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The Process Of Recording - From A To Z

May 29, 2008
You may think that we are only going to be learning about recording instruments and vocals, with the results immediately going on to disc. Of course, it is a more complicated process than that. There is a lot of work done behind the scenes which goes into getting the finished product to sound exactly as desired. These steps are postproduction, mastering and engineering the recording.

After recording is complete, the next step is pre-mixing. In this process, the sounds of the instruments are normalized so that the recording engineer can determine the peaks and valleys of the various tracks. This process can be performed automatically using a normalizer (which does the work of averaging out the peaks for each instrument). If you want to customize your normalization, you can find formulas for working with the normalization tool you are using to build your own peaks and valleys.

During this part of the production process, there is the chance to enhance the sound of individual tracks. Extra sounds can be added at this stage, as can effects upon the tracks which have already been recorded. The engineer can add life to dampened studio recorded sound at this stage.

Next is the mixing stage. The engineer will at this point be looking at each instrument individually to optimize their sound. The first step here is to create envelopes for each sound - these are the peaks and valleys of each instruments sound. Effects will usually be added at this stage, as will compression if normalization of individual instruments is desired. The object here is to ensure that each part is even and sounds great on its own.

With this done, it is time for pre-mastering, which involves working with the arrangement of the recording as a whole. The equalization should be balanced out at this point. Not only the EQ, but volume control should be adjusted at this time.

Pre-mastering will include the use of industry standards for recordings along with engineer or producer's preferences for the recording. There is a lot of software in use in the recording industry which includes analytic functions for the comparison of high to low frequencies for the purpose of getting the optimal mix. Keep in mind this one principle when it comes to pre-mastering: you want to get the recording as a whole sounding as good as possible before mastering.

The last step is mastering. You will now take all of the songs slated for the CD and make sure that their volume is in balance with each other. Check all the levels of each track and compare them against each other - check both volume and equalization. It is a good idea to test out recordings on different CD players to this end. Unless you have a specific plan for the mastering involving unconventional volume levels for your tracks, your songs should be normalized at industry standard volume levels.

Now that you know a bit about the steps along the way from turning your recorded sounds into a finished CD, you will be better able to control the process as it goes along, meaning you will end up with a better sounding recording for your finished product.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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