Recorded Music Production

Introduction

Planning and budgeting are quite significant tools when it comes to studio session management and control (Nunes et al., 2013). For a proper and professional recording session there has to be distinctive stages during the sessions. There are four important stages of recording a song in a professional studio. Namely the composition stage, roles in the studio, recording in layers and finally mixing and mastering.

The composition stage is where most of the activities involving the song creation take place. This is the stage where either the song composition starts from scratch, or modification a lyric, or adding a bridge. It doesn’t mean that when the band is in the studio, the songwriting process is done. The best lyrics are formed in the studio.

The second stage involves the roles of each person in during the studio session. On the recording gig, there is four chief personnel besides the musicians: the main producer and sound engineer, the mixer and finally the master-er (Power And, & Hallencreutz, 2007). During this stage, the band is held to the level of the visualization for the recording by the producer. When it comes to if the track is good enough and the artists are done with one part the producer has the final say on the quality. In order to achieve the objectives and goals of the session, the engineer utilizes the technological resources in the studio. That means if the producer requires a little shingle from the artist, to make it happen the engineer must correct the compression settings or even the microphone. For the recording to sound like one piece of work, the finishing touches is done by mastering guy sets levels and enhance the product with finishing touches.

The third stage includes the recording in layers. Just like painting most of the recording is supposed to take place in layers.  Starting with a base color, an artist then roughs it up into various basic shapes using different tones to add further details on top. The same is to be said about the process taking place in a recording studio. The tempo of the song is set with the most basic layer which is the click track. A simple drum sequence, usually the guide rhythm tracks which is laid down once the tempo is laid down. Then to set the proper feel for the song and to lock the structure of the song the bass/ guide guitars/ keys are laid over the top. For the final tracks to be in proper melody, then the guide vocals are laid. The band can now start to record the parts to be heard in the final mix now that the guide tracks are down. This is usually done part-time or even live when the band is playing in unison. The drummer is basically the one who sets the tempo by playing his part all through the song with as many takes as possible.

Mixing and Mastering

The parts get recorded in multiple tracks per instrument often multiple tracks per instrument (Burgess, 2010). The sounding of a track is determined individually and collectively by the mixer. For the listener to get the sounds clear and distinctively the use of spatial analogy for sound separation is required.  The combination of reverb, EQ and compression are the most common mastering tools. The difference between mastered tracks though easy to recognize but hard when it comes to description.

One Week Album Recording Session Schedule

The session schedule will depend on the number of musicians and vocalists that are involved in our band. Due to the arrangements and complexity of the boarding and recording project, it may take about 30 to 50 hours. Therefore a one-week album schedule is recommended.

Session Day 1

We normally commence with a rhythm section of bass and drums together with the keyboards. Therefore on the first day arrival time should be strictly 10 AM so that the band can be able to get enough time to working and interact with this essential group of musicians.  Tracking of the entire songs in the album of 10 songs in 6 hours. The keyboard player usually remains for 2 to 3 hours after the completion of the 3 major musicians in laying the bed tracks. This is to ensure addition of the extra orchestrations or keyboard parts that is the string.

Session Day 2

The vocals for the solo is recorded while voices are still fresh. After this recording of any of the group, vocals could take place. Then perhaps for a 3-4 hour session by the first dub musician later in the evening.

Session Day 3

This day will most likely be dominated by recording sessions with the vocal group since the project will involve studio background vocalists.

Session Day 4

This session includes a chance for additional or extra musician over-dubs as included in the session budget. This could be most likely a horn section or the string ensemble coming in to do 3 songs. This might as well be different musicians each participating in a 3 to 4-hour studio session. Any additional time during this session day will mostly be used for counterchecking or finishing incomplete vocals done by the artists.

Session day 5

This is the day session when final mix and mastering will be done after everything is recorded. This will most likely be the busiest day working with the producer and sound engineer. Since the mixing is done manually songs are likely to take an hour or more depending on the effort required. For a recorded project it is likely to take 2-6 hours for necessary mastering normally done at the end of the process.

The session

Before the setting up and starting of the sessions, to save the session from confusion through microphone leads are run first. This is because when various leads gather at the pane, they might create a mess making it difficult to trace any complications. To minimize disorganizations and save time, the keeping a tracking sheet with song location of individual songs is quite significant. Communication between musicians and the recording crew is key before the recording starts.

 

Sample Budget

PROJECT EXPENSES (PRIMARY)

Pre-production                                                                                    Rate (per artist)           Total
Rehearsal Space Rental $50 $300
Equipment Rentals $50 $300
Session musicians $50 $300
Sub Total   $900

 

Recording/ Production Rate (per hour) Total
Recording Studio Rental $50 $2500
Equipment Rental $10 $500
Producer $10 $500
Engineer $10 $500
Arranger $5 $250
Tapes & Supplies $5 $250
Session Musicians $10 $100
Other    
Travel $100 $500
Accommodation $100 $500
Sub Total   $5600

 

Post production Rate (per song) Total
Mixing $100 $1000
Mastering $100 $1000
Other    
Packaging 250 copies $1000
Subtotal   $3000

 

Weekly Subsistence Expenses Total
Housing $300
Local Transportation $800
Food/Personal $100
Weekly subsistence total $200
Subtotal $1400

 

TOTAL PROJECT EXPENSES

Project Total
A $900
B $5600
C $2000
D $1400
Total 10,900

 

All in the producer (production/mixing/sound/engineering) – $600 per song multiplied by ten songs making it $6000.

