One of the most common philosophies we come across are bands and artists looking to create a “natural” recording. They say things like:
- “We want to capture the energy we have at our gigs.”
- “We don’t want to sound too produced, or over-produced.”
- “We want to create an atmospheric, or raw, or dirty sounding record.”
It may sound like it is easier to make than a “produced” record, but in fact achieving this type of recording takes a lot of thought, care and planning and will probably take just as long. The producer still has a lot of work to do, but the focus is shifted onto different areas.
What to expect recording in a live style?
The session will probably start with live performances of the song. What we’re actually recording are the drums, so there’ll be a lot of work going into the drum mic placement and setup. Guitarists and bass may set up, but will probably be recorded via Direct Injection (DI), so they’re silent in the room. Everyone will be listening to the entire performance via headphones so the drum sound we’re recording has that live energy that is so desirable. It does not have to be recorded to a click (metronome) and we can capture guide vocals too if that helps you perform.
The lack of click and the desire to create a natural record limits the amount of editing we will do, but it is likely that there’ll be one or two adjustments to make. Why ditch what could be a perfect take for one snare mishit? Or more frequently, the chorus from one take was the best song ending whilst the rest of another take was the best generally, we can chop those together simply enough.
It’s also a cool idea to use the bass takes that were recorded with the drums. Bass and Drums form the backbone of the music and their interaction is really important when setting the vibe of the track. Once we’ve settled on a drum and bass take, we can “re-amp” the bass, where we send the pre-recorded bass signal back out through an amp in order to record it naturally in the room.
From here on out you’ll record the other instruments, guitars, keys, percussion and vocals. The setup time for each individual track may be slightly longer as careful choosing and placement of microphones is key to this style. We may try a few different things before settling on the best for your record.
Mixing a record like this can be very challenging, there’ll be lots of analogue-style processes to enhance the vibe of the record and correctly choosing these effects is critical to the final product.
Tips for artists.
Bring as many different instrument options as you can. Options is the name of the game here, bring a range of guitars if you have them, maybe a couple of amps. You don’t necessarily have to stick with your live setup, you can mix it up, even swapping gear between musicians.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. By that I mean mistakes. Recording like this we shift our focus away from note-by-note perfection and onto more intangible things like “feel” and “vibe”. Don’t get me wrong, we want to tune to be right, but getting worried about making mistakes and redoing takes just serves to increase stress and decrease the feel.
Take your time. Similarly to my last point, taking your time and relaxing in the studio will decrease stress and that in turn will improve performance and atmosphere. I believe you can hear when a record was recorded under stress and it’s rarely a desirable effect.