Recording FAQs

Discussion in 'Classifieds' started by KMJ Recordings, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member


    Part of KMJ Recordings’ ongoing commitment to recording Brass Bands is to be open to questions before, during and after the recordings. Quite often, the nature of the questions is similar from session to session and Band to Band. The following is a list of FAQs – they’re real questions that have been asked by real Bands (in no particular order) – in the hope that sharing the answers in this way is useful to people who are in the process of thinking about or are arranging recordings.

    If you’ve got a question you’d like to see answered here, please feel free to either post here or send me a PM and we’ll answer it as soon as we can.

    Happy recording!

    Q) Why do we have to play the same thing again? (The first time sounded good enough to me)

    A) Listening from within the Band may sound very different to how it’s being heard in the control room – the Production Team may hear something you didn’t. This could be anything from split notes, bad ensemble, poor intonation or things like noises that shouldn’t be there (for example mute noise, drum stick clicks, coughs etc). Additionally, it’s always safer to have at least two copies of everything – just in case something is missed.

    Q) It's all gone quiet. What are you doing in there?

    A) Most likely checking through the score to see which parts need to be repeated or listening back to something you’ve just recorded. It’s important at this time to keep instruments warm – it may be several minutes – but don’t tire yourselves out.

    Q) Will the drummer/percussion be screened off/in a booth? Why?

    A) It depends who you’re recording with. Acoustic screens can be used to achieve more isolation of the drums from the main microphones which may be needed to facilitate the balance. Ideally, you’d like the performers to be self balancing which, to an extent, negates the need for the screens.

    Q) I've read that adjustments can be made to individuals in the mix. Is that true?

    A) Only if you’ve got a microphone pointing at each of those individuals. Some Companies do employ such multimicing techniques and manufacture the balance of the Band later. Others employ zonal microphone techniques in which you can adjust particular regions of the Band, and the rest record just in stereo and solely rely on the Band to be self balancing.

    Q) How many takes for each piece?

    A) It depends entirely on the piece, how long it is and how well you play it.

    Q) Do you ever do overdubs? Why?

    A) Not on the sessions. As the performance is compiled from the best sections of multiple takes after the session you’d have to overdub the required part on all of the takes of a particular section. Adding parts to a completed edit after a session isn’t entirely unknown.

    Q) We did it a different way with _____________. Why was this?

    A) Different Companies have different ways of reaching the same endpoint – the final product is the thing that’s really important. It’s up to you to decide which you prefer.

    Q) How sensitive are those microphones really?

    A) In general, they’re very sensitive. They pick up everything you’re playing, saying and anything else that goes on in the room such as mute noise, shuffling feet and rustling music. It’s for this reason that you’re asked to be quiet at all times during the recording, regardless of whether you’re playing or not – a stray noise can ruin an otherwise fabulous take.

    Q) Do I have to blow towards the microphones?

    A) No – don’t do anything other than play naturally (unless you’re asked to do otherwise).

    Q) Why are you using X number of microphones?

    A) The balance and sound of the final recording is determined by the number and type of microphones used. Each Company will have a preferred way of working, which may vary with the Band, the venue and the material that’s being recorded.

    Q) Can I have a quick look at the gear?

    A) We’re quite happy for you to…..just don’t touch anything ;)

    Q) Will we hear something we have recorded today?

    A) Usually. The MD may be frequently asked to listen to sections, and soloists will normally be asked to comment on the balance of their feature.

    Q) What happens to the recordings between the session and final CD?

    A) The Producer of the recording generates an edit plot – this is like a map that says which take to use where in the piece. The takes are then edited or ‘spliced’ together and the edit listened to. Incremental improvements are then made before a preview CD is sent to the Band for comment.

    Q) What does the production team actually do?

    A) It depends on which Company you use. Broadly speaking, the team will be separated into two halves – one half engineers the recording (so put the microphones in the right place and operates the equipment) and the other half ‘Produces’. Amongst other things, the Producer(s) will run the sessions (in collaboration with the MD) by deciding the order of recording, which sections of music you need to record multiple times etc and then generate the edit plots for the editor to compile from all the material that’s recorded. Some Companies combine the role of engineer and Producer.

