Recording a band can be done by capturing a live performance where everybody (or parts of the band) is playing together in real time, or by recording overdubs, which means one player at a time.
Book a free feedback call with Benedikt, the host of the show!
But which is better and how do you pick the right approach?
There’s an ongoing and probably never ending discussion out there on this topic.
Purists say you need to record live in order to capture the right feel and vibe. Others appreciate the flexibility and control you get from doing it piece by piece.
Maybe you find this confusing and are unsure about what to do. So let’s analyze were these opinions are coming from and what the pros and cons are
Once you understand the pros and cons, potential pitfalls and technical requirements for both methods, you can make an educated decision and pick the right approach for your next project.
And this episode will help you do exactly that.
Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.
The song mentioned by Malcom at the end of the episode:
Benedikt's Instagram where you'll find the photo dump mentioned in the episode:
TSRB Podcast #131
Malcom: [00:00:00] Both Benny and I have pretty much admitted that live tracking with a great band is our preferred situation. now that's gonna naturally make all of you want to do that,
and again, I want to drive home the point that usually like nine, 9% of the time actually I'm going over dub.
Benedikt: hello, and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedictine, and I am here with my friend and co-host Malcolm Owen flood. How are you buddy?
Malcom: Hey Benny. I'm good, man. How are you?
Benedikt: I'm good too. Thank you. How was your week or the past two weeks basically that we
Malcom: Uh, it was awesome. Yeah. Um, I did some cool gigs. Had some good time off, got out on the water, on my brother's boat a bunch of times. So yeah. Very solid week. You had a solid one as well. I saw you sent me a video of [00:01:00] you finishing a marathon. That's awesome, man. Congratulations.
Benedikt: much. Just to be, uh, to be clear, it was a half, half marathon this time. So
it was a yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a like a training run more than anything like a prep race for the big one coming
up. Yeah, but it was, it was amazing.
Malcom: so that's about 21 kilometers, um, for half. How long is the, the full wind you're doing again?
Benedikt: Um, this is gonna be an ultra-marathon. This is gonna be 68 kilometers with 2,500 meters of elevation gain
Malcom: Ooh. All right. That's a killer. Um, yeah. Well, I, I will say that in that video of you finishing your half marathon, you looked very leisurely. You literally, you didn't look like it was that hard on you at all. So
Benedikt: Yeah. Might have looked like it. Yeah. Might have looked like it, but like, it was, it was tough to be honest.
Uh, it was super hot. It was super hot and it, it was straight out of training. I'm basically running a half marathon, every. Weekend now for the past couple of weeks. And sometimes [00:02:00] more than that, just as part of the training.
So I, I didn't have proper rest and everything before that, but it went well. And, um, yeah, and, and I have a cool story actually, um, to share, um, when it comes to that race and it is, it is audio or not, not audio related, but related to our community because, uh, when I was close to the finish line, um, like, I don't know, a couple of, I don't know, few hundred meters or so before the finish line.
There was Stefan and Diane from a band called the ghost cats on the side, cheering me on. And they are part of our community. Stefan is an academy member, an academy student, and he's a runner himself and he lives close to where the race was. And he actually came out to support me and cheer me on. And I was very, very happy to see them.
There was a super cool moment. And then we met after the finish and yeah, was, it was very, very awesome. The whole finish was, was amazing first, uh, Stephan and Diane, and then, uh, my kids also. Like they ran in and joined me when we crossed the finish line, which was pretty amazing. So that whole finish was, uh, yeah, but [00:03:00] definitely a moment to remember and yeah, shout out and thank you so much to the ghost cats and Stephan and Diane.
This really made my day to see you there.
Malcom: Awesome. Love it. That's great. Um, well
Benedikt: And I missed my time goal by eight seconds, by the way, that was the not so fun part I wanted to run, I wanted to run like a sub two hour, which was challenging because there was a very steep long hill in the middle of it that I completely underestimated and it was hot, like, hell, but I still wanted to do a sub sub two hours.
And, uh, actually when SFA, when I saw Stefan, he was like, Benny, you were on like, you were on track for a sub two hour. Finish like go like pick it up, you know? And I'm, I was looking at my watch and I'm like, why am I not sprinting? Actually, it's super close. And then I picked it up and I hope I was hoping to make it, but I ended up finishing at two hours and eight seconds
Benedikt: instead of sub two.
So Stephan, next time please, like be there. I don't know, a hundred meters earlier or so, so I can start
Malcom: to point. You poke you with get going.
Benedikt: yeah, [00:04:00] exactly. No, it was, it was awesome. It was awesome.
Malcom: Oh, that's great. Yeah. Race days are always very fun. So well done. Well done.
Benedikt: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. Um, other than that, um, I'm back from vacation and stoked to be working on music again and stoked to be doing this again. And I can't wait to dive into today's episode. Um,
This is, uh, This is, a topic that's like kind of top of mind for me. Um, as I just finished mixing an album that, uh, That relates to this topic, I think anyways. Um, so yeah, we should, we should just jump into it. I.
Benedikt: Perfect. Okay. So today we're gonna talk about live recording versus overdubs. And you know, like when you record a band, you can, you can do that by capturing a live performance where everybody or parts of the band. Is playing together in real time or by recording overdubs, which means one player at a time.
And we've been talking about how to record a life band or how to yeah. Like the basics of it and [00:05:00] how to approach that. But we haven't really talked about, um, who this is a good fit for like, um, so, so which is better live or overdubs. And how do you pick the right approach? You know, and it's funny because there is an ongoing.
