Zone Recording: Which Take Do I Take?

Welcome readers. How the heck are ya doing? Busy with all your knobs, buttons, speakers and mics I hope! I was sitting here trying to decide what to talk about for this installment of Zone Recording, and then it hit me. How do you know when the part you just recorded, or the "take", is a good one? That is a very subjective question, but has to be dealt with some objectivity. Have you ever done a great take only to realize that it is out of tune with the track? That sucks big! How about when you play this killer solo and realize that the engineer (or you) forgot to push record and got nothing but blank space? God forbid.

How about when you are burning up the fretboard and you break a string in that crucial moment? Sucks again. I could go on and on but why... we all know that these things happen and we have to roll with it.

One of the most important things when doing a take is to first off be comfortable. Have a good chair to rest your weary behind. If you need candles and incense going, then so be it. Hell, I like to record with no shirt on. That is just the way it is.

The next thing is to make sure you have the right sound for the track. You can't fit a square into a circle, so make sure you have dialed in the correct tone for the tune. The next very important point is making sure you have the right effect to track with... or no effect for that matter. When doing rhythm tracks, I love a totally dry sound, as opposed to doing a lead where I like a little delay and reverb (goop, I call these things) to make you feel right. The next is making sure that you feel comfortable with the loudness that you are monitoring yourself with as the track is playing. I like to be heard, but not like a 2x4 to the side of the head. Just so I sit 5% above the track. The next and most important to me is what environment I am listening in. I cannot stand tracking in headphones. Especially lead electric guitar. It is always too close to my ear. I much prefer to track through the nearfield monitors or speakers in the studio or control room. This way I can really feel it. I also like it quite loud to get into the track.

Once this is all set you are ready to do a take! If I am doing rhythm guitars, I actually listen to the rest of the track much more than myself. What I mean is - how do I fit into this track so I do not play over another part? The goal is to work as a team with the sound, and when this happens your track will sound more focused and tighter.

I cannot overstress the importance of this. I remember tracking "Free Bop" off of the "Zone" album and I put like 10 guitar parts down. I thought they would all work together but when I brought them all up in the mix it sounded like someone puked all over the speakers and it was frying and the imaginable stench was sickening. We don't want that, so be focused that your part is gelling with everything else.

Leads are somewhat different I think. What I will do is put the recorder on 'loop' function where it will loop from the beginning of the solo section to the end - with a little extra to get that last sweep in! I will loop the track and record all takes as the computer is playing. I might do 2 to 22 takes. I will then stop, take five, and come back and listen to the takes. I kid you not; you will most likely use either #1 or #2. If you want to get crazy about things you can start to edit the whole 22 takes together but this is just tedious and cumbersome! Plus it will sound, more likely than not, like a solo that is held together with scotch tape. You want a smooth flow to the sound and a cool build.

Anyway, my five minutes are up and I must listen to my 22 takes in the studio.

Peace, and may the tone be with you.

David Martone is a guitarist from Vancouver, Canada who has released seven solo CDs which showcase his musical diversity and brilliant guitarmanship.

His 2007 CD is entitled "When The Aliens Come", which features a progressive sound incorporating jazz, rock, fusion and metal influences.

David Martone