    Q) We did a recording ages ago. They used a tape recorder. Do you still use tape?

    A) KMJ Recordings doesn’t use tape – we record digitally. Other Companies may still use tape, but it’s becoming increasingly rare.

    Q) Is the artwork really something that holds up manufacture?

    A) It can be. It’s a good idea to have an idea of what you’re going to require for your artwork up front and – if you’re designing your own covers etc – make sure you get the specifications and open direct channels of communication with the repro house as soon as is reasonably practicable.

    Q) The sound check took up about 30 minutes of recording time. Why so long?

    A) Sound checks can occasionally take up this amount of time, particularly if the venue have chosen is problematic. It’s always better to get a recording right at source rather than trying to ‘”fix it in the mix”, so in our experience this time is just as important as time spent recording.

    Q) What is meant by “inconsistency between takes” and why is it problem?

    A) It could be anything from playing the same part of the music at differing dynamics or tempi, or a percussionist deciding to change from a cowbell to a woodblock when something is repeated (or even hit a ride cymbal in a different place). If an edit is required between these takes, it can’t be made as the music is different. Dynamics (to an extent) and tempi (to an extent) can be manipulated – but the former can’t.

    Q) What is a “splice”?

    A) It’s an edit between two different takes. It’s more usually applied to tape editing.

    Q) Is it possible to play too loud for the microphones?

    A) It depends what they are. In principle it is, but in practice it’s quite difficult.

    Q) The microphones are different shapes and sizes. Why?

    A) Different microphones have different sonic characteristics. They’re chosen on the basis of how you want them to sound when you’re recording a particular instrument or group. They may be either large or small, might contain valves or be solid state and you might point the end or the side at the instrument and they might pick up sound from all around, just the front or just the sides. Even two microphones that look identical might be vastly different.

    Q) Why does my mobile phone have to be off rather than silent?

    A) Any form of electromagnetic interference may affect a piece of equipment – such as when the mobile network searches for connected devices – so it’s safer to turn them off.

    Q) Why didn't we start with “take 1”?

    A) This is Company dependent. For instance the take numbers used by KMJ Recordings correlate with the playlists on one of our backup stereo recorders.

    Q) I messed up yesterday. Can we just quickly do that bit again today?

    A) Generally it’s not advisable to split pieces over multiple days, particularly if a reset has been forced.

    Q) I can hear traffic noise outside. Will that be picked up?

    A) If you can hear it, so can the microphones. It may be possible to filter some of it out, but not always. The same applies to aeroplanes, birdsong, football match cheering and so on. It’s something to be aware of when selecting your venue.

    Q) Why are some CDs louder than others?

    A) Real life acoustic performances can contain lots of changes in dynamic levels – fortissimo is loud and pianissimo is very quiet. Some CDs have the extremes of dynamic range removed so to an extent the recording becomes an ‘all purpose mezzoforte’. These CDs will appear ‘louder’ than those which contain a fuller dynamic range as the average (RMS) level is higher. KMJ Recordings’ preference is to leave dynamic range intact – if you play with dynamic contrast it’s nice to hear it. Similarly all material that is played on the radio is similarly dynamically ‘squashed’ (or compressed and limited) – so comparing a CD to a radio broadcast is not always a good thing to do.

    Q) We want 1000 CDs. How long will they take to “burn”?

    A) Quantities this big are much better suited to being made by replication – being stamped from a glass master. Usual plant turn around is between 10 and 15 working days.

    Q) Duplication or Replication. Eh?

    A) Duplication is being burnt onto CDRs, replication is being stamped from a glass master CD. The latter is a technically superior process and the longevity of the product is generally perceived as better. It also eliminates the possibility of incompatibility with older CD players.

    Q) What is the MCPS? (I see it on other CDs)

    A) The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society. They administer the charges for recording copyrighted material and distribute royalties to composers and arrangers on your behalf.

