Before you can begin to think about marketing yourselves online you’ll first of all need to take care of the music. If, like me, you’re making that music at home then you’ll be aware of the many benefits this arrangement brings – you have the freedom to try whatever you like, you don’t have one eye on the clock and you never have to get the last bus home.
The flipside is that you are on your own and, to put this gently, there will be no-one there to keep an eye on you. You are entirely free to lead yourself down any number of blind alleys before you grab the wrong end of the stick and beat yourself up with it. Recording at home requires patience, discipline and good planning……and all at the same time…and from musicians.
What could possibly go wrong?
Since the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, here are the 9 mistakes we made in homemaking our debut record that I’m keen to avoid as we begin our second. I’m fairly certain I’m not the only person in the world who learned his good habits the hard way so if you think I’ve missed anything important please feel free to add some tips of your own. I’d also very much like to hear your tales of self-inflicted recording calamity!
OK, off we go..
1: That Odd Buzzing Noise Will Come Out In The Mix
..and one day there will be free jetpacks for us all. No matter how good you think that last take was, if your singer kicked the mikestand halfway through or the small change was rubbing against the keys in your pockets, then you need to think about starting that take again.
2: If You Are Having Drums, You Might Want To Record Them First
You may think you’ve nailed that guitar part to that click track but there are two people who won’t share your confidence. The first person is the drummer and he will till you all about this when he comes to play along to the song. The second is the person who will spend weeks going through the all the component drum audio files, making miniscule adjustments to the placement of a kick beat here and a high hat there. When I say weeks, I mean WEEKS…easily enough weeks to fill a month or two.
3: “Hey, Shall We Tune-up?”
This one sounds teeth-grindingly obvious, doesn’t it. Oh yes, so obvious in fact that you’d never believe anyone could make such a stupid, stupid error.
Moving on, then…
4: Effects Breed Like Rabbits
It might not sound the way you hear it in your head but if you cave in now and add that tiny bit of distortion – just to make yourself feel better about everything – then imagine how great you’ll be feeling when you come to the mix and you can’t get rid of it. Record EVERYTHING dry.
5: “You Sound Like You’ve Got A Cold…”
If you didn’t have a cold when you recorded the vocals for the other 9 tracks, why do you want to do record the vocal for this one now?
6: Clean Out Yer Ears
If you’ve listened back to that rough mix more than 10 times today then it’s probably time to go out, meet your pals and get drunk. Additionally, when you all come back from the your night out your friends will probably be in the mood for some ELO or possibly some Fu Manchu. That track without vocals and that piano part littered with cack-handed mistakes will be waiting patiently for you tomorrow – it ain’t going nowhere.
7: Less Is More
These days home studios can be augmented with a dazzling array of plugins that enable you to have thousands and thousands of different sounds and instruments at your fingertips. You are limited only by your imagination, but remember that this cuts both ways.
8: Organise, Label & File
At some stage, when you’ve recorded your last vocal or overdub, you’ll want to think about mixing your album. When this point comes it is waaay too late and entirely pointless to have the bright idea of giving audio files sensible names and putting them into folders that, say, represent the names of the different songs they come from.
Death, Taxes and At-That-Crucial-Point computer malfunction. They come to us all in the end. Back-up your work daily, weekly or even monthly….but make sure you do it.
Now, go and make a great record!