It’s important to have an idea how a project gets from point A to B. A simple order of operations, if you will? So, let’s start with tracking. When you get the band together in the same room and they’re there for one reason; to record, what do you do? Assuming you’ve already picked a great sounding room and/or put treatments in strategic places to control the room reflections, this is the point where you LISTEN!
Listen to the band play the song they want to record. Pay attention to how it starts. Ask yourself one question. Who’s the timekeeper? Usually it’s the drummer, but sometimes there may be an intro from guitar or bass which holds the time until the drums come in. This is the cornerstone of a good capture. Start with the time keepers and decide who will be recorded in the first take on that time keeping track. This is what’s known as a click track and you don’t necessarily have to keep it. But in many cases it’s best to not make the timekeeper adjust to the already recorded tracks like everyone else. If accuracy is desired, the click track can be assigned a metronome for time referencing. This offers the greatest potential for editing.
Sometimes it’s a solo musician with no drums. This doesn’t require any thought since they keep their own time. Other times the artists might be used to performing live to a sequencer or keyboard track which keeps the time. If you can’t tell, then ask the musicians. When you know who the timekeeper is, it’s a question of whether everyone will be tracked together at the same time or separately. If the band plays the song well enough to capture a live take, and you have the gear required, this may be the way to go. The performance aspect of the song will certainly transfer well to the recording if you go this route. Using dynamic mics or condensers with narrow phase patterns will help here. Make sure you’re careful about microphone placements though. It’s ok to point a mic off axis from the target, in fact, this technique is used sometimes to take away some of the transient detail of an instrument. Just make sure they’re pointed in such a way as to reject any sound you don’t want recorded, such as speakers or other instruments. Mics can also be placed up close to their targets. Guitar amps and drums are typical examples of this. Kick drums are often recorded from within the drum head itself. Room mics can capture much of the live performance feel but care should be taken to keep them equal distance from the performers so someone doesn’t stand out too much in the mix later.
When mic positions are chosen, then microphone and preamp selection comes into play. If you’re limited in the size of your mic locker or your rack is a bit lean, you may wish to record the vocals later in an overdub session. Overdubs can be done with many things and it creates an opportunity for doubling if you so desire. I recommend getting several takes on the vocals with different preamps and or mics. These choices can offer greater mix quality when selecting how the voice will sit in the mix. Ideally these mics should be placed in front of the singer and the recording done with all of the mics at the same time. This way, separate takes can be used on performance and not on equipment selection. Also, you don’t want to have to scrap one preamp choice later because the take didn’t go well that particular time around.
NOTE: THESE ARE JUST GENERAL GUIDELINES AND SHOULD REMAIN FLEXIBLE WHEN NEED BE.