And also probably never ending discussion out there on this topic. Like some people say you, you need to record live in order to capture the right feel and vibe and others appreciate the flexibility and control you get from doing it piece by piece. So this might be confusing for you as a listener. If you read this online and you, you see these, these different opinions and, and people, and some people are very, um, have strong opinions on that.
And you might be wondering what the right approach is for you. let's just talk about that. Do you think it's necessary to, in order for like, if you want to capture the, the right vibe and feel and everything, do you think it's necessary to do it live as a band? Do you think you can't pull that off with overdubs?
Like, what's your opinion on that? Because that's what some people are saying, right?
Malcom: Right. [00:06:00] Um, no, I think you can pull it off with the over dub. Well, I know you can pull it off with the over dub vibe. There's plenty of recordings that people think, oh, this must be live, but it's totally not. Um, and, and in fact, overdubs is kind of the norm at this point. Um, there's so much increased flexibility and, and power on the engineering side of things.
And then because of that, on the, the mixing side of things, it, it's definitely like a safer approach usually to, to go with the overdubs. Um, that said, and I think this would surprise some people that know me. Doing live bed tracks is like by far my favorite way to make a record. Um, it's just not something that I think we can do very often.
Um, and we'll get into those reasons as, as to why I decide, uh, now I'm kind of speaking in past tense, but cuz I'm not producing bands anymore, but. Generally when I meet a band, I have to make that decision and I would have to make that decision. And I would usually choose to go to the over dubbed [00:07:00] route rather than the live recording route.
Even though live recording. If the stars all align is gonna be more affordable. Faster. Uh, it's gonna be more flexible because you can change, um, like the arrangement in real time with the band, you know, we like, okay, let's, let's just like strip down the second first let's build into the last course.
Let's do, this is all dropout, except for the acoustic guitar on the bridge. Like you can make these decisions and have them happen just as quick as you say them. Um, Overdubs. That is really the biggest thing I can say against overdubs is that you don't have that ability. Really you've got scratch tracks.
Uh, hopefully a lot of them, which was going to increase some flexibility, but you're kind of like, you've got a drummer in the room and he can't. Just have the drumming pattern change on the guitar in real time anymore, you know, so you're kind of locked into these decisions that were made during the scratch track.
Pre-pro um, so, so live recording can kind of unlock magic [00:08:00] in, in that you can change the, the production, the songs and arrangement so quick and, and, and real time. Um, so, so yeah, that, that's kind of my
Benedikt: Sorry. You mean over dubs can do that, right? Not live recording.
Malcom: No, no, no. I think overdubs are, are more, are less flexible. I think overdubs
Benedikt: Okay. All right. All right. That's
Malcom: right, because, because yeah, like you've got a guitar
Benedikt: I get it. I get it though.
Malcom: a, a drumming pattern and the drummer's playing to that. Right. So if we want that to change, we'd have to rerecord the, the scratch. You know, it, the band can make decisions in real time, which, which I think is just magical
Benedikt: Yeah, it is. Okay. So that, that, I don't want this to be confusing to the listener, but that's very interesting because I thought of the overdub method to, to be of the, of the more flexible one. Right. Because, um, You, but you're right. It's probably not. I mean, it's more flexible in that you can change, you can do more afterwards to the tones and you can, you can manipulate things more because there's [00:09:00] no bleed in all of that.
But when it comes to arrangements and the songs yes, yes. When it comes to the arrangement and that sort of stuff live is definitely more flexible. You're totally right. I haven't even thought about that, but that's, that's totally right. So you're saying. It's mostly like the technical pitfalls and, you know, and, and like potential pitfalls and technical requirements, um, that you, that you have to be aware of in order for, to be able to make a, an educated decision there and like choose what, what the right approach is for you.
And it's more mostly about those technical things. And if, but if you know what you're doing and you pick the right one, um, then both can be, can be great and give you the flexibility you need. You just have to decide if you wanna be flex. In the beginning, or if you wanna save the flexibility for basically.
Malcom: Yep. Exactly. Exactly. If, if you know, the song's locked down, then over dubs is the way to go. Like if nothing's really gonna change, then definitely go that way. Um, now really though, the, the main reason I usually go over dubs. [00:10:00] Is because there's no feeling worse than setting up a band that you think is gonna record live really well.
And then hitting play for the first time and having them play the song and ha this like sinking feeling of being like, oh, this is really not tight.
Malcom: this is a disaster and there's no way to claw back out of this now. Well, there is. To like, delete all the other instruments and it becomes an overdub recording, but
Malcom: um, it it's really like you spend so much time on the setup for a live recording, trying to get all the tones pretty darn perfect.
Right. And, and knowing that it's gonna be less flexible than an overdub recording. So it, it takes longer to set up, but you're tracking all these instruments at the same time. Um, so in theory it'll be quicker, but yeah, if they're, if the band's not tight enough, it's like, it's really, really tough and it really doesn't work well.
Um, And I would say that unless I'm hiring session musicians, it's almost always gonna be overdued. Um, it's like session musicians [00:11:00] or, or the tightest band I can I've ever worked with, or like the only ones that I'm like comfortable going into a live recording with generally. um, I'm, I may be a little tighter on that than some people are.
Some people are more willing to let bands have a go at the live beds, but in my experience, it it's never been awesome. Unless the band is like top tier.
Benedikt: Yes, I agree. And I love how you put it in the notes there. You said like with a great band life is faster and it's more, more affordable, more flexible, uh, and more fun. And with a bad band, the opposite's true, which is, which is really the case. Like it, it, it takes longer. It's more frustrating. Uh, it's definitely not more affordable because it takes longer and it's, and, and yeah, you might, you might have.
