How is Rock music recorded?

#1
Maybe some of you musicians or aficionados can help out here.

I've seen various "making of (insert band here) album" documentaries over the years, and it seems that there's a couple of answers:

1- The whole band is performing at the same time in the same studio and a "live" take, mixed and/or edited (and extra instrument tracks, as necessary, are added later), is used for the album cut. It seems that all early Beatles, for instance, was done this way. The Pearl Jam documentary for "Yield" suggests that this was done for that album, and "Rattle & Hum" shows that the song "Desire" was recorded this way.

2- The entire band plays the basic track as a "live" cut, but the bandmembers are in different individual studios (not necessarily one for each) in the same building.

3- Different parts of the band lay down tracks separately, but possibly with two or more being played at the same time. For instance, drums and bass are recorded together, or maybe ALL the instruments together, and vocals are added later.

4- The instruments and vocals are all recorded separately. The documentary for U2's "The Unforgettable Fire" shows an example of this. Another example is something I read about the, ahem, "band" Power Station from the 80's, where not only were none of the instrument or vocal tracks recorded together, none of the "band members" ever even SAW each other during recording and the tracks were laid down in different studios in different countries.

I don't know if there's anything that is considered "typical" of recorded rock music, anyone care to comment?
 

BCH

Doesn't need your acknowledgement on Twitter
Wackbag Staff
Jun 9, 2005
9,519
235
513
New York
#2
The sequence usually goes as follows:

Drums First. Often, other instruments will play at the same time in other rooms to help give the drum track that live feeling but these are either not recorded or they are recorded just in case but usually discarded after.

Typically, each drum microphone is recorded to it's own track to allow for fine panning/mixing in post.

Kick/Kicks, snare, tom, tom, tom, tom, hats, overheads. so like 8 tracks on drums.

Bass Next: Plays to the Drum tracks and perhaps the throw away guitar tracks from before.

Usually recorded onto 1 track and panned Dead Center. Sometimes doubled to make a fatter sound.

Backing/Rythm Guitars up to several tracks of backing guitar are recorded with varying sounds to thicken the effect.

Piano/Keys

Guitar Leads

Vocals

A live recording of the whole band is sometimes done to keep things "organic" but usually not in the same room as bleed-through makes mixing harder later. Efforts can be taken to minimize this if you have only one room.

My experience is with a 24 track 2" studio as it's been a while since I've recorded but the basics should be the same.

Edit: We did use Rack-mount rock-mans once into my Cans and recorded Drums that way with the other guys in the same room with me and guitar pre-amps are much more prevalant these days so an all in one room recording could be done in this manner I suppose to keep bleed through from being a factor. You'd still go in and record many more guitar tracks though with Mics and Amps...
 

mikeybot

SPANAKOPITA!!!
Jul 25, 2005
19,221
3,550
623
philly
#4
And when you don't have a lot of money, you wing it.
Or in our case, DI everything into a computer. Which works for us as the only thing that needs to be 100% live for us is guitar, bass, vocals and some keys.
Yes, we use backing tracks for some stuff.
 
#5
BCH, thanks for your post. I assumed it was something along those lines. Expectations for production values being as high as they generally are these days, it seemed unlikely that there would be many "live takes" making it as the album track. In some older songs, the only one that comes to mind is a Hendrix song I can't quite think of right now, you can hear the snare drum vibrating to the bass line (or possibly Hendrix' lead). Seems like that would be one reason why you'd want to record the drum tracks separately, at the very least.

Something else I've wondered about. Sometimes in live performances (and in studio setups) you see a guitar or bass cabinet with a mike mounted facing the driver. I'm guessing that this is because the artist prefers the sound the driver/cabinet combination makes to the signal that is fed to the driver from the preamp/amp/effects/etc. Would this be done to create a "live" sound (in studio) that is more pleasing than tapping the signal off of the amp? Surely it's a relatively low-fi solution to getting that sound recorded and is done for a reason. Or is it that there's no easy way to get the processed sound onto tape short of miking the cabinet?

