The Recording Process
James Russell, one of Heliport’s producers and sound engineers, talked us through the steps it takes to record a song.
- Get the band ‘miked’ up
This is where the band comes into the studio and the sound engineers set up the microphones for each instrument. Out of the whole recording process, this takes the most amount of time. “It probably takes me four hours to mike up everything,” James said. “The point of a proper big studio is so you can have everyone playing together at the same time.” Using separate microphones allows for isolation, so the best sound can be reached individually and also as a group.
- Sound check
The sound engineer then tests all the microphones. They make sure that each instrument fits into the mix correctly and everything is sounding ok.
- Do the first take
Here, the first basic takes of the song are recorded, and the producers and sound engineers can fix anything that needs correcting. This step involves laying down the first takes known as the ‘bed tracks’. “Usually this is the rhythm section, its bass and drums. They’re the most important, to get down first ” James said.
Next in line are the ‘overdubs’, the guitars and lead instruments. “The whole band would have played together to start with, but then basically we re-record the vocals and re-do everything else, that needs attention” James said. “That’s the general gist of doing the takes.”
- Play back
The recorded song then gets played back to the band. If they are happy with the product, the producers and engineers can then move on to the mix stage.
The mixing process involves the engineer tweaking the sound with the sound board to try and make everything sound perfect. The band doesn’t need to stay for this part, but sometimes they decide to stay, especially if they’ve had some creative input. “The whole idea of an engineer is that you’ve got to try and bring out the best in them,” James said. The mixing stage can take anywhere from half a day to a whole day to complete.
Once a mix track is complete, it then has to be brought up to a certain level to make it commercial. This is known as mastering. In the mastering process the dynamics of the song are set – that is how loud and soft the track can go. “A lot of people perceive loudness to be, if something’s louder its better, which is a funny thing,” James said. “You’re basically losing half the beautiful balance of the mix that you’ve gone to the trouble of doing. If you make it too loud”
For more information, visit Heliport Studios online at www.heliportstudios.com