Blog Header Image: FAQs
Allow your eyeballs to graze upon a selection of real answers to real questions from real people. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve just asked me something similar. I’ll add to this post as more interesting talking points emerge… 1. How long will it take to record x songs?

You will find detailed answers here:

2. Can you make us sound like this (link to obscure band on YouTube)?

Yep it’s entirely possible to replicate this sound, but it’s worth being realistic about what’s achievable within a time constraint. If you come in and set up your gear and I get everything miked up in one day, we will basically be bound by however the cards fall on that day. We can have conversations beforehand about what we think the correct equipment choices are – what is most likely to harbour the results you’re after – but once we’re up and running the sound will thereafter be dictated by those instruments and by your performance. If however we were to spend more time auditioning different instruments, maybe doing some pre-production, analysing our options thoroughly as the session progressed, and talking about what’s working and what’s not working, we would be better able to sculpt a more specific sound.

Basically it’s hard to promise that I can replicate a sound if we’re working under a certain amount of time pressure. This is where you have to think quite carefully about how you use your time. More songs = less attention to detail. Less time mixing = a less good mix. For example, I notice in the track you sent that the cymbals are lovely and bright and present. It may be the case with your mixes that the cymbals aren’t cutting through in the desired way, for any number of reasons. But because we didn’t spend any time thinking about that issue due to our time being so limited and all the pressure being on just getting the material down, there’s little we can do after the fact to correct that, short of having me blend in some cymbal samples, which would likewise require more time.

I hope that ramble makes sense. It’s a very long way of saying “you get what you pay for”.

3. Do you think we can record 10 songs in two days?

You must be very careful about trying to cram a lot into a short amount of time – I think you’re over-estimating how much can be achieved in two days. It would take at least half a day just to get set up and sounding good – longer than this usually – and then doing good takes of 10 songs is very optimistic for a single day, even though it seems like you should be able to do it, you have to factor in tiredness, stress, complications, unexpected errors, conversations about takes, fiddling with equipment, etc, etc. For example, my band recorded with Steve Albini in 2008 – we were three-piece, very simple, and we booked 5 days for 12 songs, but that still wasn’t enough time to get the vocals recorded. It was extremely stressful and we ultimately wished we had picked the best 4 or 5 songs and made a really good EP, rather than got greedy and tried to record a whole album in that time. At the end of the day, 2 songs done well is worth far more than 10 songs done badly.

4. After a 2-day recording + mix session in the studio, will we have three mixes of suitable quality to put on our band website and on a site like Bandcamp?

Please be aware of the time constraints of a two day session, so whilst you will walk away with as good a mix as we can manage in the time, it’s inevitable that a longer mix session will be required to achieve optimum results.

5. Do you recommend using a click track?

Only if absolutely necessary. See my detailed thoughts on that topic here.

6. What drums should we use to get the sound that I’m after?

The general rule of thumb for drums is that wood sounds “warm” and metal sounds “bright”, but being a drummer myself I’ve found this rule to be of no more use than the fallacy that more expensive = better. There are a myriad of factors that can affect the sound of a drum; type of head, density of material, thickness of bearing edge, etc, etc. At the end of the day the most logical conclusion one can reach whilst not subscribing to silly marketing hype is that drums that sound good to you sound good, and drums that don’t, don’t. The best rock snare drum I have ever used was a rusty 1920s brass band snare that spent years nailed above a door of a second hand shop. Assuming your drummer knows his instrument, the best thing you can do is explain your requirements to him and trust his opinion. He should be more experienced with his equipment than I am.

7. How do you record acoustic guitars?

There are two ways of recording acoustic guitars that I like. One is to stick a decent valve mic like a Neumann M147 in front of it to get that dry, rustic sound, and the other is a small-diaphragm stereo configuration which sounds much more glorious and fills the mix better. The latter delivers the most natural acoustic guitar sound I have been able to find, but being a stereo technique that requires hard panning it can cause some problems in the mix if lots of overdubs are planned. I think the best thing to do given the time constraints is to set up the three mics necessary to have both options and then make a decision about which sound is preferable later on. That way we can select whichever may be more appropriate for each song.

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I am James Gasson, music warrior. With my mighty skills of imperfect objectivity and excellent tea making, I am on a mission to encourage critical thinking whilst trying to avoid tripping over stuff. Fancy chatting about audio, drum recording, life, the universe, and/or everything? Drop me a line!

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