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Zach Benton / Blog

How To Record As A Band (By Yourself)

Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." Lenny Kravitz' "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" All soulful, hit singles; all recorded by one man, layering every part until getting the song to sound like a full band. I first became fond of the mulitrack recording technique (the layer recording technique) when I realized it gave a musician full control over their song. The "one-man-band" technique can reveal a lot of inner musicianship.

Any and all single recordings should start with a smash tune. Without that, there's not much point in recording, really! Ideally, you would rehearse the song at home with your instruments, and then schedule, and go in to record with a professional recording engineer. The advantages of hiring a true blue recording studio and professional engineer is that you can focus solely on musicianship, performance, and production. There's no need to give yourself headaches with mic placement and mixing!

The first step in recording a single is performing the song to a metronome, or, "click track." This performance gets recorded, and becomes the blueprint for the recording! It is known as the "scratch track."

Once the scratch track is laid down, you can really start to rock out! The first instrument to get recorded are the drums. The key ingredient in any recording is to have confidence, and the drums should kick start a recording session's confidence level.

A primary key to playing the drums, is to play a steady beat. Nobody cares about incredible drum fills or solos unless you can pull them off; but not everybody can keep a great solid beat. When in doubt, keep it simple. The drummer is an equal opportunity band member; they shouldn't stick out unless there's space for them to fill.

After the drums comes the rhythm guitar parts; these are usually recorded with a microphone near your guitar amp. One or two parts are good, but don't go overboard!

Next, I like to do vocals (because they're my favorite). Vocals are incredibly important! While a solid band is a must, if the vocals aren't top notch, things will fall apart. When recording your lead vocal, give it all of your heart! Give it all you've got! And most of all, be yourself: don't try to imitate another singer.

The bass parts come next. Lots of people opt for fast bass parts so that they can show off; this is not the point. Playing in a band isn't about showing off, its about giving the best performance possible, and that won't happen if the bass is solo-ing the entire song through. Like the drums, keep the bass simple, but interesting! Its a cliche, but silence can be just as important as sound.

Those are the basic tracks for creating a one-man-band recording. But then comes production...more on that next time.

Zach Benton, signing off!

Mister Roberts' Epiphany

The title of this entry just happens to be the title of my new EP. I'm psyched, and once you hear the tracks, you will be too. Its the first time I've used professional tools with a pro engineer (Ben Rogers) and pro mastering (by Carl Saff), and trust me, if you've been listening to me for a few years now, this'll be a brand new trip. So pack your bags! If you've been there since my early acoustic days or Affirmative Jackson, you're in for a treat. I'd rather listen to or write music than talk about it; I'll leave that to others. This is going to be a great year for music, and I'm excited to be a part of it. Be sure to also check out upcoming solo LP from my brother-in-music, Ian Galipeau, titled "This Cluttered Mind of Mine," dropping later this winter. There's also buddy-since-high-school Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki's solo album "Into the Cold." Keep listening, and keep enjoying life!

All the best, Zach

Making a Record

Tonight I collaborated with other people for a recording for the first time in over a year. The last time I'd worked with anybody else was on the last Affirmative Jackson single when Ian Galipeau and I did backing vocals. Its been a LONG time since November of 2009. Tonight I was re-working an older track when inspiration struck, and I knew I wanted my roommate Andrew Johnson and former bandmate Ian on it. I had forgotten my tact when recording with others when I essentially expected Ian to know the tune when I'd just introduced it to him for his bass run. Setting up my condenser in the living room, we tracked his bass part and then he did backup vocals. The backup vocals hearkened back to the Affirmative Jackson sound, but thankfully, for the LOVE of God, it was way more mature and realistic then anything I worked on back in those days. I've been through a lot since that time, and I'm very thankful I have, or I'd still be a sentimental sod singing songs about true love. Ian was the first piece of the puzzle, but I'd been waiting to record Andrew on this particular song since last summer. That developed into a guitar "duel" with me in mind. When Ian came into the picture, I knew we had to do a three-way guitar discussion, with Ian leading off. The particular track we worked on won't be finished for a bit, willing I get the drummer I'd like to play on it.