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The Sonic Excellence Guide for Rappers Part I: Recording

February 16, 2012

Listen, it’s completely okay for MCs to not know (or care) too much about the technical aspects of creating a record (if you’re one of those DIY rappers who loves to be involved with all stages of recording, mixing and mastering, this is not for you – you might find yourself more at home arguing about tube gear and how many limiters you use on your mixes on a message board).

This help guide was written for the MC who may be starting a project soon, who is about to spend some good money on Recording, Mixing and then Mastering a project, who expects the final product to be something professional, and someone who could use some tips to hopefully avoid spending more time and money going back to re-do something that could have been done right in the first place.

You’re probably neck deep in working with other Music Industry people trying to push your record, and none of these people will discuss the importance of sonic quality for your record because for the most part, the Music Industry doesn’t put that much thought into it (why that is could easily be a separate article).  Parts II and III will deal with Mixing and Mastering, but for now, I want to start with the fundamental, most important part of the process of bringing your creations to life…

Recording

This is where your ideas become tangible. You want to have options for shaping your ideas at a later time, so for now the most important thing to focus on is to make sure your vocals and music are recorded optimally.

Do…

  • Record in a studio that is welcoming and conducive to your ideas; if you plan on recording at an hourly-rate studio, make sure you know your lines before going there to record, but if you can book a studio for a flat rate (for a whole day or chunk of the day), you will be more relaxed and will sound more natural. Remember that having more takes than necessary is better than not having enough takes later on during mixing.
  • Try different microphones for your voice. The better recording studios will have a good collection of microphones and preamps; they will also have experienced recording engineers who will try a different mic and pre combo for recording your vocals. If you’re paying good money for a studio with a fancy lounge and lava lamp but the recording engineer sets you up with an SM58 and then just sets the gain on your vocal levels, you’re not getting your money’s worth; have them try a different combination, especially if upon playback you’re not happy with the sound of your voice.
  • Record to multi-tracked instrumentals. If you’re buying tracks from producers, ask for multi-tracked instrumentals because your voice is also an instrument. At mixing, all of the elements of the track (including your voice) will be placed in the spectrum depending on their sonic relationship to each other. A lot of “producers” think they know how their tracks should be mixed, so they may feel they don’t want someone else touching their “mixes”. These guys are missing the point that sometimes, you have to tweak the sonic character of individual instruments to fit the vocals in the mix as good as possible.

Don’t…

  • Bring distractions with you to the studio. If you wrote a certain song by yourself, and then the best way you’ve kicked it so far was when you were by yourself sitting in traffic, then you’re likely better off going to the studio solo; don’t bring friends or anyone who is likely going to distract you from kicking your verses as good as you want them to come off (especially if you’re paying an hourly rate and whoever you brought with you isn’t pitching in).
  • Record at a studio that distorts your recordings. The recording engineer should know not to do this, but you’d be surprised how many of these cats don’t care to avoid doing it. Don’t be afraid to tell them to make sure your recordings don’t clip. Even if this same studio will be mixing your songs afterwards, they need to capture everything (if you’re recording at a studio that records on a digital format, let’s play it safe and say you don’t want to see any red lights on the recording track meters while you’re there; going “over” in digital pretty much means you’re losing sonic information). If they’re going “over” on your tracks while tracking, they’re losing some of your audio and not giving you all the recording you’re paying them to capture (that’s how I see it anyway).
  • Use MP3s for instrumentals (see “do” #3 above). If I ruled the world, MP3s would only see the light of day after they were made from the 24bit masters (after the Recording, Mixing and Mastering stages), for the sole purpose of streaming online.

Stay tuned for Part II: Mixing

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 24, 2012 4:12 pm

    good one !

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