foxtail sound

Foxtail Sound

What to Expect 

At the Recording Studio

foxtail sound

The great Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs.  There’s also a negative side.”  Fortunately, we can help!

Here are a few things to consider before your arrival at the studio:

Plan your material and rehearse it the way you want to record it, preferably with a cassette recorder.  You can add anything that strikes your fancy in the studio (and it will!), but it's always good to start with a plan.

Talk to us beforehand about how you want it done (the FREE pre-production meeting!).  Tell us exactly what you want so we can make sure you get it.  If you have a better approach, we're all ears!  And feel free to be as vague or precise as you like.  Send us email!  Also, giving us a clue about your plans a day or two before each session helps us to be more prepared.

Don't forget to get clearances if you're using someone else's material (here's a good place to find them).  We'd like a copy for our records, also.
If you're making a CD with packaging, don't forget artwork and replication (like Discmakers and Oasis).  We will provide the master CD for the replicator to make thousands of them for you.
We'll be ready with as much set up beforehand as is practical.  If you need extra setup time you're welcome come over a little early.  "Be prepared."
If you need extra musicians or actors (the "talent"), we can get you in contact with them.

Even though we can edit the cold out of the talent's nose (sonically, not medically), try to be well and well-rested. 

Bottled water is provided in unlimited quantities.  Remember to take breaks!

De-luxe accomodations and excellent dining are located nearby.

Once you get here:
Relax and let the living-room vibe take you back to your own living room.  If you make a mistake there's no need to apologize.  Some of the greatest recordings are great because of sheer repetition (see Beatles, below).

We will take care of the details so you only need to create.  If you notice anything wrong, or would like to change anything, let us know; we'll fix it!  If it's the middle of a song and something goes terribly wrong, might as well stop; balance this with your quest for serendipity.  If there's a minor mistake, that can usually be fixed by punching in, a process where a track is recorded only for a moment while the line is re-sung or the note is fixed.
Please don't blow on microphones; they already live a harsh life, and some can be damaged by wind.  If one needs to be moved, let us know; we'll move it out of your way.

Leave a little silence before and after each piece.  Some otherwise excellent takes have been spoiled by an enthusiastic "That was GREAT!" as the last note fades.  This makes it great only if you want to keep that.  Actually, you can just play that note again, and we can splice it together.
Speaking of great takes, consider taking one more after that, "for fun".  The pressure to perform is now off, and sometimes that leads to an even greater take!

If your song is to fade out, play about twice as long as you expect the fade to be, at full force.  The fade will be added later.  Or not, as some fades can be very effective when done live.

If you're recording a spoken-word piece, like poetry or a voice-over, don't worry about comments during the recording; extensive editing is a routine part of the process and taking out a spoken title or reference is really really quick, and even saves time if it helps keep track of what's going on.

How the whole process works:
First, you decide what you want to record.  During the process, you may change your mind; some song isn't turning out how you had imagined, for whatever reason, or you have a new one you'd like to add.  That's fine; it happens all the time.  You can't delay creativity.

Come in and discuss your plan and tour the studio!  Free tours of a modern recording studio!  You can't go wrong!  We will set up a flexible schedule.

Maybe you have decided to include a guest artist or session player.  For example, you wrote the Sonata for Kazoo and Piano, but you don't play the piano; you'll need an pianist and we have a stable full of them.  Or maybe you feel your CD will sell better if Keith Richards is on it; we'll give him a call.

Then we start recording, as outlined above.  The first few takes you may be a bit unsure, and while that's true of almost everything one does, here it's not a time-waster at all.  Sometimes we have to explore the nature of the material and the sound of the instrument to decide how to get the best results, but after that it's smooth and quick.  After all, it's not rocket surgery, but it is brain science.  Whether you play and sing all the parts yourself or have others play with you, we record them onto separate tracks that will play simultaneously.  We can record up to twenty-four of these simultaneously; only full orchestras actually do that many.  More can be recorded at any time; that's called overdubbing and almost everyone does it (typically this is not done on CDs intended as an audition).