The session amount charged for Musicians is six musicians at $50/ hours totaling to $3000. The mastering session is also a critical area of the budgeting process. The charges are $100 per song and therefore $1000 for the ten songs. Other charges include the packaging which involves limited run CD pressing of 250 copies with two pocket eco packaging costing $1000. Album art design rates are usually $500 and the digital distribution costing about $20.00. All this leads to a total cost of $ 10,900.00

Therefore for a ten album tracks, the band should be prepared on spending around $12,000.00. There are also other expenses that may arise during the recording and production process such as the need to rent instruments. This will lead to extra costs on the production than anticipated. If the cost becomes unaffordable other means to reduce the overall expenses can be devised. This includes going to the studio with digital-only release or LANDR to master the tracks. But since the band desires to utilize the professional resources in the studio, we opt for the producer to take us through the songs recording and production process.

Studio time

We are all aware of the time set for the studio session being the most obvious cost for recording in a studio. During the time calculation, I find it important to add a little extra to avoid the stress caused by crumpled sessions which doesn’t add any value to the project. Proper estimation is required for the time taken during the setting up sound systems and also the time taken for the period of artists’ changeover. Therefore the addition of extra time to the budget is essential for quality recording and production.

Musicians

It is usually evident that involving other great musicians in our record will cost a lot of money (Baskerville, & Baskerville, 2010). For an album production session, something to consider is even though I may be expensive to involve musicians of a higher caliber, they save you some money.  This is so because a less experienced musician will probably need many takes and editing compared to a seasoned session player with only a few takes will get the job done. Therefore the top cats can save us some money even though they are expensive to hire.

Scheduling

Another way of cutting down the expenses is knowing how to schedule and sway musicians’ arrival. For example getting drum sounds while you have the whole rhythm section there is a waste of time and money. The musician is supposed to show up based on the complexity of the project setup. This usually means that the bassist can be the last one to be recorded.

Editing

The editing process is crucial and has to be put into proper consideration (Burgess, 2013).  This means the amount of prep and editing that is going to be required during the mixing process. A band project is usually a complex project when recording since a lot of editing may be required. Therefore during tracking, it is recommended to make as many crucial decisions as possible. Therefore what takes ten mins now may take ten more minutes later making it an extra $10 of the studio time.

 

 

Engineer

When it comes to proper budgeting, it will be important to realize how the sound engineer is going to work (Baskerville, & Baskerville, 2010). Their flexibility in the setting up, an organization of the professional tools and their approach to problem-solving during the studio sessions. For the continual progress of the session, the take organization and labeling is going to be significant. Sloppy edits, confusion and poorly labeled tracks over the playlist all will cost a lot of money. Therefore proper budgeting and the battle plan are required to decide on how things will be organized.

Duplication is not our department, but when it comes to the cost, it will present for the band it is good to have an idea about it.

Mastering

Having an idea or a rough budget for the mastering process is also significant when budgeting for the studio sessions. Based on the number of songs one is supposed to include an estimate.

Mixing though it seems quite obvious it is important to consider the way in which the songs are going to be mixed. This is so because we have to know if the rate will be per song or hourly and if the mixing of the particular project is going to be done in the studio to tape.

Vocal takes

It is also important during the budgeting to recognize the type of singers you are working with, and the time they will need to capture and take (Baskerville, & Baskerville, 2010). One of the things that eat up the studio time is a recording of the vocals which may make the whole studio session expensive. The experience of the vocalists also matters a lot since a vocalist who is inexperienced may need a vocal coach. To avoid bad takes the vocal coach will work out the repeated problems to avoid vocal problems.  The artists are supposed to be provided with full breakdown costs and estimates in some physical forms.

 

Conclusion

Proper budgeting makes the whole studio sessions and song production more enjoyable for the band and musicians involved. This will definitely lead to saving of unnecessary costs while at the same time utilization of the available studio resources to the maximum. Accounting for each and everything in a studio is not an easy task since and so there may be a need for future changes along the way.  But since the budgeting process provides a solid footing, it will be easy to adapt to the choices made or altered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Baskerville, D., & Baskerville, T. (Eds.). (2010). Music business handbook and career guide. Sage.

Burgess, R. J. (2013). The art of music production: the theory and practice. Oxford University Press.

Burgess, R. J. (2010). The Art Of Music Production: With an Introduction to Twentieth-century Music. Omnibus Press.

Nunes, T., Gillett, S., Norrish, P., Lima, M., Jordán, C., Vargas, I., … & Lawrence, A. (2013). Planning and budgeting. In Plant Identification (pp. 39-76). Routledge.

Power And, D., & Hallencreutz, D. (2007). Competitiveness, local production systems and global commodity chains in the music industry: entering the US market. Regional Studies, 41(3), 377-389.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

Initial pre- production meeting

Sonic signature/ artist identity/ vision/ intention of the recording/ audience/ time/ budgeting/ musicians/ tech spec)

 

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