Recording Studio: It was the first of times, it was the worst of times!

Yamaha Rider

Platinum Member
I'm in my first band with some highly experienced gigging musicians - last week we went to a local recording studio to capture a couple of our original songs.
I had suggested the band record Scratch Tracks on my phone of us playing the songs before we went so I could have them in my headphones to play to while recording the drum track...
They laughed at me. "It'll just be a live take of us playing together, stop worrying"
We get set up in the studio and - it is NOT a 'live take of the band'.
The recording guy gets the guitarist/singer to record a Scratch Track, alone, no click, for me to play over.
I protest: "but I'M the time keeper!"
"Have a go", they all say.
I am then instructed to lay down a drum track to this, out of time, recording.
Multiple, miserable, takes later, of banging my head against a wall trying, and failing, to smooth out the time - I ask, exasperated, to record some live takes of me drumming with the band before we go.
It felt like breaking out of chains!
Those live takes were the only usable material we recorded all night.
I'm a newcomer to music - these guys have been playing all their lives...
What the actual ....?
 

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I'm in my first band with some highly experienced gigging musicians - last week we went to a local recording studio to capture a couple of our original songs.
I had suggested the band record Scratch Tracks on my phone of us playing the songs before we went so I could have them in my headphones to play to while recording the drum track...
They laughed at me. "It'll just be a live take of us playing together, stop worrying"
We get set up in the studio and - it is NOT a 'live take of the band'.
The recording guy gets the guitarist/singer to record a Scratch Track, alone, no click, for me to play over.
I protest: "but I'M the time keeper!"
"Have a go", they all say.
I am then instructed to lay down a drum track to this, out of time, recording.
Multiple, miserable, takes later, of banging my head against a wall trying, and failing, to smooth out the time - I ask, exasperated, to record some live takes of me drumming with the band before we go.
It felt like breaking out of chains!
Those live takes were the only usable material we recorded all night.
I'm a newcomer to music - these guys have been playing all their lives...
What the actual ....?
That sounds super frustrating but don't let it get you down. Use this as an opportunity to explain to the band. I've been on both extremes, I'm actually currently in two bands who operate on both ends of that: one band records everything to a click, quantizes, etc etc etc, seeking the most "perfect" final product... The other band is heavily inspired by 50s and 60s music, absolutely will not record anything to a click, and actually like when a recording "ebbs and flows" off time a bit.

One big piece of advice I can give is don't be afraid to simplify your drum parts a bit. You can embellish as much as you want live but for a recording you want to get in and get the job done efficiently and effectively.

Cool set up by the way!
 
That sounds super frustrating but don't let it get you down. Use this as an opportunity to explain to the band. I've been on both extremes, I'm actually currently in two bands who operate on both ends of that: one band records everything to a click, quantizes, etc etc etc, seeking the most "perfect" final product... The other band is heavily inspired by 50s and 60s music, absolutely will not record anything to a click, and actually like when a recording "ebbs and flows" off time a bit.

One big piece of advice I can give is don't be afraid to simplify your drum parts a bit. You can embellish as much as you want live but for a recording you want to get in and get the job done efficiently and effectively.

Cool set up by the way!
Thankyou, Ron.
I'm very much a 'less is more' type of groove drummer - so I value my timing even more. Pride myself on it, even. Hence my frustration!
Glad you mentioned the click - because it absolutely would not have worked on one of these songs anyway - it slows down in the choruses. I also hate the idea.
What I was desperate to do was play over a Scratch Track with my own drums already on the song - it would have been SO simple to achieve!
When I suggested it - the sound man looked puzzled said "no, it might muddy the drum sound"
How could it muddy the sound when it's only in my headphones???
I think he must have misunderstood my meaning.
 
You aren't insane for wanting a track some sort to play to........unless you are literally playing a written chart to a click etc.

Artists provide me with at least a scratch track they have recorded to some type of click unless they have impeccable feel and time. Either way, I am playing music not "drums" when I record and therefore I play with their tracks so I can add my part in a musical way with dynamics etc. The basic bare minimum for the scratch tracks is they need to either be locked in from a time perspective or purposely with the push/pull they desire for the finished track if it is loose and "breaths".....

Sounds like you guys just need a solid game plan when you go into the studio to maximize your time in the studio. Learning opportunity, pick out the good things and come up with a plan to navigate the not so good things that happened.......
 
You guys need a better recording guy "Recording Engineer". The situation you explained is all the fault of the recording guy.

.

I agree with this.

