stepDo you have a process that you go through when you work on a song? Do you have fairly well-defined steps that you take to go from a great song idea to a finished, polished recording?

Do you actually finish the songs you start?

Do you think all of those questions are related? 🙂

Here’s the thing. I’ve told you before how important it is to have goals and set deadlines. But maybe you think that’s too philosophical, too constraining for your “free spirit.” 🙂 Okay, that’s cool. Let’s look at it another way.

You may not be the type of person who comments on blogs. That’s cool. Use the comment area below to just quickly type out your process for recording a song. Just make a numbered list of everything you need to do to be able to say, “It’s finished.”

If you want to share your list, I’d love to see it. Go ahead and submit your comment once you type it out.

Big Stuff Happening Soon…

Things have been a little quiet here at HSC this week. I’ve been working on a few things behind the scenes.

Next week I’m going to be bringing you a bunch of awesome new stuff. I’ll share with you MY steps for recording a song, and I’ll be making a big ol’ announcement, too.

Okay, start typing below. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Jon

    Very interesting idea, getting everyone to share their processes.

    Mine is…
    1. Get a rough idea for a riff
    2. Open Garageband
    3. Make a simple bass snare MIDI drum track
    4. Record the riff with a custom preset for the guitar
    5. Experiment and re order parts, and write new parts
    6. Do 2 ‘master’ takes of guitar, playing the guitar parts all the way through in one take
    7. Overdub extra parts/solos
    8. Pan hard left and right, leaving overdubs in the centre
    9. Make a MIDI bass track, editing sounds along the way
    10. Write proper drum parts, including fills and such
    11. Create a copy of the MIDI drum track, pan hard left and right
    12. Create copies of those and add distortion, and pull them down in the mix, just until they add a bit of ‘crackle’ to the cymbals
    13. Make individual kick and snare tracks and eq.
    14. Have a few takes at the vocal and comp them to make a full track
    15. Stack harmonies

    I usually balance the tracks as I’m going along, and the final step is to bounce to iTunes, then import back into Garageband as an mp3 and add a final bit of eq, usually just a very small amount of bass and treble, to ‘pop’ the guitars a bit more.

    Any suggestions anyone has about this technique ?

    I have examples of tracks recorded like this online but I wont post unless asked, I don’t want to shamelessly self promote.

  • Renato Bosa

    1- Listen the song performed as simple as possible. Optimize the song in its essence.
    2- I can think a little about the instrumentation, arrangement… but ever as possible I put the band playing together. Listen it. How it sounds?
    The more times the band plays together, the more things fit together.
    3 – Define the sequence of the parts.
    How will the song begin?? How many times a part will repeat??
    4 – Start tracking after all the details are ok (tempo, tone, instrumentation, sequence).
    5 – Well, from now on i’m beginner…
    Sets up the metronome, ajust the instrument placement, mic placement, musician-return, gain…

    It’s it.
    Greetings from Brazil.

    • Excellent steps. You’ve got the pre-production/planning thing down, which is one of the hardest things to do.

      • Renato Bosa

        Yeah, thanks, now i’m learning how the guide tracks are important, and i’m going to experience this instead of starting to track definitely from nothing.

  • Melvin Blickenstaff

    I always start with a song that is mostly written and practiced. It’s never fun when you record a drum track and come back to it a week later wondering what the hell you were thinking! Haha. Drums first, then usually the instrument I wrote the song on (usually guitar or piano/keyboard). If I at least get that much done, I can start fleshing out other parts, like other keyboard parts. Vocals last, because I usually don’t have lyrics until the song is ready for vocals. I also usually set up some EQ after each new part, so when I go to mix, it’s mostly minor tweaking. If I don’t like the way the song sounds, I either change/rerecord parts, or scrap the recording and start over. The second go is always better than the first.

  • David J

    1 Record the intrument tracks
    2 get a quick balance with volume
    3 write the lyrics
    4 record all vocal tracks
    5 edit
    6 eq all tracks starting with vocals, clean out mud if needed
    7 use compression for presence and feel
    8 effects
    9 breaktime
    10 redo volume balance (if needed)
    11 bounce for mastering

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  • Frank Nitsch

    Hi Joe,

    what my steps are? Theoretically a clean step by step approach not much different to what has been mentioned already. My problem with not finishing things is caused by not having to deliver, there is no hard deadline. But other things have deadlines. This makes it much more important to have a clean workflow and most important: to know, what the status of a song is. If you don’t know, which steps are completed already and which ones are still on the list, it always feels fuzzy, you always assume that so much work is left. Therefore my first action item would be to assess each unfinished song and find out a) what has been done and b) what needs to be done. Knowing what the next step is allows you to instantly start with it and to make progress. Otherwise you will have some time to work on a song, but first you need to find out, where to pick up and continue. This is discouraging…

    One major problem I see in this whole process is the following: how to make a clean cut between pre-production and the actual recording. Using your DAW for arranging and songwriting has a lot of advantages and I like to record an idea, play around with variations, move pieces of the song around etc. This all helps me to end up with a song, which at least I like. But what’s next? Should I reuse the project and record the real tracks? Assuming that I have programmed drums, I could just keep them and go on. Well I could copy the project, remove everything except the drums and start with recording. But what about disabling tracks I used for pre-production and to record the real tracks? The pre-production tracks could be used as scratch tracks and so on. So what would be your advice here?

    Thanx & Take Care

    Frank