    Q) Do we need a licence for our CD?

    A) Generally, yes. The exceptions to this are where you’re recording all your own material (that either isn’t registered with the MCPS or you’ve got an exclusion for various uses) or material that’s in the public domain. Both these circumstances will still need a notification of no claim.

    Q) What does this licence cost?

    A) The up to date costs can be obtained from the MCPS-PRS Alliance Website. As a ballpark figure, the fee is currently around £325 for 500 CDs sold at £10.

    Q) What parts are there to the artwork?

    A) It depends entirely on your artwork specification. Brass Band CDs are usually released in standard jewel cases – in which case, you’ll have a booklet and a traycard (that goes in the back of the box) and you’ll have either text or a design to print on the CD itself.

    Q) Can I help you set up/break down?

    A) No – for insurance reasons – but thanks!

    Q) My son plays in a rock band. They “compress” their stuff. What does it mean?

    A) Compression reduces dynamic range. This can have the effect of making things seem louder, but it can have undesirable side effects, particularly where acoustic recordings are concerned.

    Q) Is reverberation the same as echo?

    A) No – but they are sometimes used as equivalents in layman’s terms.

    Q) How do some companies get stereo with only one microphone?

    A) Some microphones are stereo, or they could be using a Soundfield microphone which contains multiple capsules which you can get stereo from later.

    Q) Do we have to record in the order of the CD?

    A) No. You may find you do some that way, but it’s more likely that the session will be structure with lip fatigue / soloists / difficulty taken into consideration. It’s for this reason that the use of an experienced Producer is advantageous.

    Q) Can we go back and do things again if there's a mistake?

    A) Absolutely (unless it’s a live performance!)

    Q) What is the red light for?

    A) When the light is on, it means that you’re being recorded. Everyone should be as quiet as possible (apart from the playing!) when it’s on – you’re still part of the recording and any noise you make may spoil a fantastic take.

    Q) Why are you in another room?

    A) It’s easier to make sure the microphones are in the right place and balance the recording when you’re acoustically isolated from the Band. If we were in the same room it’d be very difficult to get this right. Other people’s opinions differ.

    Q) Are we allowed a drink during the session?

    A) Absolutely. Room temperature water is a good thing to have handy. Trips to the pub at lunch may be detrimental.

    Q) Will there be comfort breaks during the day?

    A) Yes. Regardless of who you’re working with the day should be structured such that the Production Team get the best quality playing – it’s much easier to work with well played material than to try to fix something that was recorded when you need a break.

    Q) How is the day mapped out?

    A) There’ll be a nominal maximum day length. In our experience, each session is different as each Band is different and the recording company should work with to your strengths.

    Q) Why do you need so many (at least 2) scores?

    A) During the session, each Producer needs a copy. At least one will be marked up fully with edit plots. Another copy is required for the editor.

    Q) What do you do with the out takes?

    A) The entire session is archived, but nothing is done with the out takes.

    Q) There's a radio / mobile phone mast within a few hundred yards of our chosen venue - will it affect your recording equipment?

    A) It depends on the equipment and wiring that's in use. A properly grounded and balanced rig should be OK - the transmitter power should be low enough that it doesn't affect anything...but if there's a possible alternative venue it's worth considering just to avoid any potential complications.
  2. garsop_2000

    garsop_2000 Member

    Recordings FAQ's

    In reply to Q27,.....

    In my work environment & my role as an Expeditor in a cd/dvd plant our QTA (quick turn around ) time is maximum 3 days, on a busy period/season it's 24hrs tops & we got to deliver or the custom/business would go down the drain, regarding your time in working days (10/15) we've had shipped just under 850k stock.

    In reply to Q28,....

    Not much duplication (cdr) done in my place about 5% business, replication leads in both cd/dvd from start (glass master) to finished item (printed cd/dvd with dual case etc) Yes the latter by far is more technically superior.
  3. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Thanks for the input :D

    For clarification, I'm referring to use of a broker including artwork checking (and maybe design depending on the contract), proof issue, approval, manufacture and delivery and not just the manufacture.

