does it ever get to the point where

recording consumes less of your life ?

Hi Guys :D

My original goal in learning to record pro quality full arrangement tunes was to produce cds that I could sell at my gigs and attempt to shop with national acts ( the songs that is ).

I decided early on that full arrangement recordings would be the best way to go, but now i am beginning to reconsider. I have about 10 to 15 hours of recording time a week ( I work full time and play on the weekends ) and I am finding that it takes a very loooong time to do a high quality full arrangement recording of a tune and that 15 hours seems like a drop in the bucket.

I play all the parts myself and do all the recording, arranging, mixing, etc…

I was wondering if anybody else who is in a similar simulation has any mystical insight in this matter. Does it ever get much quicker ? Or should I maybe reduce the scope of my arrangements so i can produce more tunes in a shorter time ?

Even if your not in a similar situation and just want to put in your 2 cents, well, feel free to do just that.

I have been recording seriously about a year and I have cleared most of the major hurdles thanks to all the great folks here and all the wonderful info on the internet. The last hurdle seems to be the time thing, so i thought I would take it to my friends on the forum.

What do you think ?

Thanks Guys :D

ted roberts

ditto here
i work 2 jobs that still couldnt afford a high end studio and producer to work a few songs.
this forced me to produce and record my own songs.
a lot of it has to do with attitude and motivation.

if you know why you’re doing it and have a plan that feels it’s within your reach…youll manage to do it. though you will need to take a hiatus now and then to give yourself some rest to get re-inspired again.

-also try this to get motivated:
-listen to commercial cd’s with production styles you like
-listen to commercial cd’s you dont like as a reference
-continue to play at shows or open mics with a promise to your audience an ep will be ready
-work on your web site

when you produce:
-make a vertical chart (horizontal column containing your song sections and vertical row containing the instruments you can hear in your head) Start simple
Drums (loops or live) bar at a time
Primary Bed track that follows the rthymn like guitar
Add bassline

Dont fully mix or add any effects yet. Just pan them accordingly. You should be satisfied at this point how the arrangement sounds.

If youre singing…remember…LESS is MORE (instruments/effects). Your vocals should be clear and have focus getting the most presence (mid range to high EQ). the other instruments should sound just slightly duller (low EQ) like a background in a photograph with enough information enveloping the focus. Try cutting freq in instruments than boosting…otherwise your vocals will sound weak if you boost too much

Your other instruments should NEVER interfere with your vocals…they can be introduced at certain sections of your song…guitar riff A singing to guitar riff B on different pans with different effects with even less EQ presence.

A good pad never hurts…it should be thin and nonintrusive and not too obvious…like a reverby lush b3 organ during that heart pounding chorus supporting the vocal and instruments

Try to be conservative on what instruments will play when and where and how without stepping on each other.
If it doesnt work with the mix…trash it. The mix overall is more important than that 1 instrument you can’t fit in.

when you got your arrangements done…then comes the fun of mixing. i try not to overdo it because at stage…im too tired to be too finicky and trust my lyrics, peformance, and music to stand on it’s one without the gimmicky stuff.

once you have a chart going…it’s a little easier because you got a map…and you should have known your gear inside and out by now …right? right??? :)

this is the part where it’s important not to be a gear slut…because the subtle use of fx makes your songs stronger. its like that guy in the subway train that wears too much cologne thinkiing its better…its NOT

trust your heart…and your songs…not your gear

good luck

Hi Ted,

I think a lot of us are in the same boat. But I believe that it does get easier as time goes along. The first two years of serious recording is a time consuming effort at best. But I have seen my time, per song, cut way down.

I was starting to get pretty bumbed that I was spending more time playing around with the equip rather than doing what I really love, and that’s playing guitar. In fact, my chops have really suffered because of it. But I do see the light and will begin devoting large amounts of time just playing.

I think you will get over the hurdle, but you need to stay on track until you feel you have mastered the fundamentals of recording. What choice do we have? We can’t afford copious amounts of pro studio time, so we do it ourselves.

I saw a TV program about technology and the time it was supposed to save humans. But the truth of the matter, is that because we had more time, we did more of that activity, filling up the leisure time the technology created. It’s too easy to finish something and then start on a new project. The project studio is at our fingertips…Sometimes, we just need to get away from things and give it a rest!

