Indeed we try to encourage that so that you can have a look around and we can have a chat, especially if you are looking to record a whole album.
The way most recording studios operate is quite impersonal. Not so in here. Establishing a good relation with the people we work with is essential not only to do a good job, but also to make it an enjoyable experience.
Can we come and view the studio before booking?
Do you provide instruments?
We have a number of great sounding instruments that you are very welcome to use. These include acoustic and electric guitars, two keyboards, a hybrid drum kit, various percussion bits, some great guitar amps and a truly outstanding collection of moderns and vintage guitar pedals.
Please see our equipment section for more details.
I you don't have an instrument, if you are not so happy about how your own instrument sounds, or perhaps you just want to experiment with the tone and feel of a different instrument - we got it all covered: your playing will sound as good as ever!
Can you get session musicians for my recording?
While we don't keep a list of session players as such, we know a lot of great musicians and we are always very happy to recommend someone for you if we can. Just ask!
How does it work?
There are two main approaches to recording: live tracking and overdubbing.
With live tracking people play together, all at the same time. This is very good to capture the energy of playing live, allowing musicians to interact and respond to each other’s playing. At the same time, it may lead to poorer sound quality and it is less forgiving of mistakes.
When overdubbing instruments are recorded separately, layered one by one. This produces the best sound quality. Because each instrument is recorded on its separate track, it allows people to have as many takes as required and when they make mistakes they can just re-record the bit they did wrong. Overdubbing offers more choices in post production too. On the negative side, in some cases overdubbing can make things sound a bit disjointed.
Both have pros and cons. Some people work better with one rather than the other. Some music genres are generally more suited to one rather than the other. Usually bands records live, acoustic songwriters record things separately to then add more instruments to the mix. Of course the two approaches can be mixed, recording for instance 2-3 instruments at the same time (to preserve a live feel and its dynamics) and then overlay other things on top.
In the case of acoustic songwriter, we try to encourage recording guitar and vocals together. There is something very special about the way people sing while playing guitar, something that would be a shame not to capture. Indeed, we excel in recording guitar and vocals at the same time and developed a number of techniques to do that to perfection.
We are very good at working with you to understand which approach suits your music and playing best. Indeed the success of your recording will largely depend on finding the approach that works best for you.
How long will it take to record my album?
It really depends on a lot of different elements:
- how many songs
- the complexity of the songs
- your musical ability
- how rehearsed you are
- how self-critical you are
- what results you are aiming for
A singer / guitarist can track hours of live stuff in one day, mix it on the same day and walk away with a good quality demo. For a simple four-piece band, 3-4 demo songs are achievable in a weekend.
If you want to record an album then you will want to work on sounds and arrangements, to what extents really depends on what you are looking for.
A well-rehearsed band can lay down most of the basic tracks for an album in 2 days. Overdubs can take anywhere from one to three days depending on the amount of work and pickiness. For mixing, you are looking at 2-3 hours per song.
Acoustic songwriters usually work much faster. In 2 or 3 half day sessions we can find a good vocal/guitar sound and record all vocals and guitar parts. Then more instruments can be overdubbed as required.
We've made albums in one day and one month, it really all depends. Just don't try to make “The Dark Side of the Moon” in three days!
What's your set up for recording bands?
How many times did you see a local band playing live, sounding totally brilliant, bought their CD at the end of the gig, went home, put it on and… the excitement and magic you witnessed earlier just wasn’t quite there?
That is what happens when you get a band and instead of making them play live you record each bit separately and then stitch it all back together, often letting a click track dictate in the process. Or it could be the result of wanting to come up with something different than you usually sound live, but not having a good producer behind you to facilitate that.
Another common problem is that a drum kit recorded in an inappropriate space will never provide the low end punch and power needed to support a great mix. It is difficult to have a room which will record drums well: it needs to have a lot of headroom, the right proportions and the right acoustic treatment. Very few studios in Edinburgh offer that facility, and they charge three times as much as I do.
To avoid all that, we have developed a very special system to record bands, based around our formidable, custom built hybrid drum kit (read more and see pictures & hear samples here) and a strong emphasis on playing live.
This allows us to record rhythm guitar (from a miked amp), bass (direct through a valve DI box AND a miked amp) and drums all together, live, yet with total separation. Usually we get the singer + lead guitarist play with the rest of the band, but then overdub their parts later.
As a result, you get both the feel of a live performance AND the superior sound quality completely separate tracks bring. If someone makes a mistake you can punch in just that bit again, without having to loose a great take because of that. Or sometimes you can even just edit it out (which usually would be very difficult in a live recording where there is a lot of leakage between tracks).
The only real draw back is that the drummer needs to get used to the playing feel of the hybrid kit, which is different from that of a traditional one. Quite a few drummers were initially wary of this, but when they started playing our kit they absolutely loved it.
Come and see us for a chat and a demonstration of the drum kit. Chances are you’ll never look back!
Do you work weekends/evenings?
We have very flexible working hours and are happy to discuss with you any times that may suit you. Usually weekends are fine and so are evenings - though we don't work after 10.30pm. The earlier you book, the easier it will be to accommodate your needs.
Is there any parking?
Ticketed parking is available just outside the studio, at the cost of £ 2.40 per hour. This is free on a weekend or after 17.30 on weekdays.