    Personally I don't deal that much with duplication either - it's far more economical to go with, say, 500 or 1000 copies - but every now and again people ask for short runs.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2008
  4. garsop_2000

    garsop_2000 Member

    Recording FAQ

    Thankyou for taking the time for the "Clarification", I understand your points you raised.

    Now, for my "clarification" i'm not just talking about the "manufacture" i'm also talking about your "broker" point as you explain above. As I said in my 1st reply to your thread "EVERYTHING" is within the 3 day turnaround and an a busy period 24hrs.

    Now you telling me i'm talking through my backside that this cannot be achieved ?

    In reply to your 2nd reply my company or the company that employ me does'nt do much with duplication either as I have already mentioned 5% business, through please understand that we also do "short runs" which it great business for our company as payment is still the same as if someone ordered 10k or even 75k cd. No matter what size it's business & you take it, no matter what format whether duplication or replication you take it, it's money at the end of the day & keeps us all in a job with :) faces on us.

    Finally maybe i'm comparing KMJ recording a bit much to my own employer. Maybe it's a case that KMJ is not as big as those who I work for as we are "worldwide" with 50 + companies, even though the "easterns" seem to be taking over those customers still can leave us,...... especially with a minimum of 3 day QTA.

    Back to work i guess,...
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Sorry, I don't understand the tone of your post? :confused:

    I'm not in the slightest telling you that it can't be achieved - I know that it can - however, this thread is meant as general questions that can apply to anyone and not just KMJ Recordings and it's customers. The figures quoted are an average from brokers websites - take for instance Repeat Performance Multimedia , Media Sourcing, Testa Rossa and so on. It's not meant to be an exhaustive list, but each of those websites quotes within a range of 7 to 21 working days. Interestingly, the first page of the Google search for UK answers to "CD Replication" also pretty much exclusively cite 1 to 2 weeks.

    The information presented in the answer to the question is thus representative of the kind of information that people would gain from an internet search should they wish to produce their own material. It was never meant to be exhaustive - and I'm sorry if you took it to be that way.

    I'm also aware that KMJ Recordings is not a multinational corporation. If you wish to attack my Company and the service we provide, please do so by PM. I intended no personal nor corporate slur by my original reply.
  6. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    I agree with Keith here I'm afraid. garsop_2000 I am not sure what your intentions were when you posted this message, but they do seem somewhat aggressive when there was simply no need for it. I think you misunderstood or perhaps misread Keiths reply to your points.
  7. garsop_2000

    garsop_2000 Member

    Do not be afraid at all "musicman" you are entitled to sit on whatever side of the fence you choose to, yes my point was on the tad aggressive side and probably misunderstood on my behalf. I should of been more mature not to reply/attack with such venom, which was uncalled for.

    Keith, there's no need to apoligize to me, as it's clear to all that I was out of order, I'm not shooting down your company have no issues with KMJ, infact I never even heard of KMJ until i came across the post.

    My point in which I’m pointing out was on the "pointers" of interest in Q&A form that you wrote and I was replying to Q27/Q28. I'm entitled to reply, after all it's a forum where we all come to speak & give opion, though yes without the snottyness/bitchy remarks.

    Keith I apoligise to you for my ruddness, and my manner, it's unacceptable.

    I think this has certainly put me in my place. !!
  8. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    What a refreshing change to see people willing to discuss misunderstandings in such a civilised manner. So much better than the acrimonious posts seen in other threads lately :clap:
  9. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Hey garsop_2000, please don't be offended - you are, as you suggest, perfectly entitled to express your opinion, and to express your views. Please keep doing so.
  10. garsop_2000

    garsop_2000 Member


    Thankyou for your support. We all make errors of judgement now & again don't we ? We're human after all !.
  11. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Q) We're looking for something a bit different to record from all the Films and Shows CDs that the local bands around us seem to be making and we've found a load of manuscript stuff in our library. Can we use it?

