If you’re trying to start a career for yourself in the music industry, one of the most important assets you can have are great recordings of well written songs. However, many artists don’t really know where to start or how to go about producing their music.
I really want to record some songs and covers and other things like that but i don’t know where to start if anyone knows any good music apps or ways that i can record music let me know
— Syd the artist (@Nutella160) November 20, 2019
There’s a lot of myths around music production, with a lot of people thinking it’s an expensive process. It can certainly be costly if you don’t understand everything that’s involved ahead of time. However, it doesn’t have to be.
In addition, recent years and advances in technology have made the recording process easier and much more affordable.
In this guide we’re going to break down how to record a song from start to finish. Then we’ll discuss some of the methods and places you can go to track everything. At the end, we’ll reveal a special avenue for recording your music that can give you world class recordings at an affordable rate.
Steps to Record a Song
Before we talk about the different recording avenues, we want to dispel some of the mystery around music production. Below you’ll find a basic overview of how to record a song and what’s involved in each step of the process.
How to record a song:
- Record Your Song’s Beds
- Overdub Recording
- Editing/Mix Prep
Before you even begin to record your song, you first have to take care of the preproduction side of things. Think of pre-production as a time where you plan and prepare for what you’re going to do in the studio.
It can involve everything from finalizing the arrangement or lyrics, deciding what instrumentation is going to be involved and, of course, practicing with the band. This is the part that really makes or breaks a song’s success in a studio.
In order to make the most of your studio time, you don’t want to make any major decisions in the studio. This wastes time, money and leaves you with a song that never reaches its full potential.
Laying out everything ahead of time and making sure everyone knows their parts gives you a roadmap to follow. You’ll still be able to deviate from it a little bit, but the general vision will stay the same.
2. Record Your Song’s Beds
The first thing you’ll do once you’re in the studio is record the bed tracks to your songs. These are the instruments that form the foundation everything else sits on top of. Typically they consist of drums, bass and a rhythm guitar track.
Getting the drums right is the main focus during this step, as all the other elements rely on them. Oftentimes, the rest of the rhythm section and vocalist will perform with the drummer as they track their part.
Once the drums have been tracked and edited, you can either fix the other parts of the rhythm section by punching in sections or re-record them altogether.
3. Overdub Recording
Once you have a solid foundation of bed tracks, you can move on to record the overdubs for your songs. In a nutshell, this consists of all the other elements in a song that don’t make up the beds.
This could be lead guitar, strings, horns, synths, vocals or anything else really. If you’re recording a bunch of different songs, the best practice is to record all of the overdubs for one instrument, across all songs, before moving onto the next instrument.
For example, if you’re putting piano on a few songs, record it for each song that it will be a part of, before moving onto another instrument.
When working with electric guitar, the same goes for effect patches. If you find a sound you really like and plan to use on several tracks, work through them all before moving onto a different guitar style.
This lets you get everything out of the way with one set up and saves you time in the long run.
The one exception to this rule is with the vocals. Singing all the songs on an album in one go can be taxing. Instead, spread the vocal sessions out over a number of days, during the overdub phase.
This gives the singer’s vocal cords a chance to rest and recuperate between sessions.
4. Editing/Mix Prep
After recording all the elements to your songs, it’s time to edit things and get them ready to mix. Similarly to pre-production, any extra work you put in here makes a huge difference.
It’s worth noting that a lot of the editing should happen after each element is recorded, not once the entire recording process is finished.
For example, once you finish tracking the drums, sort through takes and fix any timing issues, before recording the bass. If you instead moved onto the other elements without editing the drums, the other musicians will be playing along to out of time drums. Because of this, their instruments will also end up out of time and need otherwise unnecessary editing down the line.
The same goes with things such as vocal tuning. After you record the lead vocals for your song, be sure to comp, edit and tune them before tracking harmonies. Otherwise, your backup vocalists will be harmonizing with out of tune vocals.
With all of this in mind, there are other forms of editing that can be left until the end, along with other things you can do to get a song ready for mixing. Check out the video below for some awesome thoughts on mix prep from renowned mixing engineer, Christ Lord-Alge.
Mixing is the stage where an engineer takes all the different elements you’ve recorded and blends them into a cohesive song.
The difference between an amateur and professional mixing engineer makes an obvious difference, so make sure you hire someone who knows what they’re doing.
Half of the mixing process is a science but the other half is an art. So, it’s important to find someone who understands and supports your artistic vision.
We have a wealth of articles on the mixing side of music production. If you’re interested in learning more about this art, be sure to check them out.
The mastering engineer takes the finished mix from a mixing engineer and finesses things even further. In the case of an entire album of music, they’re responsible for making everything sound cohesive and consistent.
There’s a lot of misconceptions around the differences between a mixing and mastering engineer. Many people think these two professions do the same thing, when in fact the skills and process are quite different.
Check out this guide on the difference between mixing and mastering for a more in depth look at the two trades. You can also read our guide on 7 Reasons Mastering Music Is Important.
