In the Studio with Robert Johnston: Part 1

Check out part 1 of our new series “In the Studio” with Robert Johnston!

Is it Vibe or is it Memorex?

Performing your music live and capturing it in a studio environment are two entirely different animals. On the one hand, you are able to create a vibe with your band mates in a live setting, have an intuitive sense of how the music should flow and rely more than you would think on your band mates for non-verbal cues. On the other hand, you want the drums to be “in the pocket,” for there not to be any “tempo issues,” and for the recording process to go smoothly and painlessly. But many recording sessions just end up less than productive. This is because people sometimes have discrepancies in what the exact tempo should be. Then, they may have trouble playing to a click track, and have all of those non-verbal cues that you never knew you relied so heavily upon all taken away in exchange for what can feel like an isolated and unforgiving studio environment. Not to mention, studio time is expensive! No one ever sets out to spend  an entire day in the studio only to have it later feel like an unproductive waste of time, but it happens more often than not. So what is the solution?

Scratch Track to the Rescue!

As an advocate of musical literacy, I believe that a little bit of know-how in this area can go a long way. As proof in action, here’s an example of how to use music notation software. I use an inexpensive easy-to-use program called Melody Assistant to create digital backing tracks that can be imported into a recording session. These digital tracks don’t necessarily have to have full instrumentation or as much detail as you’ll see in this example, they only have to have enough information to reflect the tempo, progression, changes, and overall structure of a song. This then gives you something to play to as you record, insuring that your recording will be both seamless and solid. It also gives you a chance to think your music through thoroughly before going into the studio, making clear decisions about stuff that you might not have otherwise noticed or even thought about. This in turn saves a lot of time, and therefore money!

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  • Robert, great video! It has so much useful information on how to save yourself DAYS in the recoding studio and still get a great quality recording.

  • Rochelle

    These digital tracks don’t necessarily have to have full instrumentation or as much detail as you’ll see in this example, they only have to have enough information to reflect the tempo, progression, changes, and overall structure of a song.

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