So now you've recorded all your material.  Next we mix it to get the most pleasing sound (or whatever sound you are after) and to get the best balance from the tracks we've just recorded.  To do this we may add a little reverb to place the sound in a natural-sounding space (because you don't sing directly into the listener's ear as though it were a microphone), or a little more treble to make that electric guitar really twang, adjust the choir so they are way back in the back and off to the left, make the cello ring from the mountops and through the canyons, bring that third harmony voice into tune; stuff like that.  This is what they're doing when you see a picture of a studio and everyone is looking really happy because there are a million knobs in front of them and they can turn them.  You probably want to attend at least the final part of this, because this is where you really get the precision and polish you want from your work.

Once you have a final mix that sounds like your dream, it's time for mastering.  This will create a CD that's ready for mass production.  Professional responsibility requires us to suggest using a separate mastering engineer, because he or she will have a new set of ears, and will make adjustments to the tone and volume of each selection to create a unified sound over the whole CD.  Loud songs may be softened, and that song in which you decided not to use a bass may get a little more low-frequency to let the other instruments fill that range so it doesn't sound just anemic next to the others.  And nothing says you have to go outside; at Foxtail Sound we can do this step for you; mastering is one of the services we do well.  If you've heard of the "loudness wars", we participate in that only if you want us to.  Musical reasons persuade us not to participate, sales reasons tempt us to follow along.  It's entirely your preference.

At some point you will probably want to work with a graphic artist to develop the artwork that will be on the packaging.  This is the time you would want that part of the project to be completed.  We have a graphic artist on our staff that can help you with package selection and layout.

Now that you have your finished CD, you will need copies.  Replication can be as simple as taking your master home and copying on your computer.  If you like, Foxtail Sound can do this for you in small quantities.  If you need hundreds or thousands, there are many commercial replicators that will do it at reasonable cost per CD.  Most of our customers that do this make 1000 at first.  They also offer many styles of packaging, such as Jewel Case, Thinline Case, and DigiPak™, among others.  There are styles that use no plastic.

The "Talent" is you, the person or persons being recorded, as opposed to the engineer (the button-pusher who has talent also) or the producer (who frequently has talent).  It is not a value judgement.

When the engineer says "Rolling", that means the talent can start when ready, because all the little red lights are on and the tape is moving.  "Listening" is the engineer's notifying the talent that he or she should listen for places that might be improved while the folks in the control room are auditioning the latest take.

A "Take" is an attempt at recording a selection.  The released version of the Beatles' "Twist and Shout" is rumored to have been Take 43 (listen to John's voice, it sounds beat), so don't worry about trying too many times.  You know, whatever it takes...  Sometimes several takes are made, with different approaches, so the producer can decide later which to use.

The "Producer" is the boss; you, for example.  If you need help with those tough executive decisions, or to coax an extra ounce of performance from the talent, we can co-produce and you still can take all the credit!  Otherwise we only speak when spoken to (well...).

A "Track" is a recording of one source.  We can record 24 simultaneously and add as many of them as you want, as overdubs.  All those tracks can be "mixed" together to make a complete recording that contains all the sounds it's supposed to have, at the right time and in their correct spatial locations (stereo or surround).  "Tracking" is the process of recording these tracks.  Of course, your CD player shows "track" numbers, meaning "selection" numbers, so we hope not to be too confused.
"Mastering" is the art of adjusting the loudness and tone of your songs to create a consistent master CD that sounds just like the ones you hear on the radio, from which copies can be made.  Although we recommend using an outside facility for mastering (a different set of ears), we are quite happy and very capable to do this step for you also. 

Instructions to the Player
by Carl Rakosi, 1971
easy on that bow.
Not too much weeping.  Remember that the soul
is easily agitated
and has a terror of shapelessness.
It will venture out
but only to a doe's eye.  Let the sound out
inner misterioso
but from a distance
like the forest at night.
And do not forget
the pause between.
That is the sweetest
and has the nature of infinity.

Semi-relevant facts about the Studio.

This is a selection of Satisfied Customers!

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