or two of the band should be present but of course that relies on everyone else setting their ego’s aside.…… This is the stage where you can spend hours and a lot of money arguing and fussing over details that don’t really matter.
The first demo that ever got us record company interest was recorded live in an old barn using a PZM microphone hanging from a mic stand placed between the bass amp and the drums – to capture both. Guitar and vocals were also recorded live in the same room and all onto a 4 track tape recorder. Keyboards were overdubbed at home later.
This demo got us a showcase gig n London with Creation records and had every record company in the land on the phone to us. It was an ADEQUATELY recorded demo of a catchy song played live bloody well – recording your song is the important thing in the whole “how to get signed” question. No demo we ever paid for sounded as lively or got the same results even if technically they sounded a thousand times better.
Next time I’ll look at home recording demos: Tip – don’t actually think of recordings as demos when you record your music – think of them as finished recordings of your work and treat the process accordingly.
So your new band has got a few rehearsals under it’s belt, a name has been decided on and you have 10 or twelve songs perfected. What next ? – A gig of course! You need to get in front of people now and the sooner the better. You don’t need to be perfect as audiences at live gigs are usually forgiving of the odd little mistake – especially as it’s likely that you will be providing the first audience yourselves from friends and family. Lets look at how to get gigs.
It’s the experience of being at a gig that people enjoy – the volume, the performance and of course the music. Some of the best bands in the world talk about how much they hated certain gigs although these same gigs are often the ones their fans enjoy most and think of as the best.
Finding gigs is easier now than ever although getting paid for them is probably harder – especially if you play your own material rather than covers. Social media makes it easy to connect with venues, promoters and other bands. Demos can be sent or links to your Reverbnation or Facebook page.
You can get someone to video your gigs too, chuck them on Youtube and then people can see/hear you play. Put a link under the video to your Social media stuff and get some interest going. Watch the quality though – a badly recorded sound does you no favours at all. Maybe think about recording in the rehearsal room instead.
In general you can easily get gigs locally with one or more other bands. For quickness and minimal hassle there is usually an element of sharing kit at these gigs – usually drums – sometimes bass or guitar amps. There will usually be a PA system and some mics supplied.
Battle of the bands nights are another option and sometimes have the advantage of being held in bigger venues with better sound systems. The downside is that you will usually be required to sell tickets to friends and family to cover the costs. This is Ok for your first few gigs but even the most loyal friends will lose interest in buying yet another ticket to see you play the same set every week or two.
In theory these give you the chance to pick up fans that aren’t your existing friends but in practice the audience is usually made from each bands little group of fans. Often they clear off as soon as their mates have played so every band battles not to be on last. Every chance to play live is a good thing but I would recommend not doing too many “battle of the bands” type gigs.
Every band goes through the experience of playing to one man and his dog – just part of the getting gigs deal and still worth doing for experience. There is no substitute for live playing and the bigger the audience the better so embrace every chance you can to do it.
When you’ve served your apprenticeship for a while and are a solid, professional sounding unit you cab start looking for and getting better gigs. A great route to take is to look for bands to support. Start with up and coming local bands. You will need a decent recording for this as it’s not likely anyone will come and see an unknown band so get a demo done. Which will be the subject of the next post ….
As one of the suppliers I’m happy to promote Guitar Center has some great deals on Guitars, amps, effects and well, everything you need really. I’ve been having a dig around in their site and wanted to look at a few of their top selling budget electric guitars, amps and effects for you. Guitar Center now ship to the UK by the way and offer low cost shipping rates with no hidden extra charges!
GC do a nifty range of starter guitars and packages that include a guitar, amp, leads, strap, picks and guitar bag. Basically everything you need to get started (or re-started) for a tiny price. Check it out.
The Bugera range – Cool little valve amps that look great, don’t break the bank and are packed with features. I’ve been playing small amps for a while now and they rock! No need to break your back carting around monster amps that really need an arena to sound good in !
These very cool budget guitar amplifiers are available in a variety of sizes from 5 watts upwards and start at only $199.99 They don’t sacrifice sound or quality for price either.
Budget Guitar Effects Pedals.
GC sell an amazing range of budget effects pedals, multi effects and boards for all your sound shaping needs too. Here’s a very cool example from the Hotone range of pedals starting at only $79.99
Hotone Effects Grass Modern Overdrive Skyline Series Guitar Effects Pedal
So just a few examples there from my friends at Guitar Center. If you want to look through their entire fabulous range you can visit them online by clicking the banner below. Happy shopping !
Chances are you have not been alone in your journey to play guitar. You probably have some mates who have been learning an instrument too (drums and bass would be good ! and if one of you can sing or knows a singist, so much the better) If that’s the case and you have some mutual musical preferences that’s the best place to start.
If, like me you grew up in the arse end of nowhere however, you may need to go further afield or look elsewhere to find band members. There is always the tried and tested music shop notice board. You can scan the notice the board for likely bands that just need someone like you or you can place your own ads and find band members one at a time.
In both cases be honest with yourself: Try to find band members of a similar age to yours and who are at a similar level of experience. That way you can all develop together. There is no point in contacting an experienced cover band for example if you only know a couple of songs and have never been in a band before – It’s very different to playing in your bedroom.
So you’ve got the band together, had a chat, decided on some songs to learn and are raring to get started and make some noise. Before your first rehearsal make a few plans: If you’re paying for a 3 hour session in a rehearsal room you really don’t want to just batter away aimlessly.
You’ll end up frustrated – trust me – you will.
Pick one or two songs, learn your parts and make sure everyone else does too. Unfortunately there does have to be a leader. It’s the rule. With very few exceptions all successful bands have a leader. You won’t like this but it’s usually the singist. Accept this, live with it and move on. When you have a clear aim before you start rehearsals you will enjoy life in a band much more.
It’s going to take some time to get a sound you can all live with. You will probably find a real drum incredibly loud for example and everyone with amps will start to turn them up to compensate. Then the singer will complain that they can’t hear themselves, everyone else will soon follow.
The first order of the day then is to start at a moderate volume and before reaching for the volume knob, move around a bit. You are not on a stage so you can stand wherever you like. Find a place where you can hear enough of everything – if there are monitors and someone can control what feeds in to them then spend little time getting that sounding good.
Don’t expect a perfect sound in a rehearsal room – it’s always a compromise. You only need things sounding good enough to actually work on the music. Stage craft and perfect sound come later. Once you are good to go make a few notes on the settings and whip out your phone – take a few pics so you can quickly put things back in the same places next time (its good to use the same place as much as possible as every room sounds different.
Lastly: Once you join or form a band you have become too cool for school – that’s’ one of the reasons you did it right? Tempting though it is, don’t fill the room with girlfriends or non band members (at least in the early days) Get some songs under your belt first then start looking for gigs.
Next time – How To Find Gigs
Above all else – Have Fun !