Yesterday I listened to Boston’s “Third Stage”. An album that took six years to accomplish. Wow! A duration that seems totally insane from today’s perspective.
In the liner notes of the CD, producer and lead guitarist Tom Scholz states that he didn’t use orchestral sounds or synthesizers. Yes, that seems legitimate for a rock band in the 80s coming from the 70s era. But how did he create all these noisy/spacy sounds? Well…
That’s right! Honest! And no violins either (so how do you make thunderstorms without a synthesizer? A twenty-year old Vox Tone-Bender with a bad transistor). In other words, the Boston sound is powered by old, straight ahead rock-n-roll equipment, as opposed to midi-interconnected-computer-sequenced synthesizers.
I recently recorded some mid tempo catchy pop rock song with a singer/guitar player. In these sessions I learned some things I wanted to share with you.
Before I even started recording, I checked that the arrangement workes out. A good arrangement can make or break a song. In this particular case it was a song with the same chord progression repeated over the verse and chorus. To add a bit of variety we changed the instrumentation in the verse and chorus part of the song and the way it was played on the guitar. Sometimes I added some keyboard parts underneath, just to create a little uplifting feeling.
A shaker and tambourine added some excitement as well. They’re barely audible, but if you mute them, you would notice it immediately. The trick here is to not having too much instruments playing at the same time.
Sessions won’t get any better if they last longer. Recording basic vocals and overdubs in short sessions (~3 hours) is definitely practicable when everything is well prepared (lyrics, arrangement, …).
For instrument recording this may be different. Vocal sessions tended to be more exhausting. Both for the singer and me, the engineer. Ask your artist how he/she wants to handle it.
Keeping the focus
I created a list of the things I wanted to record and prioritized it. Important stuff was on the top of the list. This helped me to keep the focus and not forget anything to be recorded. Great background vocals won’t do you any favor if you haven’t recorded the lead vocals yet.