    A) The answer to this one is that it depends ;) All the arrangments you record on the CD need to be legal i.e. if the original work was still in copyright when the arrangment was made, the arrangement needs to be sanctioned. In some instances, permission to arrange and perform in public can be granted but permission to record the arrangement can be witheld. The bottom line is that you need to check that the arrangement has all the necessary permissions in place before you record it (some Companies will also refuse to record arrangments that are known to be in contravention of Copyright Law) - if you go ahead and do it anyway, the recording may be forced to be withdrawn and you can open up the Band to possible prosecution.

    If in doubt, leave it out.
  12. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Q) Our Band has a lot of people who work all day Saturday, and it's impossible for us to get a full band together for a weekend. Is it possible for us to record our CD across different weekends, say two Sundays?

    A) Yes, but there's a caveat. If everything - and that includes things like the Band's chairs and percussion instruments as well as the position of the microphone stands and their height etc - aren't in exactly the same place there's a distinct possibility that the material recorded on each day will sound different. It could be anything from balance to stereo width to perceived depth and so on.

    Whether this is acceptable to you is only a decision you can make, but the effect may be manageable if you use one or two production tips.

    You may also find that you're asked to sign a declaration that you've been informed of the possibility of such effects on a so-called split session such that should things be vastly different once they're on tape there's no comeback on the recording Company (depending on the available budget, it's possible to take, for instance, laser measurements of everything so a complete reset is feasible but it's unlikely to be included in a standard quotation).

    All of this also applies if you choose a venue that necessitates removal of equipment overnight.
  13. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Q) We did a recording with Company X a while ago. Will this recording sound the same as the last one?

    A) It's possible to make it such that they're fairly close, but lots of factors influence the sound of the recording. The main difference comes from the chosen venue (assuming the Band is the same) - if you record in the same room, and assuming there haven't been any major structural changes or things like copious amounts of soft furnishings added or taken away it makes it easier to approach a previous balance. However, changing microphone placements and the types of mics used by different companies (and to a lesser extent all the rest of the tech equipment such as the mic preamplifiers and AD converters) can also dramatically affect the overall sound of the recording...even things like the Producer's preference will change things.

    If you think it's critical that you achieve a similar balance on your next recording then provide a reference sample - but bear in mind it's not always achievable (and you may end up with something dramatically different but subjectively 'better' by not trying).

    On a similar note:

    Q) I've got Recording XYZ by Band ABC - can you make us sound like that?

    A) See above. The venue is very important - and sometimes to get decent venues you have to stretch your budget a little. Sonically, given the appropriate venue you can get a balance and sound similar to your reference.....but there's a caveat (which can sometimes be difficult to accept) in that some kinds of balance are much less forgiving than others. You may find that some CDs are very high in their level of detail and so are very unforgiving to minor lapses of intonation or splits. Depending on your level of recording experience and standard of Band choosing to have such a balance could be detrimental to the quality of the product - in other words the CD and the Band may sound much better if you choose a different approach (or have a production team that can help you choose appropriately).
  14. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    A tad late with this reply, but from a radio standpoint there are some points that stick out. One is the recording place (if not a studio) and background noise.

    I have heard recordings that were a great recording of a track that was ruined by an unexpected sound.

    Good balance in rehearsal will provide good balance in a recording situation. Professional recordings by companies like KMJ are worth a lot. A band I was the MD for bought their own digital recorder and some decent microphones.

    They recorded the annual Christmas concert. It was awful. The band sounded pretty good that night, but microphones were placed in terrible positions. You heard cornets and the bass trombone and that was it.

    As a board member (the MD was a board member of this group) I told them spending money this way rather than to hire professionals was crazy. Unfortunately, I was proven right.

    There are thousands of CDs of Brass Bands. Some I do them a BIG favor by not playing their CD -- it is that bad. Not recorded by professionals and it showed.

    Even the voice ads on ALL BRASS BAND radio are done by professionals. Better trained, better equipment and much better results!