Quote (syn707 @ Sep. 22 2005,00:35)
Sometimes, we just need to get away from things and give it a rest!

Sometimes we just need a microphone and a giant foot board with pedals for rewind/ff, play, and punch in/out - sitting back with headphones and closing your eyes and making sounds with whatever is handy.

Our technology can really get in the way of enjoying the music-making process. It used to be that musicians didn’t have to worry much about the technical issues - the engineers did that. Now we worry about every single aspect of the recording process. I can be recording a guitar riff, but I’m really thinking about whether I should take some of the high end out now before it gets recorded, or maybe the mic needs to be shifted down a half inch and blah blah blah… and then I’m no longer in the moment, I’ve missed a cue, and the music will be screwed and/or passionless.

I was incredibly prolific when I was just sitting down with headphones in front of a 4-track. My aux effects for mixdown were a reverb pedal going into a low depth stereo chorus pedal. I just made music and lived inside the sound. Now I stare bug-eyed at the n-track interface and spend an hour wondering what I should do first and if I’m ready.

It’s very human to wander around in the complexity technology provides (shiny things!), but it’s also very human to need simplicity (a shiny thing!).

Record. Jam. Listen. Record. Jam. Listen.

Great question!

We all realize that you can’t polish a turd and you should spend most of your time and effort on (1) songwriting and (2) arranging and performing. The problem is (at least it was for me) that it takes a long time to internalize and put this into practice. A modern DAW just makes it too dang easy to endlessly fool around with the reverb or to fix up the tiniest mistake and the average listener doesn’t even notice it! Sometimes it’s hard to avoid vanishing up our own a$$holes.

Like most things in life it takes 50% of the time to do the first 90% of the work. It’s that last 10% that really drags things out. So if you are really having difficulty finding time then I say just worry about the first 90%.

What would YOU rather listen to? An okay recording of a great performance of a great song? Or a great recording of an okay song? I don’t know many people who would choose the latter (except us nuts on this board :p ).


You’re not alone.
aspiringWanderer, I like your structured approach. The thing that waste my time the most (appart from fiddling with knobs ‘just to see what it does’) is not knowing where I am or what I’m doing.

It also took me YEARS to figure out that less is more.
Everything sounded crowded, until I figured out that all the instruments shouldn’t be a lead instrument all the time.

I chased hours down the toilet trying to make a solo of every single bit of orchestration. One thing can lead at a time. The rest must sit and wait quietly (being mundane in the backround) 'till its their turn.

That was my biggest time waster.
Another one was fiddling at enfinitum with too many effects and plugins. Now I stanardised on the Kjaerhous series along N-Track’s , and if I need something else I search for it. Way easier (and quicker).

But I still have trouble finding time for it all.
And then I’m in the same dilemma most of the time :

Either I have
a: inspiration but no time
b: time, but no inspiration
Not often both



It is a skill like any other. I have a riend who scores for TV shows. Think about that. every day by himself he has to come up with and record enough music for a 1hour soap. Granted, these are not inspired works of art, but get one of us to do it… The thing that makes it quiker and easier is experience and education. A lot of us are really pretty ignorant when it comes to music. Guys that have done the time in the practice room and studying their theory can whip stuff together much faster becuase they know the inner mechanics of the thing. They hear what they want in their head and go do it. Few of us have that skill. So keep plugging away. Really, it does get easier and faster if you commit yourself to it and make a point of learning all you can. Playing with a click and all the other things that make recording tough become second nature after a while.


does it ever get to the point where, recording consumes less of your life ?

NO. :p

Seriously, yeah what Bubba said. I don’t spend as much time as I would like on recording projects. Things like wife, kids, church, job etc have to come first. I would LOVE to ditch the JOB though! :D

I have found it is continuous “experience”…



Thanks Guys, lots of inspiration and great input here. I am reading and rereading all of what everyone said.

I discovered a bit of light last night, I found a way to finally get on tape ( Or hardrive ) the exact sound of my carefully treated acoustic guitar. It was a stunningly beautiful sound, more than I thought I was capable of, I will have to relish that for awhile.