Stop the session entirely and start over again and, you know, or get, get back to practice and whatever. So yeah, it's really, it really comes down to how good the band is and how well rehearsed they are. How, how good the pre-pro and preparation is also. I think like if yeah, you just gotta be prepared and you gotta be, [00:12:00] you know, and, and with the pre-production, it's kind of weird because I think if a band is really, really good, then maybe you can get away.
A less detailed sort of pre-pro because they can change on the spot and like, they can be flexible and they can, yeah, they can just change something real quick and still like nail the take. And I think the, if a band is less experienced or if they are not as good, um, When it comes to their playing, then the pre-pro has to be even more detailed and better just because there's, they won't be able to pull it off quickly and, and without problems.
So in the studio. So that that's the thing. So in a weird way, like really good musicians can kind of not skip the pre-pro, but they can come in less prepared with their songs because they will be able to just do it. If you tell them what to do, or if they, you know, figure out what the song's gonna be on the.
Malcom: Absolutely. Yeah. So I think, uh, a type of job that I've probably done more than, than [00:13:00] you and your niche. Benny is working with a singer songwriter that comes in with just an acoustic guitar and, and like a song that they can play on an acoustic guitar, but they've never had a band on it. And until I bring in the session, musicians.
To that recording session. There's never been a band on the song at all. So we're, we're skipping, pre-production in all senses other than what's living in our heads. And, and just the song, like work, workshopping the song with the artist. But if I hire. Professional session musicians. It's not gonna be a problem at all.
They'll just, they'll probably have the perfect part already. and if not like a little bit of feedback and they've got it. Um, and, and again, that's, that's the situation where I want pro players and I want to grab it live. Um, and it can just be so like, you know, studio magic, like these crazy ideas and like things that just happen in the studio.
That's really that's when this happens is when you've got a band in. It's uh, it's it can really just be like, oh, the song just transformed it. Didn't see it [00:14:00] coming
Benedikt: Oh, yeah, totally. Now, what do you think? Like how do, how does a band know if they are good enough? Like how, how do you know as a band? Because that's, that's tricky because people will be like, I mean, we know our songs, we, we are good players. We know what we're doing, but I think a lot of people are. Lacking the, the awareness maybe, or like, just because of a lack of experience, they, they might think they're good enough, but they don't really know what good enough actually means and how good these pro players actually are.
So what do you think? How can I as a band? How can I determine whether we are good enough to do it live or whether we should be, we were better off just N doing a proper pre-pro and then doing overdubs, because life is gonna be a disaster. Like, how do we know.
Malcom: Right. Um, okay. There's for, for me, there's a couple qualifying things there's genre, uh, is probably an easy one to like, just rule things out with the faster and more distorted your music is probably the less likely you should go live. There's an argument to be said for like really raw punk [00:15:00] and Benny.
I'm sure you could speak that more than I have. Cause I haven't really done that. Um, but. That that's a good rule of thumb. So if you're a metal band, um, where things have to be very precise and there's lots of things fighting against you, AKA distortion, which can make. Like, if you're not playing clean, it, it gets messy really quick.
Right. Um, so, so those kind of things, uh, the bleed of those super loud instruments is another thing that makes it harder to do live. Um, and, and everything's just being smashed. Right?
so, so like the more intense and, and fast and precise the music, the less I am pulled towards going live, um, where. Country, rock blues, rock that stuff totally can work live.
Um, so, and, and, you know, when I say live, I usually only mean bass drums, maybe keys, maybe a guitar. Um, the, the vocals are, are always over dubbed for me. I should mention that. [00:16:00] Um, so it's kinda live beds for me. Um, but it doesn't have to be everybody, you know, you can do it different ways, but that, that.
Almost always how it's gone for me. Um, so there's that, there's the genre qualifying and then there's the band qualifying. Um, and. We've said it before on this podcast, but there's a huge difference between being a really good player and being a really good studio player. Um, it's a different skill set entirely.
You might be an absolute ACE live, but really not kind of have that studio game figured out yet. Um, and that just comes with experience. You just have to practice. Playing in the studio with a, with a metronome, of course. Um, and not only with a metronome, but being able to play to the metronome in that, you know, you can be behind the beat.
If you need to be, you can be a head of the beat, you can be on the beat. Um, and then also getting used to headphone monitoring and stuff like that. So you can like, Control how you play in that new environment. Cause it's different than, you know, with [00:17:00] Maine and a crowd in front of you. Um, there's the, the precision of hitting your drums consistently for that studio thing, uh, you know, where you're hitting your snares.
So you're getting like the same tuning and note every time. Right. And dynamics, the dynamic control of playing in the studio is a different beast than live again. So there there's all of these things and I just picked on the drummer huge there. Um but. Like that studio experience is what it comes down to.
It, it really does, even though it's a live recording, you still need a studio master for each instrument. Um, and now one more thing is that say, you've got the ACE drummer, that's done this a hundred times in the studio. You've got the guitarist in the world, which is really hard to do live. I think guitar is probably one of the hardest parts to grab live.
Um, but your basis. Is all over the place. The whole thing falls apart at that point, that basis is going to cause the guitarist and the drummer to suck. [00:18:00] Um, it like, it has to be a full card of great players for this live thing to work. There can't be one week link where it, they drag everybody down to their level.
Benedikt: I agree. And I also think those were all really great points. And, but, and I also think that if you're unsure, whether you are, um, whether you are as a band or your songs or whatever are good enough to do the live recording. I think outside feedback is, is crucial because you should, I think you should record yourself.
And even with, if it's just one microphone in the room or something, you should record yourself when you play live or, um, yeah, you should do definitely do that and then have a listen. And then if you're unsure, if that is good enough, if you're tight enough, if that would work in a live, like when it comes to live recording.