  15. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Thanks for your interest Jim :D

    With regard to the issue of unexpected sounds and radio broadcast (and this is for the general punter in the street as I'm aware you know this), the problem is exacerbated by the Tx processing that the recording undergoes before broadcasting. Due to the nature of the beast - which in general involves fairly heavy compression and limiting - it has the habit of making even the quietest noise - be it a mute clink or a ring on a shank, squeaky drum stool, stick click etc etc - to potentially be almost as loud as the programme material.

    However, as recording is now more accessible than ever to Bands who 10 to 20 years ago wouldn't have been able to afford the 'luxury' of having things recorded, the thing that's perhaps goes unappreciated is exactly how hard it is to, say, sit still. These things don't even come second nature to even the best Bands without a large amount of practice.

    Sometimes there's a choice to be made - do we accept the best musical performance and leave in the click? Do you pay for countless hours of the editor's time (and even perhaps for something like the Cedar Bureau to give you a totally clean but perhaps far too clinical recording that maybe doesn't make musical sense??

    It's an interesting conundrum - and IME each client is different.

    When I was asked to do a presentation to the National Association of Brass Band Conductors on preparing and recording a Brass Band CD, they originally wanted me to do a practical demonstration of where to put microphones, place soloists etc. Apart from the obvious question ("Why should I show you how to do my job so I do myself out of business?") the secondary issue of the fact that every single job is different depending on the Band, venue and programme material can't be demonstrated. It's by far the better solution to get someone in ;)
  16. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    The recording I am thinking of (I will not say to protect the guilty) has a teenager -- or what sounds like one yelling in the distance. It was picked up. I had to pull the track from the station as people, even me, responded by "looking out the door" to see if there was trouble.

    Not the kind of thing you want.

  17. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Ah :rolleyes:

    Still, at least it was all there, and there wasn't a bit of the piece missing :D
  18. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Another one from an inquiry over the weekend:

    Q) We've got a recording that was made of the Band earlier in the year by a 3rd party. Can we include the recording on the CD?

    A) This is another 'possibly' answer. Assuming that the recording was done legally with all the correct permissions in place, unless contracted otherwise, the copyright in the sound recording belongs to the Company / Engineer who made it. You'll need their formal written permission to use it, and this may possibly involve payment of a one off fee and / or royalties and might include stipulations about sleeve credits amongst other things. The recording will be subject to MCPS licencing as is the rest of the CD. Also bear in mind that sometimes the first recording rights of certain works are restricted. This would be particularly applicable if you were to want to use a recording of a commissioned test piece, for instance.

    Releasing the CD without the appropriate permissions in place is, again, opening yourselves up to potential prosecution for infringement.
  19. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Q) We're selecting our programme - how much material do we need?

    A) It's entirely down to how you want to balance your programme, but it's usually a recommendation to aim for about an hour's worth of music. Shorter than this, your prospective buyers may feel a little short changed (although there are 'pop' albums out there that are less than 40 minutes long ;) ), longer than this you may run the risk of running out of session time to cover the material properly. However, it's always a good idea to have some extra material that you can record such that if something doesn't come up to standard it can be dropped without compromising the running time.
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The batphone's been busy today ;)

    Q) We're looking at doing a recording of a live gala concert rather than a recording session. What sort of difference does it make how we go about it?

    A) From the Band's perspective, preparation for the concert should be exactly the same as it usually is, but all the practice wrt extraneous noises etc should still be put into place. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about intrusive audience noises.

    However, there are all sorts of additional implications. There are various permissions you'll need to get (which can vary depending on venues etc), Health and Safety regulations will need to be examined and there may be additional insurance implications - not all of these are the Band's responsibility, but that of the recording company or sometimes both.

    Additionally, you may need to be more selective with who you get to do your recording for you. Recording a live concert is, by definition, significantly different to recording in a studio type environment. For instance, there may be implications on how the event is miked up - e.g. having traditional microphone stands in vision may not be appropriate.

    Another important thing to remember is that a live performance is a one off performance. If there's a technical failure that causes the main recording to stop and there's no backup in place, you've lost your recording. Redundant backup is an absolute necessity for such recordings - make sure you check it's available before committing.

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