Lots of song creation activities happen in the studio, whether it is composing a song from scratch, or adding a bridge or tweaking a lyric. Just because the band is in the studio doesn’t mean the songwriting process stops.
Besides the musicians there are four key personnel on a recording gig: the producer and the engineer, the mixer, and the master-er. The producer holds the band to the standards of the vision for the recording. He is usually the one with the final say on when the tracks are good enough and the musicians are done recording a particular part. The engineer utilises the technology in the studio to achieve the goals of the session. If the producer wants more “grit” from the singer, the engineer finds the correct microphone and compression settings to make it happen on tape. The mixer takes the recorded tracks and helps the producer realise the vision for the album by putting the sounds into the proper relation with each other. The mastering guy puts the finishing touches on the product, sets levels, and makes it all sound like one unified piece of work.
Most recording happens in layers, like a painting. An artist starts with a base colour, and then roughs in basic shapes in various related tones, then adds further detail on top. The same kind of thing happens with a musical recording. The most basic layer is the click track which sets the tempo of the song. Once the tempo is agreed upon the the guide rhythm tracks are laid down, usually a simple drum sequence. The the guide guitars / bass/ keys are laid over top, to lock in the song structure and set the proper feel for the song. Then the guide vocals are laid in, so that the final tracks can be played against the proper melody. Now that the guide tracks are down the band can start to record the parts that will be heard in the final mix. This can be done live, with the whole band playing at once, but is often done a part at a time. Usually the drummer plays his part all the way through, re-recording as many takes as needed to get the right sound on every section o the song. Then the bass player puts in his final part, then the keys and rhythm guitar. The lead guitar and vocals are done next, with the backing Vox laid in last. Any or all of these layers can be done at any studio anywhere in the world by any mix of players and helpers.
The parts are all recorded onto separate tracks, often multiple tracks per instrument. The mixer decides how each track sounds individually and collectively. They use a spatial analogy to separate the sounds so that the listener can hear them all distinctly. Pancontrolsthe left / right dimension of the sound from the track. In pop music usually the kick drum, bass, and lead vocals are the only tracks panned dead centre. Everything else, is panned left or right, a bit or a lot, to fill up the “Stereo” field.
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