I would just send that recording to somebody else and ask for feedback. I think that is really, really crucial because if you send it to someone like Malcolm or myself, or, you know, if you wanna, if you intend, like, if you wanna, if you plan on, on having Malcolm or myself or whoever, um, to, to mix those [00:19:00] songs, Then you should probably, before you even start recording, you should send those early recordings to someone and they will tell you if it's a good idea to do live or not.
Probably at least I would, if you would send me that I would be like, maybe you should do overdubs, or maybe you should, you can do these two things together, but maybe overdub the vocal or whatever, you know, like get outside feedback. Um, I think that's, that's almost the only way because I I've just experienced it so often where bands were really confident about their songs and their ability to record and play.
And then they were disappointed when they heard that the recording really wasn't good enough or like didn't didn't work as they, as they wanted. So, because they, yeah, they just, it's just hard to know whether it's good enough if shouldn't, if you're not experienced. So just get outside feedback and an easy way to do that.
By the way, is if you book a call with me, for example, if you go to the self recording band.com/. And, uh, you just book a free one hour call with me and you upload a recording of yourself in the gym space. We can easily, uh, figure out if, if that is a genre and, and, uh, something you [00:20:00] could record live, or if it, if you would be better off doing overdubs and yeah.
So just go to the self recording, band.call, uh, dot com slash call and book that call. And then, uh, we can, we can help you figure that out. And other than that, I think it's really, yeah. Other than that, I, I think it's really. I don't know. I, I would also look at, at other bands and songs that you like and, and learn how that was done, like how that sound was done.
Because if, for example, if you're a fan of, you mentioned a before, Malcolm of like really raw punk or har even hardcore metal stuff, there's not only the super polished, super tight metal, but there is like a very raw, um, aggressive style. That is often done live. And if you are a fan of those bands, like again, I've mentioned him before, too, um, oo comes to mind or like other people, um, who, who do similar genres.
If you're a fan of that aesthetic, maybe live or partly live is a thing that would be. That could be interesting for you to do, [00:21:00] but if you're a fan of like very polished, modern metal core or something over up is prob ups are probably the way to go. And same with like singer songwriters or country. If you're a fan of that sort of stuff, you can, um, you might be able to do it live, but if it's like a super modern pop arrangement, then again, overdubs might be the thing, you know, just.
Do some research on the things you love and you, you listen to and figure out how that was done. And then, um, yeah, you might be, you might, might help you get some clarity, I think.
Malcom: Absolutely. Um, now this description of like my thoughts, I, I kind of had a monologue there, but also Benny's I think, uh, is really from a, a bit of a privilege point of view in that we have access to all the gear. If we wanted to do something live, um, now on a podcast called the self recording band. That does change things a little bit.
Um, [00:22:00] cuz obviously recording a band live is gonna take a lot more gear than the over dubbed approach. You know, you're talking at least double the track count all of a sudden. Um, and, and there's little tricks and we won't get into it because we have episodes about how to do live recordings, but, you know, like being able to grab DI's and amp captures.
Um, so, you know, two channels per guitar is a huge advantage. That's really gonna, you know, keep some of that over up flexibility that we're used to in modern mixing, um, while still also grabbing the live sync, you know, so it's way more gear. Um, so, so if that limit like is a limitation. Then just, don't worry about it.
Just go overdubbed, you know, like just don't let that be like, ah, we can't record yet. Cause we need to save up and buy way more gear so we can do it live because I think that's the right way. Just don't worry about it. If you do an good job over dubbing, it's like, that's not gonna make, make it sound like it's stale.
That's not a thing. Don't worry about it. Um, so, so there's the gear thing, uh, I would [00:23:00] will say, and I've said this before, but people really don't like it is that band. Professional bands do often hire certain session players to fill certain jobs in the studio. It is a thing where, you know, the drummer gets swapped out for the, the record.
Uh, The less professional the band, the more people have a problem with that. It seems so, so, but I just wanna say, I'm trying to normalize this. It's the thing it can work. It's it's it's okay if you're adults upload it. Um, there's that, uh, there's the editing side of things. If you're doing your own editing, be aware that editing alive track thing is a much harder thing to do than an over up thing.
Um, I would say impossible if you're not quite good. Uh, it's really. An art form of editing, um, how to, how to make all those things work together and, and being aware of their relationships. Um, so, so that's another qualifying thing that if it's gonna require some good editing, you're gonna wanna farm that out [00:24:00] or again, considered going over dubbed
Benedikt: Yes, you basically, you gotta know what you're getting yourself into. Like you should, you should just make a plan and know what the consequences are basically. And if you were okay with those consequences, then. Then it, it might be a very fun thing to do. You're just gotta know that it's gonna be not as tight probably.
And you can't do much about it as you just said with the editing, but that might be okay because you put it in the notes there as well. Malcolm, if your audience is conditioned to a bit of looseness, so a looseness, um, If they know that, um, if that's part of the genre then, and they don't expect a super type performance, maybe you can get away with it and with minimal editing.
So you've just gotta know who your audience is, what the aesthetic is that you like and what you're getting yourself into. Basically. And I also like that you brought up the technical, um, part like the technical requirements and because not only do you need more inputs and more. Like as many options as you can basically to keep some of the technical flexibility.
You also need to think [00:25:00] about the outputs of your interface because you need a couple of, of monitor outs simultaneously for different monitor and he phone mixes. So if you have a, some of the, the common, like. Prosumer or like cheaper interfaces, they might have enough inputs, but you might only have a couple of outputs that you can use and you might need more of them so that everybody can get their, their, uh, headphone mix or like let alone a stereo headphone mix.
