Recording Advice for Bands

This goes out to all original bands who do not really make money out of their music and spend a fortune for recordings. I’d say that’ll be 95% of all bands. You might ask yourself why you read this article on an E-drum blog. The answer to this will come up later.

band-690261_640Being in an original band is hard these days. On one hand, you have the internet and all its possibilities, such as spreading your music to the world through social media and in theory you’d even be able to produce your own music on the cheap through technical deflation.

On the other hand, you’ll find that through the internet, there is not only a massive competition, but also the possibility of streaming or downloading music without buying it. Artist loose a potential part of their income through those. And who buys a CD these days anyway? The band’s income is mostly generated from gigs. The reality is that you most likely have to work in a day job, be on social welfare or have rich parents to survive as original musician. I guess you want to avoid playing covers for weddings, which could actually make you some bugs. Musicians spend most of their money on instruments and recordings. Definitely more than they could ever earn with their music. All this leads to one important question:

Why the hell would you spend tons of money on expensive recordings?

What I mean with expensive recordings is renting a proper studio, including a sound engineer to record a song the same way than a successful big band is doing it. With the efforts of a full mic’d up drum kit. I know you can find loads of good quality, but cheap recording studios near you! You just need to search for the good ones!

I know, some of you will say: “But this is how you do it.” NO! This is how bands with an actual budget would do it and poor bands in the 90’s had to, because today’s technic did not exist. Talking about today’s technic, I spoke with a sound engineer while making the same expensive mistake of recording a real drum kit. I asked him why he is not using these modern drum software samplers? The plain answer was: “Because bands don’t get it and they think it is fake. It would make my job easier and the recording much cheaper, but there is no chance in persuading them”.

He explained to me that using not only drum sample software with an electronic drum kit, but using guitar amp simulators like the Kemper Amp Profiler, would make a major part in studio renting time unnecessary and cut away the gear setup time too. He smiled and said: “With today’s recording technique, we’d be able to produce a proper recording in my bedroom. Only the singer should be recorded in a proper vocal booth.” Since then I ask myself:

“Why is almost any band against using these digital advantages?”

  1. They see the whole band thing as a lifestyle which includes “a recording session like their idols in the 90’s.” They believe being a real musician means recording their songs the good old way. It is similar to teenage girls who have been blinded from Disney movies and believe they will have a date on a flying carpet. All those nice band documentaries planted an image inside their head. “Everything else would not be art, not be real or cheating.”
  2. They don’t understand the technology behind Recording, nor the benefit of doing it in the smartest and most efficient way. Like any other technical processes, audio and music recording became more and more advanced. It is quite hard to see through, as it is a very complex field. But this also leads to endless possibilities with recording and sample software. Most Artist however, have the problem to be not interested in anything else than playing their instrument. The consequence is being ignorant against any kind of recording technology that isn’t shown in your band documentary. Their recording skills end up by using a smartphone to keep an idea.
  3. It is bad for the band’s and their own image. “What should people think if we post a selfie from us recording in a bedroom and not in a studio?” You are right, they will think you are not cool. Ok, forget what I wrote, go ahead and spend another grand for the cool picture of you sitting on your drum kit. What most bands don’t realize is that a normal listener and even many musicians do not notice the difference between a studio and a digital recording. 99% can’t tell and will never know.

Lets make a little test, you can guess which songs is made with real drums and which one „fake“:

What would be a smart way to record a drum track?

The Setup:
I know this is hard for a “real artist” like you, but use an E-drum kit. Get a good used electronic drum kit, preferably a used Roland TD-12KV. This kit has every piece of a standard drum kit and it costs you 1500 bugs. All of its components, especially the hi-hat and snare provide the most realistic feel. I am not talking about using its sounds for recordings, that is something you want to avoid. You will connect this set via MIDI interface to a PC that controls a drum sample software called Superior Drummer 2.0. This plugin can be used in any recording software and by hitting your e-drum snare it samples a sound of a real snare, recorded in a real studio with gear you would never be able to afford on a drum kit worth more money than a new car.

You’ll also need to research the best audio interface available in your country, and get one if the budget allows. These can be an affordable way to record your music.

I hope you understand what that means. You’re siting basically in front of the best gear in the world, and as the components I recommended are some of the best, it will trick you into believing you actually play this kit. This software and the e-drum kit recognizes even the spot where you hit the snare. Don’t believe me? Watch this:

“But this is cheating!” No, it is not! You record a MIDI track while playing the e-drum kit, but that does not mean your timing issues or weak hits will be edited. They stay like they are if you insist on not to cheat.

The advantages:

  • Instruments like the snare can be changed afterwards
  • You simulate the room noise and mic blend which provides more options for the mixer
  • You can use the exact same kick drum sound of your favorite band by downloading it online
  • You save the sound engineers time for cleaning up and editing your drum track and setting up a real kit

There are many more advantages, but these are basically the main ones. The alternate is micing up your shitty kit, after applying new heads to it, stealing the time of the engineer and the money of your band mates.

The problem is the attitude and ignorance of many drummers towards these possibilities. They never tried it, or tried a cheap piece of crap e-drum kit before and base their judgement on this. Especially the older guys and Indi musicians, will not allow you to record in a smart way. People don’t trust this evil new technology and won’t even listen to you trying to explain. These are the experiences I made. Most musicians I met were delusional and really believed they will be the next big thing in music history. That made them think they deserved a proper studio and they will make the money back as soon as they are successful, because their song and themself are so incredible good.

sd.2 adBe smart when it comes to spending money on music and get rid of this ignorant attitude towards the great solutions of the digital age. If you don’t want to listen, stay arrogant and pay another grand for a song that rarely makes 1000 clicks on Soundcloud. Your decision!

Many musicians have discovered Producer Loops sample packs and are actively using them in their music production. With a wide variety of samples at prices that don’t even scratch the surface of the cost of a professional recording studio, it really is a no-brainer!

2 Replies to “Recording Advice for Bands”

  1. Hi,
    I personally do things the “new way”. I think it’s a great way as it gives the opportunity of producing good sounding music for much cheaper. If you’re not much exposed, as I do, it’s far enough and I totally agree on the fact that it’s not cheating at all.
    But there’s a downside. Everything sounds the same or better said, you have less choice of your sound. Another point is that some engineers used this system because of the convenience in editing. In other words, they change everything, from sounds to dynamics, timing etc. which means the end of expression. Although I love Vdrums and all the convenience thy bring, there’s not one way of doing things. New or old both are interesting and have their purpose.
    Btw, I love your site, keep on mate!

    • Thanks for your comment! Yes, you are right, it can sound the same if everyone uses the same sounds, but I think there is a huge variety of Expansion Packs for drum sample softwares out there. The sound engineer should of course not change the way it is played, you’re really loosing the dynamics because of that.
      I would always go for a real drum kit if the band is big enough and generates an actual income, but not for bands with 10 people in front of the stage. It is simply too expensive for them.

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