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Kanthos

Recording keyboard parts for a rock album

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A friend of a friend's band asked me to take a look at the keyboard parts for the album they're recording, to give them feedback on the sounds they've chosen and parts they've written. They're in the studio right now, so I'm basically doing everything with them tomorrow night.

I have a question especially for anyone who's recorded an album the traditional way in a studio, or for anyone who has knowledge of how the keyboard parts will be recorded.

I'm used to doing keyboard parts for live performance in churches with volunteer sound techs, so I do all the effects exactly as I want them. Is it still ok to do it like that in the studio, or is it better to record dry parts so the engineer can tweak effects later? What about if the effect is integral to the sound, something like adding a lot of reverb and delay to a piano part to make it sound more ambient than tonal?

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If the delay or the reverb is essential to the synth and makes it sound the way it is, rather than just being a cool effect that gives the synth a cooler sound, then normally (at least I've noticed this) it's recorded pretty raw. Not always, but in most circumstances, it's recorded raw. The producer or mixer normally ends up adding in the sound effects.

If there's a specific sound from the synth you want which requires effects, the effects will probably need to be recorded through the computer plug-in, rather than an effect on the keyboard itself. That way the producer or mixer can mess with it if he/she needs to.

I could be very wrong about all of this, but I've been at professional sessions before and I am constantly recording myself (though I normally record alone rather than with a band), so that's what I think.

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Might be a good idea to record just the MIDI output data from the keyboard along side the audio. that way you can always begin to sculpt the sound from scratch when musicians inevitably change their mind

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Definitely record it raw. And contrary to what most might call "raw", I define raw as "without reverb or delay". If you have some sort of distortion, chorus, phaser, etc. on the keyboard parts that change the tone of the sound, then keep those for sure. What I mean is that you should record the parts without any spacial adjustment effects. Keep that in mind if you know they'll have some excellent VSTs.

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I've actually talked to the band and heard their stuff now, and I have more information. All their keyboard parts are done in Reason, and they want to be able to play them live too.

What I'll do is create the sounds in Reason combinators with buttons to turn off any delay and reverb, so I can hear what I think the sound should be like when I'm doing the work, and they can have the effects set up for them when they play live, but it's easy to record dry.

I won't actually be in the studio with them, so if they want to record the MIDI, that's up to them; I of course think they should, but it might not be necessary since they don't have a huge budget, I won't take time off work to join them in the studio, and they just don't have the skills at sound design to work things out on their own, so probably they're stuck with whatever sounds I make that they choose to use.

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In that situation you need to make sure you send dry and wet tracks separately. You should be given a tempo sheet of the songs so you can sync your delay effects (delay, chorus etc) and then export just the wet signal to it's own track so you have it like this:

lead_dry.wav (this is 100% dry)

lead_effects.wav (this is 100% wet)

That way the engineer can choose to either use your effects or add them himself (this also saves the engineer/producer the time it takes to sync effects of his own and bounce to audio so he can splice and edit for whatever purpose).

The key when working as an instrumentalist is to give options but limit those options within the scope of what you want to sound like, so even if he chooses to add his own effects, he'll use your effects as a reference (same if you're asked to send MIDI, always send an audio track of what you feel the part should sound like so the producer knows what the notes are meant to do).

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