Black Box FAQs

How Much Does It Cost To Make a Record?

I’m glad you asked. Well, how long is a piece of string. There are so many factors to consider here. The only real answer is, all the money you’re prepared to spend.

We have made albums in a week here and have also made albums that took more 3 months and belive me there is a difference. The quicker albums can have a certain immediacy and conviction but also have those charms or some would say mistakes that have to settle in for life. Less time means, no time for experiments, less fine tunning of the songs, fewer alternative takes, less time in recorded music (10 songs rather than 12 for example) and ultimately a few fuck ups (pardon my french). You may be well rehearsed and have great chops, but to get the right sound for the song takes time. The mixes will have less variety between songs and may have less depth and presence that only time can produce.

That dosen’t mean the record won’t be good, just that you won’t have the time to try out all posibilities and fully realise a songs potential. Longer sessions have more time for re-working, experimenting and not forgetting more time for mixing. Consider the time it takes to finish a take, comment about it and then listen back and comment about it again. For a 3 minute song that all adds up to about 15 minutes per take.

It is backward planning to ask how long it will take for a fixed methodology, and then come up with that amount of money. If you guess wrong, you will be caught short, and end up spending all your money with nothing finished to show for it. It is much more realistic to decide how money you have to spend, and then make the record that budget allows, accepting the limitations implied by that.

In short, if you tell us the amount of money you have budgeted for your project and what you need to get done, we will present you with a plan to get it done for that amount.

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Tips on saving time whilst Recording

Get your gear sorted!

Do you need new drum heads? (more than likely yes) It is nice to have a selection anyway. Is there any squeaks and rattles in your drum kit i.e kick pedal, lugs etc…

Hows your intonation? Get your gtrs setup – all of you. It sucks when one person does it and the others don’t, the intonation between you gets worse. Bring new strings for all guitars. (ask before changing bass strings)
Are your amps cranking? How many years since you last changed those tubes? Make sure all your leads are working!

Please note: all our gear is regularly maintained and available for use at your session at no extra cost.But feel free to throw a pack of strings or drum skins our way!

Now is not the time to give up any vices.

Smoking, caffine, pot, smack, alcohol, and even dairy products and sugar. Giving up your daily six pack and a packet o Marlborough’s on the day of recording is a bad idea. Singers often come into a session with some half baked notion that they should give up drugs, cigarettes and alcohol but they fail to realize that timing is crucial when it comes to things like this. Give up 3 months before, staight after or not at all. Giving up two weeks before a session will have you preforming your worst.

Don’t go out and party the night before.

It’s great to live the rock n roll dream, but it dosen’t make much sense if you are on a budget. If you have a decent budget, you better invite us along!

Bring your own food.

Depending on when your sessions are happening (i.e lunch or dinner or both) bring your own food to the session. We have a kitchen with fridge, microwave, small oven, 1 hot plate, and all that other stuff you need to go with that. So it makes sense to make up a couple of sangers or even cook up a curry to feed the whole band. There is usually enough time for at least one member of the band to keep everyone feed.

That being said we are close to the Breakky creek hotel and Breakfast creek warf, which has Fish n Chips, Thai, and pizza. It costs more to eat out all the time and it can take longer as well!

Of course – Rehearse before hand.

Do I have to use a click track?

Click tracks (or metronomes) can be very helpful in the recording process. Not only can they help the artist to record with steadier tempos, but these days, with the advent of computer based solutions for recording, using a metronome can assist the artist in making greater use of many modern techniques such as "cut and paste" editing. If you are a solo performer and have no plans for adding other instrumentation to your project, click tracks are not necessary. Basically, I think it comes down to the session and what works. Some people love clicks and some don’t. We will do whatever works in the end.

What do I get if I cough up the big bickies for Blackbox?

Well firstly we will only record a band if we feel we have something to offer the music. So, we need to hear demos’s. If we’re not into it, I reckon your record will suck, and therefore so will we. From here we’ll listen to the music and see where we think it should go, how we will record it and suggest any changes that we think will make the recording better. That’s the idea after all.

What is your approach, I don’t understand all this analog / digital stuff, we just want a great sounding recording?

Another good question. Well, firstly no two sessions are the same, just like the bands and the music they make. So each session is treated individually. So here we will offer an example of probably our most preferred technique.

Firstly this is assuming you are a band (not a electronic or hip-hop outfit). Generally we would setup a band in the live room/isolation areas for a live recording of the track. Weather this is completely kept or, say , the guitars are overdubbed depends on the track, budget and other varing factors. This is usually recorded to the studer 16 track. Once a master take has been selected, it is then dumped into protools for further overdubbing and editing. I guess the tape machine is used primarly for is sonic character. Something over the years we have missed from all digital recordings. After all when Jeff and Magoo started recording music, it was all analog. Edits were done with a razor blade not a computer with mutiple layers of undo. This is what we mean when we take the best from the analog and digital world. This way of working gives us the nice fat sound of tape with the functionality and diversity of the computer.

From here all the vocals and overdubs are recorded into the computer. We have heaps outboard gear to make sure the tone is still maintained. This is great to keep the session moving along. The tape machine can really slow things down.

When we get to the mixing stage we then use protools mainly as a tape machine. The internal mixer is used for a few small tweaks, but the majority of the mix automation is done with the AMEK big console. The onboard automation is quick and has a much more hands on approach to mixing. It allows us to just mix and not be constantly tied to the mouse, click, click, clicking….. We then record the track straight back into protools. There it is clear as mud.….not.

We also have Total Recall, and I don’t mean the Arnold Swartenberger classic movie. I mean, the computer stores the position of every knob and switch on the console. We add a text file to the session with all of the outbord gear that is plugged in noted and then we take photo’s of the gear, thus enabling us to bring an old mix back and hopefully tweak it. Of course this takes time and is only done on the larger sessions.

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