I think like most things the recording process advances in little increments and before you know it you have gone a long way. One thing I need to force myself to do is to TAKE SOME DARN NOTES, hehe. I try and remember it all in my head, which is not the best idea for sure.

Thanks guys for taking the time to reply, some wonderful inspiration here. I will carry on and trudge forward, hehe.



You should always try to get to the essence of your song with the least amount of production IMO. Knowing when you’re there comes with experience. But the fact is, unless you’re an accomplished studio musician, it’s going to take alot of time.

I helped produce a couple of songs for a friend of mine who is a pretty accomplished guitar player. In fact, his nick name is “One Take Charlie”. When we did a session, he would come in completely prepared & we’d nail the track, usually in one take. Even with this, it still took us a lot of time, and we were conscious to not over-produce.

If you’re interested, check out the songs at Charlie Thomas. They are called “Emergency” and “I Can’t Believe”. You can also see the feedback he got on the site.


One thing I need to force myself to do is to TAKE SOME DARN NOTES, hehe. I try and remember it all in my head, which is not the best idea for sure.

Without a doubt. I find it makes sense to me when I do it, but 3 weeks later I’m going: "Now why did I do that ?"
That’s still better than 3 months later when I’m listening to something and I go: “Now HOW did I do that ?”
Notes helps.

Mike also have a point. Sure thing sometimes the magic happens in the recording process but that’s not much in my case.
Coming into the studio prepared (or even just having a idea of your arrangements) helps a lot.

I sometimes write down (outside the studio) what I want to do (or think).
Although it is in my own silly way of doing it I end up remebering all of that after I setup everything. (technology sometimes comes in the way of inspiration).
I end up with a sheet (usually the lyrics written all the way) with all sorts af weird notes on it. (Like ‘fade in 5th strings over here’ and ‘fiddle some clean electric high up on the neck untill that line’)

It works for me.

I’ve also found that the technical side of recording can take up a lot of time, and thus sap your creativity. In fact I’ve almost given up with the whole recording thing. I find it more enjoyable to just play my instrument, either alone or with a band (guitar and bass, also learning piano/keyboard). Perhaps sometime I will get inspired and thinking of recording something.

What puts me off is the technical stuff. Not that I can’t handle the technical stuff…it’s just tedious. I’ve often dreamed of having a very simple recording set-up. So simple that all you have to do is press record and play. Perhaps I might just record straight into a stereo tape-deck. The idea being that I’d record various bits and pieces and maybe at a later date I would transfer them to n-Track and work on from there. In fact, I don’t mind the editing and mixing side of things, but I think I’d like to separate it from the creative side. When I combine trying to be creative with trying to record / mix / edit on a DAW, it just get’s a bit too much sometimes…and like I said, can sap your creativity. I totally relate to those who stare blankly at the n-Track screen, wondering what to start.

So what’s a simple recording set up?

- A stereo tape deck. Could record a metronome into the left channel, whilst recording a part onto the right channel. Listen to playback and jam with it to work on ideas. (Eventually transfer to n-Track or Acid Pro).
- A minidisc recorder. Could play back a part recorded onto a minidisc and bounce to a second minidisc whilst recording a live part through a mixer (I got this tip from, and have tried it with some success)
- A 4-track recorder sounds tempting…it’s just the simplicity of the whole thing.
- a sequencer or keyboard sequencer. Can play keyboard and drum parts direct into the sequencer. Play it back and jam along with bass and guitar…maybe record the mix directly.

So… keep it simple, is my motto.


JW has the right idea for when you don’t want to get bogged down with software plugins or configuration crap or… this where my Tascam 788 really shines. Plug in, turn on, hit record. Sweet, simple. Then if I have a real “keeper”, I can export the wave to a CD and paste it into n-Track.



Mike also have a point. Sure thing sometimes the magic happens in the recording process but that’s not much in my case.

Or as Neil says “If you think, you stink…”. Do your thinking but you get into the studio (easier said that done).

JW - it sounds like you should get a dedicated recorder, like a Boss, Roland, or Tascam. They’re easier in the short run. For me, I do everything on my DAW, so I don’t mind the learning curve because I know in the long run it will be worth it (for me).

