Fourth Time''s the Charm
A Case Study in Recording Your Music
I love going into the studio. I love the feeling you get when you play back something for the first time, amazed at how smooth and professional it sounds. I have had this feeling many times, only to go home, stick my recently recorded tape in my stereo system, and cringe at what I hear. What is it that gets lost in the transfer? Why is it that all my optimism and joy turn into utter horror? Four times I have gone into studios over the course of several years to make my debut album perfect; on the fourth time I succeeded. While I'm extremely happy with the final fourth-try album, the other three experiences are marked by poor decisions, poor preparation, bad luck, and anything else that could have gone wrong. The following is a recounting of those sordid details, and I hope they will help you avoid the same mistakes and make your debut album just that -- your first time recording.
DEMO RECORDING 1 - Fall 1993
TOM KITT (self-titled)
SMASH STUDIOS - New York, NY
12 Hours at $60/hour
Four songs - piano, vocals, guitar
I have been studying the piano since I was four, and performing since the age of seven, so I have to admit I was a little cocky when I walked into the studio at the age of nineteen to make this demo. My thoughts were that I was going to make an amazing demo, pass it around to some contacts, and get a record deal just like that. I wasn't concerned with how the songs would be produced, what the arc of each song would be like, or what condition I was in leading up to the sessions. I just figured that when it was time to record, I would easily produce star-quality material and have my record deal in no time.
About the only great thing produced on that tape came from a wonderful backup singer. I walked into the studio with a terrible cold, and the vocals were obviously hurt by that. In addition, I had not practiced the songs and had no clear vocal style. The singing was clumsy and flat, and when listening back, you can't tell why I am singing these songs and what they mean to me. The piano parts are completely improvised, and I can remember having to make many quick decisions during the recording just to come up with something cohesive. This becomes quite frustrating when you are paying by the hour.
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