Please forgive me for inevitably using terms that no musician or producer would use to get my point across. :)
 

BCH

Doesn't need your acknowledgement on Twitter
Wackbag Staff
Jun 9, 2005
9,519
235
513
New York
#6
BCH, thanks for your post. I assumed it was something along those lines. Expectations for production values being as high as they generally are these days, it seemed unlikely that there would be many "live takes" making it as the album track. In some older songs, the only one that comes to mind is a Hendrix song I can't quite think of right now, you can hear the snare drum vibrating to the bass line (or possibly Hendrix' lead). Seems like that would be one reason why you'd want to record the drum tracks separately, at the very least.

Something else I've wondered about. Sometimes in live performances (and in studio setups) you see a guitar or bass cabinet with a mike mounted facing the driver. I'm guessing that this is because the artist prefers the sound the driver/cabinet combination makes to the signal that is fed to the driver from the preamp/amp/effects/etc. Would this be done to create a "live" sound (in studio) that is more pleasing than tapping the signal off of the amp? Surely it's a relatively low-fi solution to getting that sound recorded and is done for a reason. Or is it that there's no easy way to get the processed sound onto tape short of miking the cabinet?

Please forgive me for inevitably using terms that no musician or producer would use to get my point across. :)

The tubes and speakers are part and parcel of the guitar sound. These guys don't spend money on Celestian filled Marshall 4X12s or some Mesa Boogie combo to go solid state into the board.
 

Zeroman

The Man with Zero
Oct 7, 2006
328
0
266
Port St. Lucie, FL
#7
The sequence usually goes as follows:

thats exactly how my band and i record....i had them both playing along when they recorded my drums....and we did record and use their tracks. the guitar was scratch track that we doubled then threw the overdubs in

check the music out yourself if you wanna know how it went:

http://www.myspace.com/floridaearthdog
 

tourettesguy

Certified Labia Inspector
Oct 4, 2005
965
0
0
Akron, OH
#8
I have no real idea how music is actually recorded, but I will say that I LOVE the spontaneous sound of a band playing live. Mistakes in rock music, to me, are a virtue. All my favorite albums are loaded with mistakes that just make the music feel raw. Whether they were recorded with the band in the studio all together, I have no idea. I just love the mess-ups, such as the squeals and wrong notes played.

Green Day- Dookie and Insomniac
Weezer- Pinkerton
Korn- First two albums
Jimi Hendrix- Are You Experienced?
The Cure- Self-Titled (2004)
Nirvana- In Utero
Bush-2nd album

I could on and on....

(A notable album with many "mistakes" is Metallica's St. Anger. Yes, they sound like mistakes, however they were carefully placed in there during the 2-year long recording session, which made the entire album feel manufactured, it sucks. So this thing I'm talking about can't really be faked.)
 

hybriddriver

she is ice cream
Feb 20, 2006
927
2
273
PA
#9
The sequence usually goes as follows:

Drums First. Often, other instruments will play at the same time in other rooms to help give the drum track that live feeling but these are either not recorded or they are recorded just in case but usually discarded after.

Typically, each drum microphone is recorded to it's own track to allow for fine panning/mixing in post.

Kick/Kicks, snare, tom, tom, tom, tom, hats, overheads. so like 8 tracks on drums.

Bass Next: Plays to the Drum tracks and perhaps the throw away guitar tracks from before.

Usually recorded onto 1 track and panned Dead Center. Sometimes doubled to make a fatter sound.

Backing/Rythm Guitars up to several tracks of backing guitar are recorded with varying sounds to thicken the effect.

Piano/Keys

Guitar Leads

Vocals

A live recording of the whole band is sometimes done to keep things "organic" but usually not in the same room as bleed-through makes mixing harder later. Efforts can be taken to minimize this if you have only one room.

My experience is with a 24 track 2" studio as it's been a while since I've recorded but the basics should be the same.

Edit: We did use Rack-mount rock-mans once into my Cans and recorded Drums that way with the other guys in the same room with me and guitar pre-amps are much more prevalant these days so an all in one room recording could be done in this manner I suppose to keep bleed through from being a factor. You'd still go in and record many more guitar tracks though with Mics and Amps...
to this i would add scratch vocals before adding the guitars.

other than that, that's exactly the way i do it, unless the artist insists on something else
 

jimmyslostchin

Malarkey is slang for bullshit isn't it?
Jun 8, 2005
2,332
50
313
NJ
#10
It seems like the more you read about bands out there, especially the famous ones, there are as many different methods of recording as there are bands. The basic principles all seem the same as they were 10 years ago when I was still playing in bands and recording.