Obviously, we get a lot of questions about what we do. Here are some of the
most common. If you've got a question that we haven't covered here, please
How much does it cost to make a record?
What are some of the time and cost factors involved
in a recording session?
How long does it take to have a project duplicated?
Why is acoustic treatment so important?
Why should I have my project professionally mastered?
Q. How much does it cost to make a record?
The most accurate answer we've heard is "How much does it cost to
buy a car?" There is no easy answer. It is impossible to predict with
any degree of accuracy how much a given product will cost, because there
are so many factors, all of which heavily affect the final price tag. Consider
the following scenarios:
- A band with several members able to record several tracks at once will
move through a project more quickly than a single musician who has to
perform each track his or herself.
- A well-rehearsed band able to capture a performance in only a few takes
will require much less time than a band that may require numerous takes
or editing to get the perfect performance.
- Bands recording sparse arrangements of perhaps only voice and piano
or guitar will be having their release party by the time you've finished
orchestrating your 100 track, 35 minute opus.
- A mix may be blitzed through in a couple of hours, or finessed over
a couple of days.
The most crucial stage of an album project, both with respect to keeping
costs down and to guaranteeing the highest quality of performance, is pre-production.
That is, the time spent in rehearsal and planning before entering the studio,
so that when the clock is ticking and the tape is rolling, all performers
know exactly what they need to play. This results in an efficient and streamlined
process that moves as quickly, and thus as inexpensively as possible. (back
Q. What are some of the time and cost factors
involved in a recording session?
A typical scenario we face is a client wanting to come in and record a
couple of songs, usually with minimal accompaniment (i.e. their trusty acoustic
guitar), and they ask if they can book one hour of time. There is an understandable
misconception that if a song takes three minutes to play, then it takes
three minutes to record. While this is technically true, it's certainly
not always practical. There is a significant amount of work to be done both
before and after the tape rolls, and clients aren't always immediately aware
of how significantly this work contributes to a quality recording.
Most often, to approach a session in this rushed fashion defeats the purpose
of coming into the recording studio. It takes time to capture the perfect
sounds to compliment the material, and there are a variety of elements in
a session that may not be immediately apparent to an artist looking to be
out the door, CD in hand, before their hour's up.
A session first starts with the load-in. This is where the artist brings
in and sets up their equipment. Obviously, if an artist is coming in with
just an acoustic guitar, load-in takes just a few moments. However, for
a full band (and especially drummers), this can take a fair amount of time.
Next is the set-up, where the Engineer starts placing microphones, experimenting
with models and positioning to best capture the individual instruments to
the recording medium. The time required will of course depend on the size
of the band and complexity of the instrumentation. Still, even our hypothetical
solo acoustic guitarist would benefit from taking the time to compare some
of our select microphones and different miking strategies. That time will
allow us to find the combination that will best compliment the sound of
the instrument and voice.
Finally, after the perfect marriage of microphone and instrument, recording
can begin. This process can be divided into two sections: bed and scratch
tracks, and overdubs. Bed tracks are the "foundation" of a song, and will
typically focus on the rhythm section (for instance, bass and drums). Scratch
tracks are tracks that are recorded with the intent of being replaced later.
For instance, a singer may lay down a "scratch vocal" to guide the rest
of the band through structure of a song, with the intent of re-recording
The overdubbing process occurs next, which serves three purposes. First
of all, it allows individual musicians to focus on their individual performances.
Players will often record several takes to get the best one, or alternative
to select the best parts in the editing stage. Secondly, it allows these
performances to be captured without interference ("bleed" or "leakage")
from other instruments. Finally, it allows for the layering of parts and
timbres to help build up a mix. This lets individual musicians come up with
multiple parts that would be impossible to perform as a single player.
Once the recording process is completed, we can begin the editing process.
This involves taking the best sections of individual performances to construct
the often elusive "perfect" take. Of course, editing, and even overdubs,
are optional processes. Many legendary performances have been captured "live
off the floor". Still, a big advantage of a well-equipped professional recording
environment is that it allows the flexibility to pursue these other avenues,
making a wealth of choices available to the artist and producer.
Next comes the mixing process, in which the individual tracks are enhanced
through such methods as equalization or compression, and effects such as
reverbs, delays, and even more esoteric processes can be used to establish
a rich sound-field. All the individual tracks are combined to result in the
final stereo mix.