I don’t think there is any thing wrong with thtechnical aspects. Just don’t let that become recording in itself. At first you will spend a ton of time screwing with EQ, effects, and compression jsut from lack of experience. Over time you learn what to use where and the time you spend goes way down. But getting too gadget happy where all the recording process is is screwing with new gadgets, that will kill your progress. I mean, some guys prefer fiddling than actually recording. But if you actually want to get something done, take it easy with the gadgets. Just remember, millions of top records were made without the gadgets for years and years. Gadgets, like salt, can add or ruin flavor.

I’m to the point where I can start from scratch, program a drum sequence, lay down the rhythm tracks, make a bassline, add some vocals, and maybe a couple of “polish” harmonies and finally mix it all in one day. about 12 hours. That part DOES get easier… my problem is I have become more anal about how the tone of everything, and also don’t write as much anymore. So I make a tune, and a month or two later I do it again… :(

sounds all too familiar!

I spend far to much time trying new plugins, fiddling with guitar effects and trying to nail a perfect bass sound. One day I decided to write a song for my wife’s birthday - and told her I was going to do it…the best motivator is obligation! :) Within 2 days I had finished it - from basic sketch through to a full song. Its no masterpiece but its mine and its finished!

Computer Music (UK magazine) ran some excellent articles on simplifying your set up, stripping out all your unused VSTs and setting up a template in your sequencer of choice that is ready to use - i.e. basic reverb sends, a handful of VTSi’s that you know how to use, basic MIDI automation and Audio inputs.

They go on to talk about methods of focussing your work, writing/arranging/mastering a song over a weekend etc. In fact, their most recent issue talks about The Beatles, Les Paul and others who did not have the luxury of n-track, 20 reverbs, 10 hammond organs and as many audio tracks as your DAW can stand (i.e. more than 4) but still managed, against the odds(!) to write some reasonable tunes…

Their website has an archive of tutorials - the articles I am thinking of are not on there yet. However, they will probably appear pretty soon - I’ll keep an eye out.



This is turning into a great thread ! Thanks to all who have contributed.

I tend to be extemely picky about my sound which has a tendency to add to the length of time it takes me to come up with a finished product.

I think I am going to try a new approach. I am going to spend whatever time it takes to get a great acoustic guitar sound and then write down how I achieved that. Then i will do the same thing with vocals, bass, drums, keyboards, etc.
Each time I will write down how i achieved the cool sound.

Then I will create a song with my new cool sounds. As I plug the cool sounds into the mix, they will change somewhat and i will have to make some adjustments ( panning, EQ, whatnot ) I will also write down the adjustments I had to make to make stuff still sound cool in the mix.

Then I will have the tone thing out of the way. It will be laborious at first ( all the initial tweaking and the documation thereof ) but i think it will pay rich dividends later on and will reduce my recording time significantly. From that point on i will have a nice map of how to get a rich sound out of each instrument and I won’t have to reinvent the wheel ( with respect to tone ) each time i start a new song.

The writing and arranging part of it is not that difficult for me. The bottleneck for me is getting a final product down on hardrive that sounds ( tone and quality wise ) like the song that is playing in my head and doing that in a reasonably timely manner.

I think that the above might help me to achieve that if I can motivate myself to do the disciplined approach it will require. Discipline ??? Oh My God, this sounds like I am going to work, I THOUGHT this was supposed to be FUN :p

Anyway that is my plan for now,

( disclaimer: all teds plan are subject to change without further notice from ted at this time or any other )

I am really enjoying this thread guys, thank you so much :)

With a special BIG thanks to aspiring wanderer if you are still reading this


Up until

Quote (Ted Roberts @ Sep. 23 2005,18:43)
Then I will create a song with my new cool sounds. As I plug the cool sounds into the mix, they will change somewhat and i will have to make some adjustments ( panning, EQ, whatnot ) I will also write down the adjustments I had to make to make stuff still sound cool in the mix.

you made sense, but this is where it turns around and bites ya. Every song is different and a mix-template won’t do you much good. Sad but true, there is no easy way around this unless every new song you record is a carbon copy of the last one.