So, uh, all those things you just need to know. What you need when it comes to gear. I think if you have, if you're one of those bands who have a, like a, a digital desk or something that could be an advantage, and then you could try live recording those, those things are good for that. Like, if they are, if it's an interface and desk in one sort of, that gives you the flexibility, usually with the routing and the ins and outs and all of that, but still, you gotta know what you're getting yourself into.
And I got, I have two more thoughts here. And two questions for you, Malcolm. What about if, when people say like, okay, All all good, but for us, it's, it's, it's mostly [00:26:00] about like, it should be fun, you know, we want it to be fun and we know that we are not super tight and we know that there's limitations and all of that, but we just enjoy playing live and we just don't like the thought of doing it individually.
And, um, you know, it's this a valid, like, like argument, is it something that would, where you would say, well, then just go for it and do it like, or, or are you like, no. Yeah.
Malcom: Uh, so
Benedikt: think some people are hearing this and they're like, yeah, we might not be good enough, but we still wanna do it because seems fun.
You know? And I don't wanna tell people that they can't do it, you know, so.
Malcom: Absolutely. I, I think you're right. If it, if it's just something you want to do, it's a great time. Um, it's also a great way to, to demo your songs as well and, and get some experiences just set up and, and record it that way. Um, Yeah, there, there's no reason not to do it. If you want to do it, it's just like, just, yeah.
And just do it. Uh, I guess one maybe misconception that some people have is that you can't really do both and you totally can. You could record all of [00:27:00] your stuff live, including vocals, and then you just peel back as needed. So you're like, okay. The vocals go way too much bleed. Delete. Or hide whatever you need to do.
It's a good idea to hide it because sometimes there's like delivery things in a live recording that you wanna reference when you're recapturing the vocal. Um, so then, but yeah, you know, so you just peel back, say one of the guitars is totally tight enough, but the other guitars does not, will delete that track if you manage bleed and stuff in your setup.
And, and we overdub that guitar now, you know, you can, you can do that. Um, And, and then there's also, of course, like when we say bed tracks, that means that we're usually just recording some of the instruments, like rhythm instruments only. Um, and you know, here's an idea actually, uh, well, not an idea, but a thought.
For me, I'm the, I was always the guitarist in my bands. So I was usually recording drums and bass and not guitar live. If I was doing live beds for my own band, because I'm busy listening and engineering, or maybe I'm playing a told D throwaway [00:28:00] crappy one as a guide for them kind of thing. Um, but the more there is going on, the harder it is for me to monitor that the quality of all of them is good.
So there's actually a skill level part for whoever's engineering the session in the band as well, because they've got too much to think about. Um, and it is a learned skill to be able to pick apart where the problem is when there's a whole bunch of instruments going on. Um, so, so I guess you might also want to consider that if it's overwhelming for your engineer, overdubs probably gets another.
Benedikt: Yeah, I think so, too. Totally. And if you're the engineer yourself, that's even, you know, That that's a problem in, in and of itself, like even with overdubs and if you're doing it live and have to manage all these things can be, can be difficult for sure. And then my second question for you would be Malcolm.
What if. People wanna play live, but still only like, but, but still do it [00:29:00] without bleed because that's also a possibility you could, and I've done that before. You could put all, everybody in a room and just grab the eyes. And the only loud thing in the room basically are the drums. Everybody else is just playing into di boxes and everybody has their, their headphones mix with Sims on, on, instead of real lamps, for example, And, uh, maybe you put the, the singer in another room or you overdo VO vocals later, but I've recorded entire live performances without bleed, basically, except for some very quiet drumming or so for the, from the guitars in the room.
But that way you could have an isolated drum kit, you could have isolated the eyes that you can reamp later, and you can have isolated vocals in a different booth or room. And do you think that there is an advantage to doing that? That would, would be my question, like, do you think that the feel and vibe and everything actually benefits from doing that?
Or do you think that. The vibe and all of that, um, can, can be done just as well and capture just as well, if you do overdubs and just focus on one player at a time.
Benedikt: So, so it's a two part question. The first question is, do you think that is a [00:30:00] good approach in general or something you would do occasionally?
And the second part is, do you think that there's actually a benefit to doing this? Like.
Malcom: Yeah, I do think it's a good idea. I, and I do think there's a benefit. Um, again, the, the, like, it just offers so much flexibility in editing and in mixing, um, having DI's and no bleed essentially, um, or at least low bleed. I think my favorite is to grab those DS, but actually still have the amps going as well.
Um, so it's not just a di. Um, but I would really be concerned about if that's bleeding too much into like the drum room mics, for example, um, it would definitely would be a concern, but I. I would like to try and grab the, the actual tone kind of thing. But again, I, I, I speak from like, oh, I've got like 32 inputs.
This is no problem. I can do both. Um, where, so it's probably not everyone's situation. Um, so then it kind of comes down to, uh, if you don't have enough channels to do both. I think there's a little bit of a genre decision. Again, if [00:31:00] it's gonna require heavy editing and revamping is probably an advantage, you know, like metal, uh, then yeah.
Di way to go. Um, if, if it's like your amp is the sound that like, your, your whole thing is like this super important thing then. Yeah. You gotta, you gotta throw the mic on. You're gonna need that. There's no way to do it otherwise. Um, so, so yeah, I think you can, in a perfect world, you do both. Um, does it, what was the second part of your question?
Benedikt: Like, do you think that the songs will actually benefit from doing that? Like, do you think that people playing together, being able to look at, at each other and all these things, does that help the performance? Does that help the songs or is that sort of a myth and you can pull off the right feel and vibe and everything with over dubs, just as well.