After the mix is completed, some artists may want to have a project mastered,
the specifics of which are discussed here.
At this point, we are ready to make a CD. The first CD will be made on
our SADiE system, to insure the purest sound and highest quality. Subsequent
copies can be made much more quickly and inexpensively through our standard
duplication equipment. Finally, the artist gets the CD in their eager hands.
To return to the initial concept of the 1-hour, 3-song session, yes, it
can be achieved. But that would literally involve throwing mic's up, one
performance of each song, and a rudimentary mix. It's a truism in the music
industry that of good, fast, and cheap, you can have any two you want. It's
rarely worth the sacrifice to achieve "fast" and "cheap".
By taking a bit more time with a project, it allows the engineers the necessary
time to do their best work, and give your music the attention it deserves.
Moreover, the results of that effort will be readily apparent to you and
to those who hear your music for years to come. (back
Q. How long does it take to have a project duplicated?
Typically, we recommend that clients doing in-house duplication plan on
two weeks for delivery. We recommend Clients going through Cinram allow
three to five weeks for delivery, from the time the master and artwork are
sent off. While most orders in both scenarios are typically filled within
a much shorter time frame, we encourage clients to allot a "buffer
period" to allow for unforeseen delays. We'd hate to see a release party
ruined by unrealistic scheduling even more than our clients would. (back
Q. Why is acoustic treatment so important?
With an abundance of low-cost home and pro-sumer recording equipment, it
is important to remember that there is a significant difference between
a professional recording facility and "a bunch of gear in a room".
Recording, mixing, or mastering in a room without specialized acoustic treatment
is akin to painting with a green light in the corner. Your senses can't
accurately tell you what's really going on, because of the way the shape
and materials of a room interfere with the proper reproduction of sound.
The reasons are far too complex to explain here, although you might try
great article from Electronic Musician Magazine to learn a bit
more about the subject.
At Mission, our control room and tracking room were carefully designed
by Terry Medwedyk of Group One Acoustics. The resulting acoustics managed
to exceed specifications, which brought Mr. Medwedyk back to carefully re-examine
the room at his own expense. We could tell you what happened, but it's probably
better just to accept that it's magic. The important thing is that the room
has been carefully designed and treated, and is extremely accurate, so that
you can rest assured what you hear out of our speakers will translate well
to any other system. (back to top)
Q. Why should I have my project professionally
Have you ever listened to an album on which one track was so bright you
smelled smoke from your tweeters, while the bass of the next track blew
a speaker into your neighbour's living room? Or heard an album in which
you were so busy adjusting the volume level between songs you barely had
time to enjoy the tunes? Have you ever listened to an album that sounded
amazing in the car but sounded like a completely different record on your
home stereo? These types of acoustic inconsistencies are precisely what
a proper mastering session can avoid.
Of course, to be able to perceive and enhance audio with the necessary
precision requires the kind of transparent acoustic space that Mission can
offer. Mastering in an untreated or improperly treated room results in a
compromised product, as engineers compensate for acoustic abnormalities
in the mixing environment by carving up perfectly innocent source material.
Nobody wants that.
When it comes time to create a master to send to the duplication plant
(more accurately called a pre-master - the actual master is cut from
glass and used to stamp out thousands of copies of your album for eager
fans), a simple CD burner isn't up to the job. Computers make mistakes,
and they love making them when your precious album is on its way as a blitz
of ones and zeros down a laser to be etched into a CD-R. These errors can
result in the duplication of your album coming to a grinding halt if they
fall outside the strict tolerances of professional duplication equipment.
Worse yet, the album could be duplicated with those errors, presenting your
listeners with a compromised sound quality due to the primitive error correction
in consumer players.
At Mission, we only send out masters on Exabyte DDP tapes. Exabyte tapes
are self-correcting, in that they write a bit of information, and then reference
that written information against the original. If any discrepancy is found,
the data is rewritten until it is successfully verified, and only then will
the write continue. This is how we guarantee error-free masters to our clients.
After spending all the time, energy, and money to bring your project to
completion, the importance of a proper mastering session, in a transparent
acoustic environment and on professional equipment, cannot be overstated.
We understand that very few things are as important as your album, and we
wouldn't trust your masters to anything but the best. (back