Slightly OT: Recording a CD

Time to take the plunge

The band have decided that it is time to record a new CD, and this time we are going to have a go at doing it ourselves - we have plenty of expertise in the tech side of things (and lots of kit), but none of us have taken on this kind of project before.

So … the bottom line is … can anyone offer any suggestions as to the right kind of setup to put together to do the actual tracking (in n-Track of course).

The band’s lineup is:

Drums (complete with 7 piece drum mic set)
Bass Guitar
Electric Guitar
2 x Acoustic Guitars (one Rhythm/Power Chords, one Picked)
Digital Piano
4 x Vocal (lead + 3 backing singers)
Choir (2 or 3 of the tracks lend themselves to this)

My instinct is that we may well go for pro mixing/mastering, to make sure that we get a good quality final product, but the jury is out on that one at the moment.

Any helpful hints and tips gratefully received at this point.


What is it you actually want to know? Microphones to use? How to set them up? How to layer the vocal tracks? What order to do them in?

Also, mixing and mastering and tracking are all an art. If you dont get good tracking, the mixing can only sound so good… and then the master can only sound so good from that.

Looks like you have a lot of instruments and vocals going on. As a nod to Dyers and what he said, I would say right off, organization will be crucial. Without it, the first few outings will be fun, but eventually, it will catch up with you. Making up a schedule that everyone can agree to.

Meet with everyone and decide if you want to record all of the rhythm section first, to give the CDs tone an over all continuity. Find out who can be available to assist in mic placement, room treatment, etc. The sooner you setup for the logistics, the better your project will be to succeed.

My 2 cents or is it 1??

First reccomendation: Drop a couple of $20’s on some basic books on recording and mixing.

Go to and type “Home Recording” in the search bar.
Go to Borders or Barnes&Noble, grab a cuppa java in the cafe and look through some of the books there.
BUY some books and READ them.
Read every recording magazine you can get your hands on.

This is not a hobby you can just “throw some stuff together” and get something that sounds good. You NEED some knowledge and research.

The guys here are pretty good at helping out (I’ve learned tons here in the last couple of years) but you gotta get some background and take the time to play with the equipment to get anything reasonably sounding. “There are no magic buttons or pre-sets”…

You probably know this, but if you are willing to spend money on pro mixing and mastering, you might seriously consider tracking the drums at a good studio with a good room. Not much screams “amateur” more than poorly recorded drums, as my many basement recordings will attest. :)

The other think I’d say is that if you really want something that is as good as you can make it, that you take your time, and spend a year or so doing it - again, you probably know this, but thought I’d say it anyway.

This will sound self serving, especially coming from someone that owns a studio for hire, but…

I agree totally with TomS. Get your material together. Practice a lot and get it tight. Even do some scratch recordings in your home space to work out sounds, arrangements, etc. Then consider tracking your basics live in a studio space with a good sounding room. This can be a cost effective approach, especially if you’re not wasting time learning how to play on the studio’s clock. Many people procede this way in my space. They get basics done, and do time intensive work like vocals, guitar solos, and keyboard overdubs at home. That kind of tracking can come off sounding pretty good in a home space, but drums and ensemble play just seem to come across sounding better and more professional when someone other than the band is focused on the engineering decisions. You’re a band, and in my experience, a band sounds best when they track as a band, rather than as discreet instruments layered up one at a time. Besides, in the right place, you might get a chance to track your basics to tape then dump the stuff to digital. MMMM…tape. So nice the sound of a quality well calibrated 2" machine.

Another bonus with the studio/home approach is that once you have all your tracks together and have good rough mixes going on, you can go back to the studio where you tracked (since you now have a relationship with them) and finalize your mixes on gear that’s likely to be better than what you have at home (like a better console for out of the box mixing, and quality outboard compressors and reverbs…). Having all your edits done, and your mix plans in place can make the studio mixing faster, which also can save you some money.

Good luck! You’re about to embark on a real adventure. If you’re in the Chicago area, I’d be happy to discuss tracking at my place with you…