Tried and true
Studio albums typically begin with pre-production: meetings to iron out workflow, a demo session if necessary, visits to rehearsals. Once recording begins, the goal is to track as many instruments as we can live in the room. We like to establish this energetic feel while maintaining isolation between the instruments, with musicians using headphones as monitors. You'll punch in fixes to these initial tracks and overdub whatever you can't play live. The studio process offers flexibility to experiment with various effects; you can track with reverb, delay, or other interesting sounds.
DO IT LIVE
Live-in-studio sessions are carefully dialed-in shows in front of a small audience. Musicians can feed off of the energy in the room and be confident that the performance is being captured accurately. We'll spend most of the day setting up, getting tones, and recording backup takes. Then we let the crowd in, you play the show, and we record the whole thing. There is less isolation than a conventional studio recording, so we focus on the sound of the ensemble as a whole in the mix, rather than making each instrument perfectly prominent.
Tape vs. Digital
At Survivor Sound, we prefer to track drums and bass to tape. Magnetic tape provides a particular punch and warmth that is almost impossible to emulate digitally. Certain genres, however, like jazz and classical, are best served by the accuracy and low-noise characteristics of digital recording.
While analog takes a bit more time than the modern digital process most people have become accustomed to, working on tape is natural and streamlined; it allows the freedom to stop worrying about endless details and focus on the way the composition sounds as a whole. This tends to pay off in intangible creative ways, and often leads to more satisfactory performances.
Tracking basics with The Tet Holiday at Santo Studio in Oakland — nice big room, great drum tones.
Live show recording with post-rock outfit Unconditional Arms. Always nice to have an audience.