Q: How long does it take to record a CD and how long does it take to record a demo?
A: A demo is there to show others what you are capable of, not to be a finished product in the shops. It should however be as good as possible so that people like promoters will realise that you are just the right act for their concerts. If you are a rock band, expect to spend up to a week getting about three songs down and mixed, but if you are really well prepared, you might get away with just two or three days.
A CD is a very different kettle of fish! A good CD can be a source of income for several years, so it is worth spending time getting every detail just right. It always depends on how well prepared you are. For simple rock music, expect to spend at least two weeks, though a month would be more realistic.
Have a look at our 'Typical Recording Session' page.
Q: Can I use the recordings we have made on our small rehearsal room multitrack?
A: If the home system is of good, 24-bit quality and you have been using good mics, then the answer may be yes. But tracks recorded on Mini-Disc, ADAT or 16-bit PC based systems are unlikely to be of much use. But then there is always the exception to the rule and if a recording has something unique about it - such as a live gig with fabulous audience reaction, or a very special performance - we can go a long way to clean it up. But have look at the next questions about moving material.
Q: How much can I do at home and do I need a recording studio at all?
A: More and more musicians are asking the same question and are using home recording systems. Most of these recordings do not result in success, but the small number that do encourages many to try. It also helps sales of home recording systems. Most successful recordings are made in larger studios and the rest are made in so-called producer's studios. A producer's studio is nearly always every bit as well equipped as a top commercial facility, but is usually smaller and is geared to the specific wants of that producer.
A home recording system is great for understanding the recording process and can be used for making good demos. But good vocals need good microphones and they cost more than many PC-based multitrack recorders. Also one needs to be able to alter controls in real time, i.e. as they happen, so that making changes does not become a hit-and-miss affair. That means a mixing desk and effects in racks. If you want to make sure that you are using a system that is compatible with professional equipment, get one of the budget-priced ProTools options on an Apple Mac. ProTools will run on a PC, but it is unstable.
The professional user tends to avoid Windows systems because they are unstable. Prices for Macs are about the same as for an equivalent PC and prices for ProTools start as low as zero for an eight-track demo version (download at www.protools.com) and less than $100 for the new M-Box.
If you have been recording on some of the excellent pieces of sampling and editing software for Windows like GigaStudio, Soundscape, MOTU and Nuendo and you want to take it into a studio for mixing and overdubs, we can import your project as long as it uses WAV files. Just record it to CD-R or DVD-R and place a synchronization marker at the beginning of each song and for every track (just in case you loose sync). Remember to record it as a computer file and NOT as an audio file.
Q: So what equipment makes a recording good or bad?
A: Good recordings are made with compressors and gates that tighten up the sound without pumping, reverbs that sound as if they fill the room and microphones that don't make the vocals sound as if you are spitting. The EQ should give you the exact sound you are looking for without phase shifting that makes you feel as if you have shoe boxes over your ears.
Q: When should I start thinking about setting up a home recording studio and what should I get?
A: If you are a professional musician and are going to be doing a lot of track laying, go for it. If you are not a fully professional musician, don't bother. It would be like buying a mechanical digger just because you wanted to dig a pond.
As for what to get, that depends on what kind of musician you are. If you want to record an entire band or small orchestra, get a good used mixing desk. Prices for a used professional desk like a Soundcraft TS24 (a lovely big desk and easy to use) or a broadcast quality Sony start at around 2,000 Pounds. Add to that about the same again for a 24-track ProTools (8-in, 8-out) with Mac computer and some basic plug-ins, headphones and some mics (SM57 and SM 58) and you are in business. If you are a keyboard player and only want to record yourself and maybe one or two other players, you will probably not need a mixing desk.
Q: I want to record in one studio and mixdown in another. How do I transfer the material and how can I be sure that one system will be compatible with the other?
A: This is a very important question and one that many acts forget to ask. If you know where you are going to want to move your material to, the best is to get the two studios to talk to one another and agree on a format. Professional studios use either ProTools or Radar. We use both. Radar stores to a DVD-R and ProTools stores to either DVD-R or CD-R. You can also get removable hard discs for both systems and that is a great way to move tracks and get off to a quick start. If you are transferring in ProTools format, it is better to not use the pug-ins when track laying, as no two setups will be identical.
Q: So which is better, Radar or ProTools?
A: It's horses or courses. Radar works and feels like a tape recorder and is favoured by classical, country & western and other types of music using 'real' instruments. ProTools is the favourite with hip-hop, techno and video post production. Rock music tends to be recorded on both systems with track-laying on Radar, editing on ProTools and mixdowns on both. There is however no hard and fast rule and many producers edit classical music on ProTools and many use Radar for hiphop.
Q: Should I put effects on the tracks during recording or wait until the mix-down?
A: If you are going to use the same studio for the mix or if you are taking your project to a specialised mix-down suite, wait. Given the almost unlimited number of tracks available today, you could lay a few effects on separate tracks - but the chances are that, when you have heard all the parts together, you will change your mind anyway.
Hiphop is often different because it is the specific sound of the groove or the loop that makes the rest of the music 'click.' Here, getting that first sound just right, just perfect and funky enough, may decide if you are going forward with the rest of the song.
Q: We want to release a CD. How much will it cost?
A: There are four stages to making a CD, recording, mixing, mastering and manufacture. Assuming you have recorded and mixed your music, the next step is mastering which is best done by a specialist mastering suite. A good mastering suite can also take care of all your printing, PQ and ISRC encoding and broker a good deal for you with a manufacturer. They are also legally obliged to see that your glass master does not get lost or damaged. Mastering with all costs should not come to more than 500 Pounds and each CD will cost between 40 and 50 Pence each, depending where you go and how many you have made in each production run. The minimum run is usually 500.
These costs should include all printing and packaging and delivery. The cost of the music is extra and if you have used someone else's material, expect to pay about 40 Pence for every CD manufactured.
Q: How can I get my CDs into the record shops?
A: This is the easy part. There are distributers throughout the World who sell into every type of store and retail outlet. Some specialise in tourist shops, some just talk to the major record stores and you can use more than one distributor. They all work on sale-or-return.
Q: Can I sell CDs that have been made on a CD-R machine or duplicated in my computer?
A: To your friends, maybe - but no distributor will touch them.