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2.1   General Notes on Tracking:

Tracking can be done in several ways. Each instrument can be played individually, recorded onto it's own track(s) one at a time. Each subsequent musician listens to a rough mix of the previous performances. Most times this leans towards a mix that doesn't sound as "together" or "live".

Alternately, you can record the whole band, or sections of the band perform at the same time. You can then mic each instrument as you normally would. You can baffle the microphones with cushions or homemade baffles (called a gobo) to help isolate the tracks, if that's what you prefer. This gives a very natural "performance" feel since the players can see each other as they play.

One of the most realistic manners that you can capture a sound is with a stereo pair of microphones.  This stereo pair may be used on the entire band, or simply one piece of the puzzle.

Finally, there is the philosophy of recording everything in an absorbent room with no natural reflection. This happens both by sound deadening, and by close mic'ing things. You then add reverb with a processor afterwards. Unless you have very good effects units, the results aren't as natural sounding. They can still sound good, but just different. I try to use natural reverb when possible, but use a deadened approach if I'm planning on using a delay, or if I can't achieve the live sound I want.

Effective deadening isn't just covering the walls with moving blankets or foam, either. These two only offer absorption of high frequencies, and can make bad modal problems stand out more. This happens when the dimensions of the room happen to fall on a particular frequency's wavelength. The room becomes saturated with this frequency and resonates. Denser absorbing materials and bass traps can help. For other ideas, try reading "Sound Studio Construction on a Budget" by F. Alton Everest (McGraw Hill, ISBN 0-07-021382-8). Although the book is very heavily theory based, I've learned quite a good deal from it. It covers everything from good dimensions for tracking and control rooms, construction techniques, sound wave form behavior, equations for modal characteristics, HVAC considerations, etc.

2.2    Track Sheets, Organization, Tape Storage:

After you create your final mix, you'll want to store your multitrack master. No big deal, right? If you ever had a problem and needed to correct a mistake, or wanted to remix your song, you'll need a track sheet. I fill out a track sheet for every mixer channel I use on the mixer during the mix. I also jot down notes on effects choices, levels, etc. I made my own sheets with a word processor, giving the following types of info: The performer; song name; title of the master tape; counter position of the song on the master; all fader, EQ, pan and effect send / return info. I also write down any other notes. My sheet has a box for each knob or fader on each channel on my mixer, plus space for other notes. I just write down the value of each knob. I can now quickly get a rough mix restored in a short period of time. I then use a 3-hole punch, and I store my sheets in logical catagories in my bookshelves. My tapes are kept in regular pull out drawers. I'm very cautious to write the exact same title and date on the tape, the j-card and track sheet. This keeps everything organzied. If you want to find a particular song, it's much easier than having to play a whole bunch of tapes to find the right one. As always, keep your tapes away from magnets. This means speakers, large transformers (in your amps and power supplies) and monitors.

2.3   Patchbays:

I love patch bays. Before I bought one repatching was very difficult. I've now connected the rear facing inputs and outputs of my gear into the back of a patchbay. Now all of my ins and outs can be accessed with short patch cords from the front of my rack, and they're all really close together. I hardly ever need to crawl behind the rack and repatch. If you have any balanced gear, or expect to buy any in the near future you should buy a balanced patch bay. You can still use unbalanced signals, but have the opportunity for upgrading later, and the difference in price is minimal. Normalled outputs describe any internal connections that the patch bay has. A fully normalled bay connects the rear top jack to the rear bottom jack if no cables are connected in the front. You could patch your tape inputs on the top row, and your direct outputs on the bottom row. In other words, if you connected nothing to the front of the bay, the mixer's direct outs would be connected to the tape deck's inputs automatically. This is also good for insert points. You can place the sends in the top row and returns in the bottom row. If you don't connect anything, the signal passes through the bay from the send to the return. Some bays are designed so that plugging into one front jack will split or "mult" the signal to both rear jacks for signal splitting. If you use both top and bottom jacks on the front, the two signal chains run independantly and pass straight through the bay... Some effects require you to supply an identical signal to both channels for a stereo effect, and placing your effect unit inputs stackjed would allow you to mult into both channels with one cord.

2.4    Equipment Setup:

There is a lot of debate between semi professional recordists about the proper way to ground your equipment. Some people recommend to isolate all gear and lift the shields on one end of all balanced lines. This eliminates all possible secondary ground paths, and should technically reduce or eliminate hums. I feel uncomfortable with complete isolation, because I can see the potential for a faulty piece of gear becoming "live", shocking the user. I've had guitar amps that were out of phase that created a NASTY voltage between them (I was going to use a multi-amp setup.) I'd get a painful shock if I touched both amps. If the chassis were grounded together, you would have blown a fuse before possibly electricuting someone. I personally keep all equipment tied together for grounds. All power comes off of a single circuit. If you use multiple circuits, the different lengths of wire can reduce the voltage a little bit more than another circuit, which will cause hums. Another circuit might also use the other phase, and the AC will be completely out of phase, and cause problems too. I occasionally have to use an audio isolation transformer to kill a hum, by I feel that it's a safer method. It's also important to have your power isolated from things like refrigerators, AC units, dehumidifiers, fans, light dimmers... These all tend to put crap back in the circuit. Large transformers tend to cause a bit of hum. Keep power amps and mixer power supplies away from audio equipment. Where possible, keep signal wires and AC wires seperated, and allow them to cross only at 90 degree angles.

Also, Your nearfield monitors should be placed about 6'-10' apart, directly centered on your position at the console. The center lines of the speakers should be angled together, converging on a spot about a foot behind your head. Some people like to spread their nearfields even more, to emphasize the stereo image.

2.5   Thoughts on Producing

As the producer for your studio, you'll have to make important desicions that help shape the final outcome of each project.  It's also your job to make sure that everything works smoothly with any booking, billing and record keeping.  

At some point, you'll undoubtedly be faced with a client who you feel needs to change their sound.   This is touchy ground with some people, because they feel you're saying they sound bad.  For this reason, it's always better to be careful with how you approach them.  It's often best to say something like,

"I don't want to interfere with the way you play, or  your sound or your amp or your guitar or your volume (or whatever applies), but I feel that the recording and the song are going to sound better if you do 'X'.  Can we try it and see if you agree?"

This will come off sounding more reasonable than simply saying, " I don't like this guitar tone, I think we should change it".  In any event, anyone whose band or music is more important to them, than their ego will at least meet you halfway. If not, well, they are jerks and you will have to do your best to get a good sound with their equipment as is.


It may also be wise to put in the studio policy that you don't provide meals, drinks, or overnight quarters for clients. It may also be important to use a clause that allows you to stop a session in progress for any reason, including musicians who don't know their parts, bad attitudes, or having a musician that's intoxicated enough to inhibit their playing.  

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