Lessons Learned From My Band's Latest EP

2013 Apr 04, 2013

So just this week my band released our most recent EP entitled Lower. It’s a simple 5 song album that was tracked, mixed, and mastered in my own project studio. I thought today I would not only share it with you, but highlight a few lessons (good and bad) that I learned from this specific project.

Less Is More

I would say the biggest lesson that was re-enforced on this project was that less is more in the recording phase. I think I did this well when it came to guitars. During the tracking process I kept stripping away guitar parts until we were left with the absolute foundational parts. This made the songs easier to mix and they sounded bigger in the long run. Go figure.
On the flip side, I didn’t apply this lesson well with drums. I only used 8 microphones on the drums, but honestly it was a few too many. I recorded top and bottom snare, inside and outside kick, two toms, and a pair of overheads. In the mix I ended up deleting the bottom snare mic on every song and panning the overheads in super narrow. In the future I would probably drop to a mono overhead, one snare mic, and maybe even one kick drum mic.

Percussion Is Your Friend

I am convinced that just about every song could use some element of percussion in addition to the drum kit, at some point in the track. In fact so many songs I go back and listen to have shaker or tambourine in them, but I could have sworn to you that it wasn’t the case. Over the years I’ve become sold on the power of a simple tambourine loop so I finally went out and bought one for the studio. An actual tambourine that is.

On past albums for myself (and clients) I’ve simply brought in a tambourine loop from my loop collection where needed, time stretched it, and called it a day. This time I bought the darn thing, had by drummer rock out with it, and just like that we had instant energy and texture to make the mixes engaging where they needed to be. The same is true for shakers. Grab a salt shaker from your kitchen and mic that puppy up. It really works!

Deadlines Really Work

A major non-audio related lesson that was proved true yet again on this project was that deadlines not only work, but they are your tool to creating great art. We started tracking drums late last fall with the hopes that the whole EP would be recorded by Christmas. It’s only 5 songs for goodness sake. Turns out people’s schedules (and work) got in the way. I’m sure you can relate.

As the new year rolled in I knew I had to set a few deadlines if we wanted to actually finish this thing. I gave us till the end of January to record everything. Guess what? We somehow made it happen. Then I gave myself till the end of February to have it all mixed and mastered. Guess what? I got it done.

In the back of my mind I thought it would be awesome to release the whole thing on March 31st (which was Easter and my 30th birthday), so I coordinated with our artwork designer and the duplication house and scrambled to get it all in on time. You know what happened by now, don’t you? We got it all done and released the EP both digitally and physically on March 31st. Exactly on time! The power of a looming deadline should not be underestimated my friends.

What We Used On This EP

Everything on this EP was tracked in one room in my project studio, starting with drums and then overdubbing from there. The only exception is Let Us Plead For Faith Alone, which started out with a live guitar and vocal recording and then we layered from there.

For drums we used a pair of Rode NT1as for overheads, Shure Beta 52 inside the kick, a Kel HM7U outside the kick drum, Kel HM1 and HM2d on the toms, and a Shure SM57 on the snare top. Bass was tracked direct with a SansAmp Bass Driver (which is pretty cool), guitars amps were miked up with a Kel HM2d and sometimes with an SM57. The acoustic guitar was miked with a Kel HM1. Vocals were recorded with a Rode NT1a. Anything else you hear was a virtual instrument with stock stuff from Pro Tools.

We used a PreSonus Eureka and my Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 for preamps/converters and tracked it all to Pro Tools 10. Once it was all in the box, it stayed there. This EP was mixed and mastered with some of my trusty plugins from Avid, Waves, Slate Digital, and Ozone. In fact if you watched last month’s 5 Minutes To A Better Mix then you saw a lot of what plugins I used to bring these mixes together.

Take A Listen

So, how does it sound? You can decide for yourself. I think it came out pretty darn well. I still have a handful of things I’d do differently, but that’s not unusual. Please take a listen, and if you feel so inclined, download your own copy. Thanks in advance!

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