Different session types for different situations.
Live off the floor – The whole band is set up together and mic’d up. We dial in the tones and use acoustic baffles to get separation between the different instruments.
We record a number of takes of each song to get the best take. While overdubs and miniscule editing are possible in “Live off the floor”, the goal with this method is to capture the raw performance of the band. Often with this method you record the instruments together first without vocals and then do the vocals afterwards. The vocalist would hear the band in headphones and sing along.
Bed tracking and overdubs – This is the more intricate way to record. It can have huge advantages, but isn’t necessarily a superior method, depending on the artists and the vision for the final track. This is generally the method you would use to create a really “Tight” track. Ideally you are recording to a click track (in headphones).
In this method, an instrument (or multiple instruments) is predecided to be the BED track. Often it is drums, but it can really be any instrument that the rest of the band can listen to and play along with.
This instrument would play the tracks with the rest of the band (or alone, or with select other instruments, all based on preference), but the bed instrument is significantly isolated from the other instruments by using baffles, separate room or even turning other instruments way down and hearing them mostly in headphones. This is so that the other instruments don’t bleed into the microphones on the BED instrument. Ideally you record to click track, or at least the rhythm instruments.
We do a number of takes of the track until we have a great take of the BED instrument.
At this point protools editing is possible. I don’t necessarily mean chopping the track to pieces and completely changing everything (well, that’s possible too!), but more of a “fine tuning” of the tracks. You can create a barely noticable difference that doesn’t change the performance, but adds “feeling” of tightness to a track. This is done by moving audio by milliseconds (thousandth of a second!) to put it right on the beat.
But I digress! Editing is not required and some people prefer Au natural. IMHO both ways are awesome for the right situation.
Back to BED tracking – Once the BED instrument(s) tracking is done each other instrument is recorded separately. We set up each instrument in an isolated room so the microphone doesn’t “hear” anything else but that instrument.
The musician hears the BED instruments (and click if you want) in headphones and plays along. We can do as many takes as we want until we get the MAGIC take. LOL.
This method allows us to double (or quadruple) instruments. Thick guitar tone is achieved by layering multiple takes of the same riff overtop of each other.
This is also an opportunity to add additional harmonies, leads, instruments, anything else you want to add some HOT SAUCE to the track.
Generally the order of recording the this method is:
Drums – Bass – Guitar/Keys/Other lead inst – Vocals
This can really change around any which way to suit the artist though.
Once all the instruments are done tracking we will do a ROUGH mix of the song to get it sounding in the ballpark of how it will end up. This should be done before the vocal tracking begins so that the singer can hear the vocals in the context of how the song is going to sound.