Recording an Album - Step by Step

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You've got some songs, and you've got some musicians together, and you want to make a record. Great! But you've never made a record before, and you don't know where to start. Or, you're last experience in the studio was so horrible, you vowed you'd never do it again! Where do you start?

The first step is to take stock of where you are. You need to know how many songs you want to record, the basic instrumentation, and the style of recording you want to make. It's also imperative to know your recordings final format, before you start! Confused already? Not to worry - though this step sounds so simple, most people who record never take the time to figure it out!

The first few items are easy, you just count up your songs, make a basic list of what instruments you envision for the song, and go from there. This step is called preproduction. It is the single most important, and sadly, the single most overlooked step in making a recording. For a much more in depth discussion of preproduction, check out the things to know before recording.

Once you're certain you have the material in order, you have to look at some numbers:

  1. Determine your BUDGET.
  2. Shop for an appropriate studio. (See our tips for that on our home page!)
  3. Decide on whether or not to use an outside producer.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the recording process.
  5. RECORD!!!
  6. Have your album mastered.
  7. Have your album duplicated.
  8. Sell millions of copies and thank us in the liner.

Ok, first, the budget. This makes and breaks every project. Few people have unlimited funds to throw at recording. You need to determine a FIXED dollar amount you are willing to allocate to the process. Armed with this information, and following the steps outlined in things to know before recording, you should be able to get an idea of what you can reasonably accomplish in the studio.

You need to be very fair with your analysis of your abilities, especially if it's your first time out. Err on the side of caution. It helps to draw up two budgets: one, the ideal budget, where you allocate the amount of time you would consider ideal, and second, the realistic budget, where you work backwards from your fixed amount and determine how much time you actually can spend! The difference is often an eye opener!

Studio managers (like Amy here at MEM!) can be valuable resources in this step, as well as every other in creating a recording. Making albums is what we do for a living, and we pride ourselves on making good ones!

Next comes shopping for a studio. While we at Mixed Emotions Music pride ourselves on our skills and final product, for whatever reason, we are sometimes not the best choice.

Choosing a producer is another major step, as is choosing not to use a producer. This is best discussed in detail with your band members, as well as anyone whose has recorded an album you admire. Producers can be the single-most important person in getting a project in on time and budget - but they can also sink a project as well if they are poorly suited to the material!

It's also beneficial to familiarize yourself with the recording process. I'm not talking about becoming an engineer!!! I'm talking about learning what terms such as "basics session" and "overdub" means. It will really help you communicate with studios and studio personnel. It helps to know you can "punch in" certain parts of a perfomance instead of the whole thing, and it helps even more to understand the studios limitations! There's a big difference between offering helpful suggestions and telling someone how to do their job! Sometimes it's a very fine line...

Now it's time to record!!! Reading through the other documents on this website, talking with friends who have recorded, talking with producers and studio staff will help you get an idea of what this is all about! Recording can often be exciting and challenging, but it also has the potential to be frustrating and difficult- it all depends on the choices you make!

Once you have recorded and mixed your project, it's time to have your album mastered. You cannot afford to skip this step! This is the final stage before your project gets duplicated. In other words, this is the last chance to catch any mistakes! It might not be a major thing - but any little detail that can drive you crazy six months after is usually caught in mastering by an objective set of ears. We are happy to provide references to quality mastering engineers in the Boston and NYC regions.

Then it's off to duplication. Again, it pays to shop around and ask a lot of questions. We have strong opinions and ideas on this topic, and will be more than happy to discuss the options you have when you visit us for a studio tour. Suffice it to say, you usually get what you pay for in duplication. Lower prices often means less service, and the first service to go is quality control. We're talking about the quality of YOUR project.

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