Bed Tracks are the most important thing in a recording. The analogy of building a house is often used when talking about recording music. If you have a solid foundation, a house will never fall over. The basic idea is that if your bed tracks are great! (in time, tune and groovin!) then if you add stuff (overdubs) and it starts to get messy, you can always strip it down to the original band playing in a room.
When I record I tend to get the band in a room playing together. Some people like to separate everything and worry about leakage, etc. I prefer the honest approach. You wrote the songs right? You play live right? You play as a band live right? Well then you should be able to record as a band in the studio right?
Generally I shoot for having Drums, Bass, Rhythm guitars and a vocal going, depending on the situation I will have leads in if its an integral part of the song, ie… a lead solo, etc. If not I will usually track the band as a rhythm unit, focusing primarily on drums and bass. Once the band is cooking and we have good beds then is the time to start delving into lead guitar, vocals, harmony’s and all the other crazy overdubs that have been cooked up.
Keys to recording good bed tracks.
1 – Punching In – punch in’s are great for overdubs, vocals, leads etc. But I prefer to have the band play the song thru! Generally people tend to compromise when doing beds, its a lot easier to go in a re-record the song, than to “pro tools it” Think of it this way, you can go in and re record and take 3 more mins, or I can pro tools it and take a few hours. What would you choose?
2 – In Tune and on Time! – Make sure your instruments are in tune. Even after 3 or 4 takes things can start getting a little off. Always keep the big picture in mind, if there is a tuning issue in the beds, its going to follow you along all the way to the end of the song.
3 – In Time – Playing to a click. (i hear the groans of drummers every where). Its a great idea to learn how to play to a click ( this doesn’t just go for you drummers, everybody should learn how). Unless the song has time change and tempo changes, starting off with a click is always a good idea. It makes everything a lot easier. If it’s your first time in the studio and you have never used a click, it can be super aggravating, so remember to keep it simple, and if you can’t get it, you can always scrap it. If you decide to not use a click for whatever reason always always count it in! even if the song doesn’t start with drums, if its a guitar picking interlude it still should be counted in. The reason is overdubs. For ex…you do the picking part and then the band comes in and nails it . afterwards you realize that the tempo of the picking part is a little off. What do you do? re track the picking part. Where do you start? if there is no count in? and no click? 🙂