Malcom: Oh, uh, I'd have to say myth. I think that you can pull it off with overdubs just as well. Not that maybe it like live [00:32:00] it's hard to answer,
Benedikt: Yeah. I, I know. And it's, it's such so tough because there's these different opinions online and like, and people have, as I said, really strong opinions on that, and you'll find big names saying overdub, you can do everything with overdubs and you'll find big names, um, who, who like swear by doing it live.
And that's the only way. So that's why I'm asking, like, what's your opinion on that? Do you, you know,
Malcom: Yeah. I mean, I feel like I've never had a problem making an overdub record move, you know, but I, I think it's really just like the gratification comes sooner with a live thing. If they're tight again. um, and you know what, actually, I would argue the opposite. I would argue that with. An unti band live you're you're gonna have a worst feeling record.
Um, so, so if the, if, you know, if the us engineer need to help the band along to have that, like that, uh, that gel, that glue, then overdubs the way to go.[00:33:00]
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, totally. And, and here's a hot take, I think in some cases like some interviews that I've heard, and I won't say any names here, but some interviews that I heard and some of those opinions who were like, you gotta do it life. That's the only way to capture, survive and feel in all of that. It sometimes feels like.
It comes from people who kind of wanna justify having all the gear and, and stuff that they have. So they came, oftentimes they, they, you know, they were, they came up in an, in an, in different era. Sometimes they. They, they are used to doing it all analog and big consoles. They have the gear, the rooms and all of that.
And this stuff costs a lot of money. They've invested heavily into that and they have that sitting around and it's almost sometimes, and I might be wrong. It's just the feeling that I sometimes get. It, it, it seems like they just wanna use it because they have it and they wanna justify it, keeping it, and they wanna do it their way.
And that's sort of their brand also. And it's, it's totally fine. There's nothing wrong with that. But I think I still think that it's not the only way. And I, I, I think that, you know, Just because it works for them. Doesn't mean you couldn't record the same [00:34:00] bands with overdubs and, and the minimal equipment and sort sort of thing, you know?
Uh, I just, I just feel like, yeah, I don't know if, and I would be the same, the same probably if I had like a big analog console and a huge live room and all those things, maybe I would make bands record live more if they were good, just so I can use all the stuff and do the cool live things, you know? But that, that doesn't mean it's the only way.
So, you know, that's, that's maybe I, I don't know. That's the feeling that I get and I, and I. Both can work and it, it almost, it always comes down to the band at the players. And, and I think a lot of people who swear by the live thing also are used to working with really good people too, with really good bands.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. It it's a common top down thing from the old school guys who are still working with top tier bands, like the, you know, professional bands that have been recording that whole way, their whole career. It's a, that's a thing. Right. Um, so yeah, and I. Most of my live tracked, favorite albums, like, uh, like are live beds, like, [00:35:00] uh, there there's a lot of overdubs going on top of them to, to give the Polish over top of it.
Um, like that, that is a, a huge percentage of modern country. For example, is like a, a wrecking crew type session band laying down beds, and then a lot. Really tasteful overdubs on top of it. Um, and you get a great feeling, a great sounding record that. And, and like I said earlier with the, the session musicians set up live, you're, they're building the song in the room as well.
It's really cool. Um, and you know, , this is something to mention, you always hear about like bands that are like, oh, we cut nine songs in like two days and it's like, wow, that's really impressive. And, and then, you know, first timer band hears that. And they're like, yeah, let's just book one day in the studio, we'll cut the whole album.
And it's like, no, it's like, that's the wrecking crew coming in and cutting nine songs, you know, the songs were already written for one by like a great [00:36:00] songwriter and a producer. And then they hired a bunch of musicians that could come just like one take 'em
Benedikt: Yes. Yes, exactly. The work has been done beforehand. Definitely. Definitely.
Malcom: um, but, but that is like, that is, that's a happy Malcolm when I've got that situation. When I've got like a handful of great songs and an amazing band in the room with great tech instruments, it's like, wow, we're gonna really crush a lot of tracks today. It's not gonna take a lot. It's so cool.
Benedikt: Yeah. See, that's the thing. might sound like I prefer overdubs, and I think it's the best, the better option for most people. But on the other hand, if it is a good fit for you to do it live, and if you can pull it off and you know, the tech is there, you know how to operate it, you know how to play the songs.
It's good players, all of that. It's just a, a good day. And then magic happens. Then I love doing that. Like, I, I, I actually prefer it. Like, I think live is like a good live recording session is so much fun and I, I would act. I would love to do all records like that basically. So I'm not [00:37:00] against that. I, I just think it's very rare that, um, all those pieces come together so well.
Um, and yeah, so that's, that's the thing.
Malcom: It's really great. It lets you think about the song more than the individual, like macro micros or like, uh, instrumental sounds kind of thing. You know, thinking about the drum beat rather than the snare tone. That's always a good thing. That's that's totally a good, like we've said it before. The song is really everything at the end of the day.
So by ha and that all lined up. We're we're able to do that. Um, but it's all based on the assumption that everything else is taken care of. So that is, uh, that's kind of the trick,
Benedikt: Hmm. Yeah, totally. So how do we sum that up? Like how, what, what's a good, actionable advice there for brands? Like how do you know which is the right approach for you? Because it's, it's kind of hard to answer. Can we give a, like a, a definite like, sort of, sort of answer.
Malcom: Yeah. I mean, okay. So I think your suggestion earlier in this episode [00:38:00] is like the number one actionable thing people can do if they have, if they don't have enough gear to do this to a further degree, which I think most of our listeners probably do, but bare minimum. Uh, some, a metronome app with some headphones on the drummer, they count in really tight, the first eight beats or something.