You are paying for the time, if the "engineer" thinks a drummer is going to walk in and just bang out a 3-4min tune from memory playing to nothing but a click then I think he is dealing with some unusual people playing some really dull ass music.....lol

Not to mention, as the customer, if you say "I want a scratch track in my monitor to play to" it goes without saying that every effort should be made to ensure that scratch track is in time and what you want to make you comfortable. It's your time and money.
 
I always record drums to some sort of scratch track, which was recorded to a click. If the music really requires tempo shifts (IMO not usually) those get programmed into what Pro Tools calls the Conductor Track.

I've never recorded a scratch track of two guys with no click. That makes absolutely no sense.

I know Dave Weckl will request that tracks sent to him be conformed to the grid so he's able to play his best while listening to the music itself. So I've also done this to scratch tracks on past sessions, and it does result in better takes going forward. You can always go back and get better versions of the instruments in the scratch tracks after you have a killer drum track.

But if you're trying to do work in a studio situation, you either need to be at a facility that can handle tracking a whole band simultaneously, which is rare, or you have to be able to groove with the click. Ideally, both.
 
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I've never recorded a scratch track of two guys with no click. That makes absolutely no sense.
This x 100!! I’ve never recorded like you were asked and expected to! If the guys don’t want to play to a click, tell them you’d like to track the drums first with the guitarist playing along in your cans (if it helps)? Sorry you didn’t enjoy it mate…hopefully lessons were learned for next time! :) (y)
 
@Yamaha Rider

Something I've done that may be helpful: if you are definitely not recording to a click (hell, even if you are recording to a click) then either have whatever the main rhythm melodic instrument is (usually guitar, in one of my bands it's keys) record a scratch track first or record a scratch track with you while you are recording your "keeper" takes.

I'm my band that always uses a click, it's guitar driven. The guitar player records his own scratch track to a click then I play to the click and the guitar while I record and he goes as far as to be there during the session to help "conduct" the changes. In my band that never uses a click, it's keys driven. I always record my keeper takes with the keyboard player also playing along for what becomes the scratch melody track everyone else follows. This way even it it pushes and pulls the time a bit at least the entire band will be doing it together.

In the situation you were in it really sounds like y'all should have just done a full band live take. You would have played each song once or twice, been pretty damn close, and could have easily punched in whatever you needed after.
Studio time is not cheap. These dudes set you up for failure. Not only are you now disheartened and frustrated but you also wasted a bunch of money and time.
 
Your band mates failed by not communicating what they wanted/expected from the engineer.
The engineer failed by not communicating with your band to as to what you guys expected from him.
Amateur hour. Both parties huge fail.
And YOU failed. Yup. It is your life and time is ticking. What have you done to educate yourself on how the recording process works? Are you expecting to have your band mates and some random engineer educate you? You were playing original tunes and didn't expect you'd be doing some recording at some point? You are on the internet. The resources are huge and mostly free. There are drummers on this board who have drummed on records that sold millions. Did you make a thread on what to expect, practice, ask or do before you went in the studio?
I'm not busting on you. I'm simply pointing out that you can take this as a chance to examine what you want and ask yourself if it worth doing the work to get there. My experience in life is most people just get by at what they do. Kind of a Peter principal thing. They are not competent to the level you might think. Your band mates and engineer probably don't know what you think they do. The one person you can rely on is you. That doesn't mean you have to know everything.
On the live takes at the end of your session: Yeah... that is usually the most logical starting point for a band with an inexperienced... or often any drummer. If there is a problem with isolation DI the guitar and bass. Keep the drum tracks, rerecord the guitar and bass later or reamp the DI tracks. Very basic stuff. But I'm armchair quarterbacking on that...
 
so i have been in all of these situations in the the studio

90% of the time, it is me, bass and guitars laying rhythm bed all at once; the idea is that the yare "scratch" tracks, but we usually end up keeping most of the takes a legit rhythm bed stuff

5% of the time, it is me playing along to pre-laid scratch tracks, and these usually have a click

5% of the time, it is me playing off of a written chart or phrase sheet with either scratch tracks, or nothing

there was one project I did where I laid all of the drum tracks by themsleves with the song just in my head. I also happened to play bass on this project, so that helped. That was, by far, the easiest project I ever did as far as gettign things tight. The guit player in that group was a machine as far as timing, and playing parts exactly the same way every time, so when he did his stuff, I knew it was going to be exact
 
