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Five Top Factors to Achieve or Avoid when recording overdubs at home

Five Top Factors to Achieve or Avoid when recording overdubs at home

singing with headphones

The pandemic has accelerated the desire for musicians and others to record at home. Unfortunately, it's going to be difficult to replace the feeling of rehearsing or playing with bandmates when everyone is in the same room. What many people don't understand is how to get a song recorded when you're overdubbing drums, bass, guitar and vocals from different locations. There are so many factors beyond just getting a good sound from a microphone it's hard to know where to start. Even if you're not a musician, it could be interesting for you to understand the mechanics of how some recordings are made. Here are my top factors to achieve or avoid when building tracks in this way.

1]  Tempo... most important and makes or break vocalists ability to sing in tune.  Make sure the singer sets the tempo (and key if possible).  Tempos change over time, too.  Even daily, meaning what works one day may not work out in a month.  Nerves affect everything.  Lay down click track and make sure to have 4 bar count off... go long at end.  If you have a drum machine track with enough groove, you can use that instead of a click... make sure to add count off.

2] Outline of chord structure.  Total pain to change later, so make sure you're solid on that and when/if solos come in.  Lay down basic chord structure with guitar or keys... doesn't have to be final track, but enough that the singer can lay a scratch vocal.

3] Add scratch vocal so rest of the instruments have something to play to.  Never erase the scratch vocal because you might use it in the final.  Make sure to check that the singer has left the right number of bars for intro, solos, etc.  Don't let someone else check this.  Producer should check it and be diligent that it's correct

4] Microphones....  don't stress too much about sound quality, but best to use something simple that the overdubs can be done with a SM57 or 58 or so.  Those mics require close mic position and eliminate the room issues.  Room issues will negate any great mic, so go cheap and close.

5] Headphones...  Hardest part to judge... remind everyone that click bleed in the headphone can be a problem.  Also, dynamics are determined by how loud someone hears themselves in the headphones.  It's hard, but try to be conscious of the vibe you want to portray.  Remember, you can redo vocals or any instruments if it's not working.

There are plenty more.. feel free to add in the comments below.

Cookie Marenco
Founder and Producer
Blue Coast Records and Music
OTR Studios