My Band has never been in a studio, can you explain the process?

The process and techniques in the studio will vary from project to project based on your budget and the purpose of the recording. The average recording session for a polished CD can be broken down into 4 tasks:

1. Tracking- During the tracking phase, the band sets up and plays much as if they were performing live. The goal of this phase is to get the drums recorded, and perhaps the bass guitar. During this phase "scratch" guitars and vocals are also recorded, but mainly to help the drummer get through the song. Any mistake made on guitar or vocals during this part of the process is ignored so long as it doesn't mess the drummer up. Sometimes final guitar tracks are recorded at this time, but normally they're accomplished in the second part of the process:

2. Overdubs- During the overdub phase, any instruments that weren't recorded satisfactorily in the tracking phase are replaced. Most often this is guitars, keyboards, sometime bass guitar, and any miscellaneous percussion. It's during this phase that final vocal tracks are recorded, as well as any harmonies or background parts.

3. Mixing- After all the tracks are recorded, they need to be mixed together. Mixing is essentially blending the individual tracks in a way that sounds good. During this phase volume levels of individual instruments are adjusted, effects are applied, dynamics processing is applied, EQ, ect. Mixing is generally the most time consuming part of the process, but very critical.

4. Mastering- The final step in a professional recording is mastering. I'm of the opinion that this step is just as important as every other step, but this is the most overlooked part of the process. Mastering does not fix major problems that occur during the mix. Mastering takes the stereo tracks of the song and polishes it. Minor problems can be fixed here such as improper EQ. The songs are also lightly compressed so that they have more energy. Most studios, including SDP, are not set up or equipped for professional mastering. Many local studios that claim to offer professional mastering fall short. If your project is going to be sold in large quantities or played on the radio you owe it to yourself to seek professional mastering. I offer free mastering on all projects recorded at SDP, but this mastering is more suited to demos than major projects.

How much should I expect to spend on my project?

It's impossible to predict exactly how much your project will cost. The studio charges by the hour, and the biggest factor in project cost is how prepared you are when you come in. The studio is not a very cost effective place to write a song, or to work out arrangements. If you're in an average 4 or 5 piece band, and everyone knows their parts, it won't take long to get them recorded. We do a wide variety of projects, from karaoke style sessions to solo performer/songwriters playing acoustic guitar or piano with vocals, to full band productions. For full band the average band usually spends about $100 per song, I've had some that spent less than $50 for quicker demos, and I've had some that spent a few hundred dollars per song. If you come in prepared, the only thing I can pretty much guarantee is that you will spend less at SDP studio than anywhere else, excluding a handful of home project studios.

If I bring in my favorite Green Day or (insert hero here) CD can you make me sound just like them?

Probably not. If you come in and you sound just like Green Day already then your recording will too. A common misconception is that the studio can make a good performance great, that's not true. I can work with you to get the best performance you can give, but in the end the recording will only sound as good as you. Some things to consider before coming in to record are changing your drum heads, and fixing any rattles caused by loose or broken hardware. Make sure your drums are tuned. If you want a great sounding kick drum, use a front head with a hole in it so a mic can be put inside. Guitars should have new strings, and should not buzz or hum. If you're guitar has a bad hum it likely has a bad ground, have it fixed or play one of mine. If your gear sounds good at home, it will sound good in the studio. Another thing to consider is how prepared you are to offer a great performance. If your session is at 9 AM and you were up till 4 AM partying, you're most likely not going to give it your best. If you and your gear are ready to go, SDP will capture a great performance and you'll be very happy with the results.

Your rates are $50 per hour or $350 for ten hour blocks, do you ever make exceptions?

Yes. From time to time I offer promotions in the slower months. To be informed of these specials check the message board often, or better yet email me at and ask to be added to my mailing list. I've also been known to offer a flat per song rate, or per CD, so don't be afraid to ask.

What is a 10 hour block?

A 10 hour block is a pre-paid block of studio time at a discounted rate. SDP currently offers them for $350. The benefit to you is that it reduces your hourly rate by $15. The 10 hours can be used all in one day, or broken up over 2 or 3 sessions. In order to take advantage of this the $350 is due the day of the first session, regardless of whether or not you use the full 10 hours that day.