Your band mates failed by not communicating what they wanted/expected from the engineer.
The engineer failed by not communicating with your band to as to what you guys expected from him.
Amateur hour. Both parties huge fail.
And YOU failed. Yup. It is your life and time is ticking. What have you done to educate yourself on how the recording process works? Are you expecting to have your band mates and some random engineer educate you? You were playing original tunes and didn't expect you'd be doing some recording at some point? You are on the internet. The resources are huge and mostly free. There are drummers on this board who have drummed on records that sold millions. Did you make a thread on what to expect, practice, ask or do before you went in the studio?
I'm not busting on you. I'm simply pointing out that you can take this as a chance to examine what you want and ask yourself if it worth doing the work to get there. My experience in life is most people just get by at what they do. Kind of a Peter principal thing. They are not competent to the level you might think. Your band mates and engineer probably don't know what you think they do. The one person you can rely on is you. That doesn't mean you have to know everything.
On the live takes at the end of your session: Yeah... that is usually the most logical starting point for a band with an inexperienced... or often any drummer. If there is a problem with isolation DI the guitar and bass. Keep the drum tracks, rerecord the guitar and bass later or reamp the DI tracks. Very basic stuff. But I'm armchair quarterbacking on that...
Haha. I plead not guilty - it was absolutely apparent to me that the only way to record drums was for me to play along to a guide track that had my drums on it.
I tried repeatedly to explain this and no-one took me seriously.
It was me who salvaged the session with the live take too. To be fair, the band leader/guitarist acknowledged that after reviewing the recordings.
But how could it not be obvious from the outset that the drums keep the time, not the guitar?!!
 
so i have been in all of these situations in the the studio

90% of the time, it is me, bass and guitars laying rhythm bed all at once; the idea is that the yare "scratch" tracks, but we usually end up keeping most of the takes a legit rhythm bed stuff

5% of the time, it is me playing along to pre-laid scratch tracks, and these usually have a click

5% of the time, it is me playing off of a written chart or phrase sheet with either scratch tracks, or nothing

there was one project I did where I laid all of the drum tracks by themsleves with the song just in my head. I also happened to play bass on this project, so that helped. That was, by far, the easiest project I ever did as far as gettign things tight. The guit player in that group was a machine as far as timing, and playing parts exactly the same way every time, so when he did his stuff, I knew it was going to be exact
Great reply, and very reassuring, thanks!
I should point out that the band's timing is really, really good when we play together. The guitarist is superb and has great time - but guitarist time is not drummer time!
They are great musicians and we synchronise like crazy. (imo)
It was just that 'cart before the horse' recording technique!
 
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Being "highly experienced gigging musicians" one would have hoped you might have been spared the frustration of those miserable takes. I concur that WHOEVER was running the session damaged the morale and budget, both, of the endeavor.

Don't let your respect for your colleagues and your desire to be a team player keep you quiet, particularly as YOU saved the session.
 
Great reply, and very reassuring, thanks!
I should point out that the band's timing is really, really good when we play together. The guitarist is superb and has great time - but guitarist time is not drummer time!
They are great musicians and we synchronise like crazy. (imo)
It was just that 'cart before the horse' recording technique!
As to any comments to the contrary - from what you've written I think you have an excellent handle on this. Getting that there is more than f one way to accomplish what your band was trying to accomplish - and the method chose was probably the worst possible choice (not even on the list of workable approaches).

Actually your play-along to a scratch rehearsal recording is a ingenious approach to dealing with a studio that can't accommodate getting multiple players playing scratch parts with you live and without saddling ourselves with a click (and possibly needing to record the drum part solo against the click - which only rarely feels good IMO).

Sorry you had a rough time - but Good Job!
 
Alarm bells were ringing when I heard no click track. Fighting a losing battle there!

I've been recording today and it's been the total opposite. Our singer has a really nice home studio. I went down Saturday afternoon to setup and get drum sounds.

Arrived today and we got bass and drum tracks nailed to a click with guide guitar and vox. They're gonna do their bits in the week. Only website demos for the wedding band but we got 9 tracks done in 4 hours.
 
Alarm bells were ringing when I heard no click track. Fighting a losing battle there!

I've been recording today and it's been the total opposite. Our singer has a really nice home studio. I went down Saturday afternoon to setup and get drum sounds.

Arrived today and we got bass and drum tracks nailed to a click with guide guitar and vox. They're gonna do their bits in the week. Only website demos for the wedding band but we got 9 tracks done in 4 hours.

They key element in what you said above is that you guys had a plan and executed it. I think that is half the battle for a lot of folks.
 
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