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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Checklist For Overdubs

I'm in the middle of writing a new book called "The Music Producer's Handbook." Chapter 14 is a series of checklists for various parts of production. Here's a checklist to use before you embark on the overdub portion of a project.

1) Do you have a list of overdub priorities? Do you know which overdubs absolutely must get done and which ones are less important? A list will keep you on track budget-wise and time-wise.

2) Can you record in the control room? Most players prefer to record in the control room because they like to hear what you’re hearing and they like the immediacy of the communication.

3) Are there too many people in the control room or studio? The fewer people, the fewer the distractions. It's best to keep all friends, associates, entourage and hangers-on out of the studio when you're working to keep the distractions to a minimum.

4) Did you move the vocal or instrument into the big part of the studio? All instruments sound best when there’s some space for the sound to develop, so move it to the big part of the studio for overdubs (after you've done any basic track fixes). You can cut down on any unwanted reflections from the room by place baffles around the mic and player.

5) When doubling, are you trying to do something a little different on each track? A different mic, mic preamp, room, singer, or distance from the mic will all help to make the sound bigger.

6) When doubling or adding more guitars, do you have a variety of instruments and amplifiers available? Two guitars (a Les Paul and a Strat, for instance) and two amplifiers (a Fender and a Marshall is the classic combination) combined with different pickup choices will allow a multitude of guitar tracks to more effectively live in the mix together.

7) Are you making it sound better, not just different? Changes aren't always for the better. Is there a big difference between what you just recorded and the original part? Does the new part make everyone in the studio go crazy in a good way?

8) Would it be better to try the part tomorrow? Is the player burned out? Does he show signs of failing concentration? You'd be surprised how much more you can accomplish when you're fresh.

9) Do you have the studio talkback mic on? Can you hear the musicians in the studio at all times between takes? If they're talking to you and you can't hear them, they'll feel isolated.

10) Do you have the control room talkback mic always on? Can the musicians hear you at all times in between takes? Periods of silence can be a mood killer.

11) Does the player want to play it again? If a player feels strongly about playing it over, he probably can do it better. Just be sure to keep the last recorded part before recording again.

If you follow this overdub checklist, I think you'll find that your sessions will run smoother and more efficiently, which should result in a better end product.

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