There is an NCP Car Park three minutes walk from the studio as well. It is open 24 hours a day. Prices are:
1 hour: £3.50
2 hours: £7.00
3 hours: £10.50
4 hours: £14.00
12 hours: £17.50
24 hours: £20.00
*prices updated on 9th November 2017
How can I pay?
You can pay in cash at the end of your session.
Cheques are also accepted, however unless they are business cheques they need to be sent in advance, at least 8 days before your session.
Payment with credit and debit cards is fine but it attracts a 3.5% surcharge (sorry, that is what they charge me!).
What if we must cancel our session?
No problem. These things happen!
Simply call me as soon possible to let me know, so that I don't end up sitting around waiting for you.
If I must cancel your session (which is very unlikely) I will do the same and notify you as soon as I possibly can, so that we can arrange another time for you to come in.
PS: for corporate and business bookings (like advertising and voice over work) cancellations must be made at least 48 hours in advance, or you will be charged for the first two hours of your booking (for a week-day session) or the full amount of your booking if it was for a weekend.
What to bring / preparing for you session
We try to have everything you may need in here. However - whatever instrument you are going to be playing - try to bring anything you may need - just in case. Spare drum sticks, strings, picks, batteries, capos etc.
consider bringing lyric sheets, they can always be handy.
please bring you own stool and sticks.
Bass, mandolin, ukulele, fiddle and banjo players:
please make sure you have some spare strings.
although we do have spare guitar strings, we still encourage you to bring your own.
In order to get the best sound out of your guitar, please change the strings 1-2 days before your recording session and make sure the guitar has been played a minimum of 30 minutes but no more than 4 hours since it has been restrung.
Clothing: wear something comfortable. Also consider that microphones are extremely sensitive and pick everything up. A tracksuit and a top with no zip/buttons is always a good idea, as this prevents your instrument rubbing against them and making noises that you probably don't want in your recording!
The tracking room is small, so please take it easy with perfumes and aftershaves as they can make things a bit overwhelming for others :-)
What is Mixing?
After all the instruments and vocals are recorded, they are mixed.
Think of mixing as putting the puzzle together, assembling the parts you have recorded so that each one sits in its own space and can be clearly heard, but at the same time they form a whole together.
Mixing involves adjusting volumes of individual tracks, adjusting the stereo image, creating a sense of space and depth, equalizing, compressing, adding effects and final touches.
You will be involved in the process so that the final product matches your particular musical taste.
What is mastering?
Mastering is the process of optimizing your recording, making the overall loudness, dynamics and frequency levels (bass, treble and mid range) match the volume and frequency levels of other professional recordings of similar style/arrangement and, more importantly, match each other.
Mastering will not simply make your songs better. It isn’t a magic pill making home recordings and demos sounding on par with major label releases. If you are not happy with your mix, then the best course of action isn’t to send it for mastering, but to go back to your mix and re-mix it.
Once you are happy about your mix, if you have the budget for mastering it will make a considerable difference and it is an investment we strongly recommend.
Please note that mastering is much more important for albums that include a drum kit, electric bass, double bass and deep sounding percussion instruments like djembes. If your album consists of acoustic guitar, vocals, fiddle and light percussion, then mastering is much less critical. Deep, complex and powerful low end is what can create more problems in a mix, the reason for this being that having a room that can actually reproduce those frequencies correctly is a privilege that only "proper" mastering engineers have, and mixing engineers can only approximate and make educated guesses in that area (leaving the fine tuning to the mastering engineer).
A good mastering engineer will assess the mixes as a whole, making sure the songs are clear, punchy, translatable onto many systems, and that are sounding good together, as a unified album.
You may wondering whether we do mastering, costs etc. Please read on.
Do you do mastering?
That depends on what you mean by “mastering”. If you haven’t already, please read the section called “what is mastering” first.
We can finalise the mix for you, making it ready for replication and adding tasteful mastering compression. We do own a few analogue compressors that are extremely popular in good mastering studios (Manley Vari MU, Pendulum Compressor, SSL G Compressor and API 2500). Therefore we can finish your mix using great quality analogue outboard, rather than putting everything we recorded through a software plugin that will simply flatten your music out introducing harshness, like many other places do.
We can also work on making each song as consistent as possible with each other.
THIS, HOWEVER, DOESN'T MAKE US A SUBSTITUTE FOR A PROPER, EXPERIENCED MASTERING ENGINEER. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people who should really provide the same answer, but instead of doing so they will try to pass for mastering engineers, even if they are not.
Mastering requires a lot of very expensive, dedicated equipment. It requires a room treated in a very different way from your typical mixing environment (often custom built), as well as tons of skills and experience. Believe me, anyone in that position will do mastering as their main and only job. I would not trust anyone offering mastering as well as mixing and recording.
In a nutshell:
- "proper" mastering will benefit your recording and we recommend you have it done professionally if you can afford it. However you can do without it - especially if you don't have drums, electric bass, double bass and deep sounding percussion instruments in your album - and we can finalise the mix for replication for you.
- finding a proper mastering engineer and choosing one isn’t easy because far too many people improvise themselves as one and they can potentially do more harm than good to your recording. However we can help you find someone suitable if you have the budget for it (as a guideline, prices start from £ 40 per song).