And then the song starts that lets somebody like myself or Benny lined it up to whatever BPM the song was recorded at. Um, and, and that's just one microphone in the room that can hear those stick countings and then the rest of the band. Like, this is again the bare minimum setup. um, and now you could send that to me.
I could line that up. Okay. You recorded at one 20 line up those four clicks to one 20 and I've kind of got a visual grid of how tight the band's playing. I also have an audible grid of where I can, you know, audible reference where I can hear how tight the band is playing to that as well. That's only one person with the click in their head, but that's actually how, uh, a lot of.
People like to play that, that, you know what we've never talked about, referencing techniques, that's a podcast episode, um, [00:39:00] like monitoring techniques about how, how PO musicians figure out how they play best in the studio. Like, I know a lot of bass players that turn off the click and only play to the drummer if they're tracking live, um, stuff like that.
Uh, so, okay. We'll get back to that. That's a totally different
episode, but, uh
Malcom: um, but yeah,
Benedikt: you're saying for a, for a demo recording, right? What was, what you just suggested, like doing the, uh,
Malcom: Yeah, yes. Yeah. For, for, for how to figure out if you're good enough, you, you set up one mic and have your drummer on a metronome and play the song to that. And then you can send that to somebody like Benny book, a call is Benny, have him listen to it and assess it. And now he's able to say, okay, how is this band play?
How is this drummer playing into a click? And how is this band playing to a. Essentially. Right. Um, and now the more you can do on that, like if you have a multi-track recording, everybody can hear the click or, or whatever it is, uh, and, or have separated tracks. Um, even if it's still just the drummer with the click track, that'll give also more info to be [00:40:00] able to easier figure out who is.
Kind of the weak link, you know, like who's behind. Um, or, and also like when I'm assessing a band for live, I'm like, okay, who has tone hands? If somebody doesn't have tone hands, I can't really risk a live recording with that person in there. Um, like they, they, they all have to have their tone. They have to sound amazing.
Malcom: so, and, and, you know, and then based on that, that might equal, okay, no, sorry. This is gonna be an overdo album or you, okay. This is gonna be a live bed tracks, but this person and this person aren't gonna be included in live beds, we're gonna overdub them because of reason, X, Y, and B. Um, so that, I think that's a great idea.
Ben just make a demo recording to, to a click track and, and then have somebody assess it. Um, and, and then go from.
Benedikt: All right. Yeah, for sure. And then, so that's number one, then number two is like do some research, I think, on, on productions and bands and songs you like, and. Figure out how [00:41:00] they were done, how the producers, you like, how they typically operate, how they make their records, if you like a certain sound and you figure out that it's always done live, then maybe you should try it.
Um, and then of course, be just, just be honest with yourself and try to be, um, Yeah, you have. The self awareness thing is, is, is, is huge. I think you just have to, if you, if you listen to your recordings and you, you listen to yourself play, and if you get feedback from someone and it's just objectively not really tight, then maybe.
Do overdubs, but if you can really say, no, I, I like how that sounds like I like how tight it is. I don't want it to be any tighter then. Yeah. You might be ready to do it live. And, and this doesn't mean it has to be perfect. Like whatever is tight enough means to you. You just have to be honest and you have to know that.
It might stay that way because there is only so much you can do in editing. So you gotta know that this is really what you want and if so, then go for it. You know? And then part three is, is the, the simple technical requirements that you need to have. Do you [00:42:00] have enough monitor outs? Do you have enough inputs?
Do you have a room? That sounds good enough. That's also a thing. Maybe like if you have a really, really crappy jam space, like a crappy sounding jam. Might be easy to isolate individual things and do over ups than do a full loud life band in there. So just, just assess the gear in the room and all of that.
That's probably step three. And, and if you, if you've done that and like the, you got the feedback that, that it will actually work and you like it yourself and you have the gear to do it and you think it's gonna be fun, then thumbs up. Go ahead.
Benedikt: I think
Malcom: Okay. One thing I want to end this on is that. Both Benny and I have pretty much admitted that live tracking with a great band is our preferred situation. Um, now that's gonna naturally make all of you want to do that, cuz you're like, well, that means it's better. Um, and again, I want to drive home the point that usually like nine, 9% of the time actually I'm going over dub.
So it's probably not for you. It's [00:43:00] probably, probably not for you. And it doesn't mean you band sucks. It doesn't mean that you're crappy musicians. Um, and it like, again, Generally the music I work on is better over dubbed. Um, I like mixing, like I can make the, the mix come together and the production choices come together that are in my head naturally, usually better with an overdub as well.
Um, and, and there's so many more positives to going overdub, especially for bands that are new to the studio. Um, and I think the, the main one is that you'll, you'll definitely come out. Every person in the band will come out a much better. After being under the microscope of overdoing, you know, the, the drummer is never heard themselves so clearly and had to look their, their bad habits in the face so closely as when they go into a studio for the first time.
And same with the guitarist, you might think you're tight, but. You're probably gonna be like, wow, string scrapes all over the place. I keep hitting that low E when I'm meant to be only hitting the, a stringing. Um, and, and like, stuff like that. My Palm mutes are all over the place. Uh, I'm [00:44:00] holding like certain cord to tune bass players.
You're always late.
Like. That there's, there's a huge advantage. And that is how, like, you know, we, we always say like, there's these certain session players that are, that are good, that are just made for the studio and that other people don't have that until like right away. And the only way to get that is doing this, like, I think overdub.
Recording leads to those types of players. It's like, that is the path. And then once you become one of those players, you're a professional musician. That's gonna be getting hired by everyone. It's, uh, it's quite a skill and it's very valuable. And so start with overdub would actually be my main piece of advice and takeaway from this.
