Recording Update 5

September 20, 2012 by  

Hey all,

Long time, no update! Sorry about that, I’ve been pretty flat-out busy with a few things which, of course, includes working on the album.

So! What’s new then?

Well, since the last post, all of the guitars were finally done. The rhythm guitars, oddly enough, were the worst of it for me this time. Real finger-twisting, nutty chords, pretty much the opposite of chugging on a power chord for three  minutes sort of stuff. The melody guitars were next, and then my solos. Let me just say that I LOVE my 27 fret ESP Horizon guitar! That was put to great use with some stuff having bends on 27th fret of the high E string – something I was never able to do on previous guitars I owned. And the range of tones I get out of that thing is just astonishing. I’ll stop now before this turns into an advertisement for ESP! HAHA! (PS: Buy an ESP, they’re the best guitars in the world! *waves hand mysteriously* 😉 )

Andy came over and knocked all of his bass over, then it was time for lead vocals. Another “fun” experience for me. Getting back into the swing of recording vocals as demanding as LORD requires is tough! It took a few weeks of recording, being as critical as a diligent producer should be, and re-recording the crap bits (rinse and repeat as needed). And then… backing vocals. Arrrghhhh!!

The problem with being in a band like LORD is we have a lot of backing vocals and choirs. A LOT. There’s really only one way to get that huge, powerful chorus sound and that’s with heaps of layers of backing vocal tracks. Generally I’ll put the layers down myself first so everyone has something to follow. On average, most songs have between 50 and 200 tracks of backing vocals of just me. Then the guys come in and put theirs down, so in the end there’s literally dozens and dozens of layers of vocals.

That’s time-consuming enough as it is, but after everything is done, it’s my job as the engineer to go through and clean up all of the parts – removing coughs, farts and random expletives between the vocal parts, removing any dud takes, sometimes pulling the tuning of parts into line so it’s a more tight harmony. We usually have a mix of stuff that’s ultra tuned so the melody is locked in super tight and completely untouched stuff to get that human factor and size into the vocal performance.  When you have 200 tracks to go through, this is extremely time-consuming.

Thankfully, this is nearly the last step that I’m doing now. Still a little way off but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with it at least.

The other odd thing I tend to do as producer is mix/master as I go along. Somewhere in the world, a mastering engineer is reading this and going “WHAT?! You HEATHEN!!”   HAHA!  And to be honest, in a lot of cases I agree with you, hypothetical anonymous mastering engineer guy! I definitely recommend for most bands to take their product to be mastered by a pro in a different studio to where it’s recorded. We don’t, partly from an economic point of view because, frankly, we’re poor… and partly because I have a system that works for me and it saves us a lot of time crafting the final product. (FYI: All of the LORD albums and most of the Dungeon albums were mixed and mastered by me this way).

There’s a boring explanation as to why I do this, which I’ll spare you, but the upside is that when it comes time to properly mix after all of the tracking of instruments and voices is done, we’re already 80% of the way there with the mix and even the master is in the rough ballpark already.

What we do after that is approach everything like a software release.

I’ll do “alpha” versions of the songs first, which are more or less the songs but maybe missing some parts, no automation written in to turn things up in places or enhance certain instruments. It’s more so to have a preview to see if everything is working together and find out of anything needs replacing before we get too far in and commit to something we can’t back out of later.  There’s usually several alpha releases before gets to the stage where I’m happy with everything enough to start chipping away at the mix proper.

Next is the “beta” releases. Beta 1 is usually the first time we hear the songs complete and where more attention is paid to things like how loud certain drum fills are, or echoes on the end of a word or guitar lick, or the balance of instruments are in certain sections will be. We’ll go through several beta releases, checking them on different playback systems and headphones and slowly, bit by bit, we’ll arrive at the RC version.

The RC (Release Candidate) version is basically the album on CD as we would like to send it to the pressing plant. If the mixing gods are smiling on us, the first RC of the album is what gets sent off. Invariably though, it’s usually RC2 or RC3 that makes it to the plant and then into your eager hands after a few weeks.

Currently, we’re at “alpha 3” stage for most of the songs, and will be until I get all of the vocal tracks edited and cut in.

That said, we’ve been pushing a couple of songs out early so we can do some clips. Have you guys seen the clip we did for Betrayal Blind yet? The audio in it won’t be the mix you’ll hear on the album but it’ll be close.

Let us know what you think of it! 🙂

Until next time….