Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Last weekend, I made the drive down to Sunset Sound Recorders in West Hollywood, CA to record three songs over two days with an experienced engineer in a beautiful studio with legendary records on the wall. I was so privileged to have this experience and needless to say, there is a lot to report back.
For those who don't like deeper explanations, here are my three key takeaways:
1.) Get the sounds right from the source.
2.) The quality of your headphone mix = the quality of your performance.
3.) Having people you trust in the room makes all the difference!
Getting the sounds right from the source does not mean you need expensive hardware like Sunset has in their control room:
Pictured: Sunset Sound Recorders Studio 1 Control Room
However, having an understanding of the recording signal chain and how tools like microphones, preamps, compressors, and EQ's can be used to get consistent and colorful sounds can give you many more options to mold the record to the original vision. It also helps you mix faster, think of it as sharpening the axe before cutting down the tree.
Now, I will say that having more equipment doesn't hurt lol:
Pictured: Microphone setup of the drum kit for live tracking
The quality of your headphone mix is paramount to the performance and feeling of the song. The best part about recording at Sunset was how retrofitted their studio is for live sounds, which was the main reason I wanted to record there:
Pictured: View from behind the microphones (Neumann U-47 on the left, Telefunken 251 on the right) in the vocal booth at Sunset Sound Recorders
Pictured: Recording acoustic guitar with an AKG C12A, headphone mix board on the left
We recorded live takes with myself on electric guitar and vocals, the session drummer, and the session bass player and then overdubbed the vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and electric bass. Electric bass and guitar was recorded in the control room, acoustic guitar and final vocals was recorded in the live room as you see here.
Having other people in the room to give creative input made all of the difference in the final recording, and the greatest part about the process was the relationship I created with my engineer Nate Haessly:
Pictured: Nate and I posing for a photo in the Studio 1 control room
Nate has been a recording and mixing engineer on some high profile projects, including Tanya Tucker's latest album (which won a Grammy for Best Country Album), Slipknot, and the movie Soul released recently by Pixar. He has exceptional taste and ears for designing sounds that go together well before we even touch the mixing process. His input was all over this record in the form of textural acoustic guitar overdubs, electric guitar sound designs, and vocal/arrangement feedback. Having a producer and engineer like him was the best time.
I hope my fellow musicians learned something from my experience! For some bonus content, here is the equipment list from our sessions, a picture of their mic locker, and a slideshow of my favorite records in their lobby!
Pictured: Mic, preamp, EQ, and compressor list from our sessions
Pictured: Sunset Sound Recorders Mic Locker
Pictured: Records on the wall of Sunset Sound Recorders
BONUS CONTENT: If you want to listen to what we accomplished, sign up for my newsletter below and receive a private SoundCloud link to the raw studio cuts! Thanks for reading!