All of the aspects of a productive studio session contribute to what is perceived as a quality recording and mix. Every aspect of a song should meet at least the minimum requirements of perfection. If any one of them is lacking, it will show through as the weak link in the whole recording.
Even though each aspect is only a small part of the overall song, any single flawed aspect could destroy the whole song. If all of the aspects are incredible or perfect, the chances of a song becoming a hit are probably a million to one. If any one of these components is less than perfect, the chances for success go down exponentially. Therefore, it is necessary to critique and refine each of these aspects whenever possible.
Let us now further review the some of the remaining aspects of a fruitful recording:
Even though it is the band that has chosen the instruments, the recording studio engineers are really the one responsible for almost everything related to instrumentation. However, if there is something wrong with an instrument sound, the engineer can only do so much to fix it in the mix, no matter how much you process or imply effects on it. Therefore, it is important to recognize bad sounds in the first place, so you can replace them. If you can't replace them, point them out so that the band realizes the instrument sound was bad, not the mix.
For example, if you have a drum kit that doesn't sound so great, see if you can rent another set. In addition, make sure all the heads are new. Let the band know that there is nothing in the control room that can fix a drum head that's held on with duct tape. Also make sure that there is nothing wrong with the guitar sounds. Each guitar should be set up so that the intonation is right. There is no reason for a guitar player to use the one guitar they have for the entire album. Beg, borrow, or steal a selection of guitars or the project. The album will normally sound much better with a variety of guitar textures.
The recording engineer is quite commonly the most knowledgeable person in the studio when it comes to being aware of all the types of musical instruments and sounds available.
Professional engineers get to know the difference between different brands and types of instruments intimately. Often the engineer is the most qualified person to make suggestions on the appropriateness of a particular instrument for a song. In fact, producers commonly rely on the engineer's expertise when it comes to instrument sounds.
Positive values for instrumentation can be that it is unique, unusual, bizarre, or new. Negative values can be that it's the same old same old.
Commenting on someone's melody line can be especially dangerous. Statements such as, "The melody sucks," does nothing for the creative process, much less your relationship with the band. The truth is that there isn't too much that you can say about a melody line. You might point out that it is too busy or too simple, but in both cases it might just be what the band really wants.
Positive values for a melody can be that it is catchy, hummable, beautiful, or interesting. Negative values can be that it is busy, banal, simplistic, annoying, or chaotic.
Aspect # 6
Harmony is often the critical factor which decides the primary appeal of a well recorded song. It is the duty of the recording engineer to guide the band in this aspect and if he can arrange the harmony parts for the band with utmost precision, they will normally think he is God!
Many bands don't realize all the possibilities for recording background vocals, so it is the responsibility of the engineer to suggest these possibilities when they might be appropriate.
Positive values for harmony could include it having multiple parts or unique chord structure. Negative values could be that it is too simple, too full, or has an inappropriate chordal arrangement.
We will review the rest of the elements related to recording, in the final part of this article.
Updated: March 23, 2008
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