You're you're gonna benefit from it, even if it's not really the vibe that you originally imagined, I think you're gonna come out of it being like, wow, that was so, so worth it. I am a like on another level.
Benedikt: Yes, absolutely. I I'd also, I I'd agree that overdubs is probably the way to go. And, um, two, two things I wanna [00:45:00] add that just came to mind, um, that. We'll sort of give you the, the flexibility back that you get from live recording, at least part of it. Um, there's one idea that I have, or that a lot of people do these days, um, that is you, you can do things. How do I, how to say this? So what I wanna say is a lot of the best musicians in the world embrace doing UBS, even though they could record life. So that's one thing. It doesn't mean your band sucks and what they do. And what like modern technology allowed us to do is things like you could program the drums first.
Record the guitars to that as long, like if you still wanna make changes to the arrangement while you're recording, you could use program drums, record guitars. And if you then wanna change a drumming pattern or something, you can easily do that in the program drums. And then after the guitars and bass and everything is recorded, you can then get rid of the program, drums and record drums.
Then instead of doing drums first, like a lot of metal bands, do the, do that these days where. They don't start with the drums anymore. They start with program drums, then they play [00:46:00] guitars. Then they record guitars in bass. They can do changes if they want to. It's still flexible enough with the Midy drums.
And then they get rid of the Midy drums and record the actual drums once they know all the drumming patterns and stuff. So that's, that's sort of an idea where you can do over depths, but still, still have the flexibility to change the song as you record in a. So that is one thing. And then, um, and then the other thing that I've done sometimes is you could do overdubs, like plan the session as an overdub session, but you, instead of using scratch tracks, you could have someone in the control room or in your jam space, um, playing along with the drummer, just the di as a scratch track, or as, you know, as something that drummer listens to while he or she's playing.
And you only focus on the drum performance, it's you only view this as a scratch track, but you set it up properly and in case magic happens. And some great take happens to yeah. Happens to happen. And you, you can be like, okay, let's actually keep this guitar because this was great. And then you have done a live recording, but if.
If it's not magic, you can still do the guitar [00:47:00] again. So I've, I've often done that where I say like, okay, let's, let's just play along with the drums. And, but we focus on the drum. All we focus on is, is that all we focus on is the drum performance. So I don't really care if you make a mistake on the guitar.
I won't step the recording if that happens. But if you, um, if you can manage to, to record a really great take altogether, we I'm happy to keep the bass guitars too. And maybe you can pull it off and maybe.
Malcom: yeah, absolutely. That that's told the, uh, uh, like a great method. Um, Yeah. Now I I'm feeling myself want to start talking about recording techniques, you know, like like advantages to grabbing de and how you can playlist things and comp things together and stuff. But like that is not the, not the goal here.
So I think, uh, maybe we wrap this up and, uh, leave people with, with that, um, lots to think about there. Uh, You know, ultimately do both, uh, like for demoing, you know, like recording your jams, if you can try doing it both [00:48:00] ways and, and like, you know, both lead to different skill sets. So it's really a great thing to do either way.
Benedikt: Yes. Absolutely. All right. Yeah. This is one of those episodes where it's more of a discussion than like a how-to episode, but I think it's, it's, it's still valuable. I hope, I hope it was. I hope it's helpful. Um, yeah, as always, if you go, I, I mentioned I didn't mention this very often in the past, but as always, if you go to the self recording band.com/ 1 31, like 131.
Um, just the numbers, 1 31, you get to the show notes for this episode. This is always, um, the case by the way, for every single episode. So always the self recording band.com/and then the number of the episode will take you to the show notes. Um, there you can, you you'll find a transcript. You'll find, um, links to book a call or to hire Malcolm or I, or myself for mixing, you know, all these things.
If we mention. Certain plugins or gear or whatever in the episodes you'll find links to that there, in this case, you'll find, probably find an, an Instagram photo dump post of my race finish and stuff [00:49:00] we talked about in the beginning. Like even the banter stuff we put in there. So it's just something that just came to mind.
Say, if you go to the stuff, recording ban.com/ 131. You get to the show notes for this episode. And if you have a question or if you're still unsure what to, about what to do, just email us or go to the surf recording band.com/community and join our Facebook group and start a discussion there. So you can always reach out.
And we, I, I'm happy to continue this discussion. And I also I'm am a curious to hear your. Experience with this, and maybe you've had a good or a bad experience with either live recordings or over overlaps, and we are happy to hear those stories. So get in touch and, uh, yeah, let's discuss this further.
Malcom: Absolutely. Yeah. Hope you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun talking about it, so at least that happened.
Benedikt: me too. All right. Thank you for listening and, uh, see you next week.
Malcom: For sure. Uh, oh, you know what? I'm gonna throw one little show out. Uh, so a song that just got released recently is called anxious heart by an artist called [00:50:00] Jamie Hamilton. That was live drums, bass, rhythm guitar. Uh, well, rhythm guitar, really just a guitar there's rhythm and leads in it. Um, and, uh, and keys in there as well.
And AC uh, no, no, sorry. The acoustic guitar was in the room being tracked, um, with a scratch vocal at the same time, but we redid that acoustic guitar and vocal, but everything else stayed. Um, and then we over Dubb, some more guitars. Maybe a little more keys on top and all of the vocals and the banjo and stuff like that.
We like farmed out and actually had that remotely sent in from LA or Nashville. Um, so that's a, a cool, if you want to hear a song that was like largely live, but also over dub on top of that's a great songs checkout and I'm super happy with how it turned out.
Benedikt: Awesome. Thank you. I will put that. Notes for example. So you can check that out. perfect. All right then, uh, talk to you next week.
Malcom: See you next week. Bye.
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