I've written songs that I'd like to do a full production on, but I'm not in a band.  Do you know any good musicians that will help out?

Absolutely. SDP has some of the finest musicians on call to handle any project. Contact me well in advance and let me know what style and what instruments you need for your project and we'll make it happen.

Can you record me singing karaoke?

Yes, I do a lot of karaoke style sessions. I don't stock karaoke CDs, so you will need to bring yours along. I also don't have karaoke machines or monitors, so you will need to know the words. These sessions generally go pretty fast, expect the cost to be about $25 per song.

My band would like to record in your studio, but mix the project at home/another studio. Can you give us the individual tracks so that we can mix them somewhere else?

Although it's possible, from a practical standpoint this isn't something I'd recommend. Tracks at SDP are recorded on a Mackie 24/96 hard disk recorder. Every time a punch in occurs on a given track, it creates another take. For example, if you had a guitar track that had 15 punch ins to replace 15 mistakes, that track would consist of 16 pieces. The Mackie 24/96 knows how to re-assemble these pieces, but unless you have the same recorder, yours won't know what to do with these pieces. I can take these individual files and make them one solid track (contiguous) but it's a very time consuming process. While I can do this for you, it can be very expensive. To get an idea of the cost you can use this formula. If you have a 5 minute song with 20 tracks, that's 100 minutes of audio. To record it into the recorder takes 100 minutes, and then 100 minutes to render the files (this happens in real time) and then 50 minutes to burn the CD (this happens in double time). So for one 5 minute song of 20 tracks you'll use 250 minutes of studio time, roughly 4 hours.

Do you charge for set up time?

No, the clock doesn't start until we start recording. If you decide to take a break for lunch the clock stops as well.

I'm working on a project for charity, does SDP ever offer free studio time for charity projects?

Yes, give me the details of your project and I'll let you know what I can do.

I got the CD home from the studio, and it sounds great, but it doesn't seem as loud as my other CDs. Why is this?

The loudness of a CD is something that's addressed in mastering. Most studio engineers and mastering professionals strive to preserve the natural dynamic range that was captured in the recording process. Dynamic range refers to the difference in volume between the softest part of a performance and the loudest. In the CD world, the loudest peak that can occur is 0db (zero decibels) without clipping. Clipping refers to the terrible distortion that occurs in digital audio when the signal is too hot. For those of you who were into audio in the old analog days, running meters a little into the red was cool, it created a warm, musical, pleasing distortion. There is nothing pleasing about digital distortion, not even as an effect. 

The best way to preserve the dynamics of a song while making it as loud as possible is to "normalize" the track. Lets say we just finished out mix and burned the CD, and now we're going to master it. If the loudest part of the finished song is -10db, we increase that overall volume by 10 decibels so that loudest part is now 0db, which is maximum volume (the rest of the song comes up in volume by the same amount). The reason the CD doesn't sound loud all the way through, is that despite the loudest part being maximum volume, the softest part may be -60db, and the average of the whole song may be -30db. To increase the average level of the song I apply compression. Compression basically shrinks the dynamic range of a song by making the loudest sounds softer and the softer sound louder. Over use of compression sucks the life out of the song.

When compression doesn't yield the loudness wanted by the client, the brick wall limiter comes into play. Used incorrectly, this is a horrible tool. Basically this device has the potential to make every single second of a song 0db. A side effect of this is that by making the softest part of the song 0db, some of the louder pieces of the waveform get clipped. At this point the song has been destroyed and has lost all emotion. 

Unfortunately, trends in the last decade or so have been printing the loudest CD possible at the expense of sound quality. As I've previously stated, the vast majority of studio engineers and mastering professionals are against this trend. In most cases it's the artist that insists on a loud CD, and the mastering guy does what the client wants. As a professional in this industry I feel an obligation to try to explain why this loudness trend is destroying the quality of today's recordings. In the end you're the boss, and I'm going to give you what you want. The best way to hear your song loud and still hear the beautiful dynamics is to reach over and grab the volume knob on your stereo and twist it clockwise.

Please read this great article which goes into much more detail on this subject:    Over The Limit

If you're still not convinced, Google loudness wars and read the many articles on this subject. Still not convinced?  Okay, you win, one loud CD coming up!