If you want to give your songs a professional edge and bring on a qualified mastering engineer, Sundown Sessions is a great place to start your search. We offer, award winning mastering services for all styles of music.
7. Promoting Your Newly Recorded Song
Once you’ve learned how to record a song, don’t be surprised to discover that your work as an artist isn’t finished. Too many indie artists record their music, then just put them on a streaming platform where they are rarely heard by anyone.
It’s unfortunate that after investing all this time and money into creating the music, things fall short in the promotion stage. In order to make sure people hear your music, you need to spend time spreading the word.
Getting your music placed into TV and film is another awesome way to grow your listener base. Our sister site, Sync Songwriter, goes into full detail of how indie songwriters can make this happen with their freshly recorded music.
Methods of Recording a Song
Hopefully by now you have a good idea of how to record a song from start to finish. Now, we’re going to delve into the different avenues you can take to make all of this happen.
There are plenty of different options out there when it comes to recording music. So, it’s important to find something that works for you.
Where to record a song:
1. Traditional: Go Into a Studio to Record Your Song
Until a few decades ago, this was the primary way that all artists went about recording their music. You’d go into a physical recording studio and work one on one with an engineer to record your song from start to finish.
Although it doesn’t happen as much anymore, plenty of bands still go this route when tracking their music. There are physical spaces of all sizes and calibers available to record your songs, some better than others.
The experience of tracking in a studio can be quite exciting and working directly with an engineer can have some awesome benefits. However, if you’re after high quality results, going into a recording studio can be a costly endeavour.
Although there are cheaper options out there, you usually get what you pay for. So, while a smaller, budget studio may seem appealing, it may not yield the results you’ve hoped for. In this case you could end up spending more money and time fixing things, then you’d spend getting it right in a high end studio.
Being tied to a physical, geographic location also has a downside. While those in a big city may have plenty of options to record their music, those in smaller towns will have few, if any at all.
2. DIY: Learn How To Record a Song Yourself
A rise in online education and affordable equipment has brought upon a major change in the music industry. Nowadays, plenty of artists build their own home studios, and learn how to record their songs themselves.
Although, this may seem enticing to some, it does have its downfalls. The first being that owning professional gear doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a professional sound. What sets apart the home studio from a high end commercial space is the knowledge that its operators posses.
So, the time it takes to learn how to record and mix everything may not be worth your while, unless you intend to make a career out of recording other artists as well.
A home studio can be great for songwriting, recording demos or pre-production. However, you’ll notice a big difference between the work you do yourself and that of a professional.
Alternatively, hiring a pro to take care of the mixing and mastering side of things will give your home recordings a competitive edge, while still remaining afordable.
If you think that it may be worthwhile to put in the time learning how to record and mix songs at home, Sundown Sessions Studio has a wealth of articles on the topic.
3. The New Method: Record Your Song With an Online Studio
Recent years have brought a new avenue for artists to produce their songs with online recording studios. Companies such as Sundown Sessions Studio offer the best of both worlds by allowing you to work from home, with industry professionals from around the world.
Our affordable rates make commercial grade recordings well within reach of the independent musician. Working with Grammy and JUNO winning session musicians and engineers will give your music the professional edge it needs to stand out from other artists.
Not only that but you’ll be teamed up with award winning producers who will guide you through the entire process of recording a song, from pre-production to the final mix.
Check out our demos page to hear the difference Sundown Sessions Studio can have on your music. After that, head over to our pricing and packages page and discover just how affordable these services can be. We look forward to helping your music reach its full potential.
Conclusion Pt. 1: How to Record a Song
Trying to record a song is an involved undertaking. So, it’s important to spend plenty of time planning things out early on. The pre-production phase will save you time and money in every other aspect of the music production process.
Once you finish the planning stage you can move on to recording the bed tracks, followed by the overdubs. Although a lot of the editing and mix prep takes place after you finish the recording process, there is a certain amount of editing that happens between sessions to ensure the highest quality result.
Finally, don’t forget to put in time getting the word out there about your release. Your music deserves to be heard after all your hard work and the key to that is song promotion.
Conclusion Pt. 2: Where To Record a Song
When you set out to record a song, the idea of going into a physical recording studio may seem expensive and intimidating.
This leads a lot of artists to try recording music themselves or approaching budget studios. Unfortunately, this usually results in sub-par recordings that can keep bands from reaching their full potential.
However, there’s a third avenue for recording music that a lot of people don’t know exists. Online recording studios like Sundown Sessions Studio offer high quality recordings with world class session musicians and award winning engineers.
Due to the online nature, there’s little work required by the artist and costs are affordable for indie budgets. Learn more about the services offered by Sundown Sessions and find out how we can make your musical vision a reality.
If you enjoyed the tips in this guide, be sure to share it with your friends and sign up to our email list for news and special offers. Check out the rest of the Sundown Sessions Studio Blog for more guides on recording, songwriting and music business.