What it takes to make a recording.
Hello everybody, and welcome back to the blog! Last time, we talked a little bit about the copyright holding, and how to get the mechanical licenses! Well, I have good news on that front: we have all our mechanical licenses! Upfront payment for them was part of what our first album’s KickStarter money went towards, and now that we have them we have been able to concentrate on the other parts of our album release.
And one of those things, is the actual recording session, which we took care of about a week after the conclusion of MFF. Those of you versed in the internet may ask yourselves: so what was the studio like?
Well, as you can probably tell, we can’t quite use the same studio environment as people in Hollywood might use: the demands of an album between classical musicians are very different than those of a movie soundtrack. In a movie soundtrack, timing needs to be rigid: in our case, we have much more liberty with tempo and all. In a movie soundtrack, you play to a click track and your own mic, and thus don’t really need to listen to everyone else since the postproduction team can experiment with balances later. But in our line of work, balances and all that are agreed on by all three of us, and to do that in recording requires us to listen to each other.
Oh yeah, and we didn’t have the luxury of renting out those really spiffy studio booths. We had something better: we had Ganz Concert Hall at Roosevelt University on our side, entirely thanks to Rory and Atlas Recording, the company handling our mix. And this is a good thing: it means that we were playing in a hall with lots of natural reverberation: means it’s less that the audio engineer has to do to get us to sound good since there’s no need to add artificial reverberation!
So what was our process for recording?
Well, before we could get into the recording hall, we had to absolutely practice our faces off. And that means we had to pull eight, sometimes ten hour days of nothing but individual practice and rehearsal to perfect all sorts of things. Everything from fixing counting in the Persona medley and fixing ensemble in the Game of Thrones Geeklude to tuning multiple bars in the Batman Fugue and even rewriting the Jurassic World suite for voicing fixes, we had to do it all, and then some. Rory was our task master, passing on several practice skills she has learned from doing orchestra recordings. She helped guide both tracking what to work on, including recording ourselves after each practice to guide what we need to work on. Hearing yourself practice is a brutal but essential part of musical growth! Some of this, you guys got to see on Twitch, and once again we’d like to thank you all for coming in!
Then, once we got to Ganz Hall, we had to play through each track twice: live performance is a tricky thing in that not even the best symphony orchestra in the world will get everything right on the first go. Thus, the typical process for a studio classical album is to splice all the best performances of everything into one track which removes all the mistakes. It is standard procedure even at the highest levels, and a great audio engineer knows how to splice those well.
Thus, two times is good to get an overall sense of how it should sound. Even then, we had times where we still weren’t happy with individual moments. For those, we could go back: as long as we had a four-measure buffer at the starts and ends (silences were good for that too), we could get to whatever spots we wanted to after the fact. A couple takes of those (we followed the rule of “get the best take you can, and then one more for safety), and we’re set: the audio engineers would take it from there, and take all the material and combine it for a final mix where everything sounds as it should.
For most of our tracks for our upcoming album, that took about 20 minutes per track. The rest is up to the audio engineer, and I’m glad to say that we now have our first final mix for the album! More will come, and hopefully you will be able to see the fruits of everyone’s labor soon! Keep your eyes on this space!