FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO MAKE MY RECORD?
Short answer: fill out the form at the bottom of our homepage and we will get back to you with a specific quote within 24 hours.
Long answer: it all depends. If your record is a 4 song EP, and you are a punk duo who records live without edits, we can make your record for an almost alarmingly small amount of money. On the other hand, if you have 18 songs and want full string arrangements and session musicians, there may be a little sticker shock. The Swamp charges roughly half the rate of the large-scale commercial studios in the twin cities. We care about giving artists the tools and expertise they need to make a world-class record without having to compete with record label budgets and the overhead associated with running a large commercial studio. No matter what your budget looks like, don't hesitate to use the form on our homepage and tell us about your situation. We always want to make projects happen, and are always looking for creative ways to make the most of limited budgets.
WHY NO GEAR LIST?
Despite what Internet forums might suggest about the matter, here at The Swamp, we believe that the most important thing is what comes out of the speakers. Of course, it is important to have quality equipment when making a record, but ultimately, it doesn't matter if the microphone that was used has a certain logo on it. Either what comes out of the speakers while listening to the record is good, or it's not. We want you to listen to what we've recorded and mixed and judge the sonics for yourself instead of reading through a list of gear. We do have a console that sounds great, some outboard compression, eq, reverb, delay amongst other whacky stuff, and all of it also sounds great. We have a selection of mic preamplifiers and a large microphone locker with many of the usual suspects. If a certain piece of gear is a very important part of your vision for a project, contact us and we can figure out how to make that happen.
WHY THE EMPHASIS ON TRACKING LIVE?
There are three main reasons that we prefer to track live as much as possible here at The Swamp.
Firstly, it sounds better. This may be counterintuitive to some of you who have experimented with recording on your own. We all start out with the assumption that bleed (the phenomena of a microphone hearing a sound source that is not it's intended target, like drums bleeding into a string bass microphone) is bad. Any live sound engineer will tell you that one of the most annoying problems is a loud band with a soft lead singer who insists upon standing right in front of the drum riser. The amount of cymbal bleed into the vocal mic can be painful in the more extreme examples of this situation.
Thus, we know there is certain situations where bleed can cause problems, but at The Swamp, we think that bleed makes records sound better. The key is balancing the volumes of the instruments within the room, as well as having a well treated acoustic space to begin with. Here at The Swamp, we've invested heavily in having an acoustically pleasing recording environment which provides us to record live in one room with a surprising degree of isolation - so much so that it is possible to completely remove and replace an errant guitar note from the recording without any discernible artifacts. The remaining bleed, however, acts as sonic "glue," enabling wider mixes by allowing stereo mix elements to get panned further left and right without sounding unnatural. It also adds depth to the recording by providing some very quiet early reflections. Live recording, therefore, often precludes the need for added artificial reverb later, and reverb that is added is enhanced by the bleed as well. The only way to achieve this "glue" is to track live, so that's what we try to do.
Secondly, it's cheaper. The cost of making a record is directly proportional to how much time it takes to make. Say you have a five minute song. If you want it multi-tracked, you first must record the drums, which will take 30 minutes if you do six takes, which seems reasonable. Then you do bass, another 30 minutes. Rhythm guitars, aux percussion, keyboards, and synthesizer all take another 30 minutes. Oftentimes vocal sessions will last for far longer than an hour, but let's be conservative and call it an hour. Also throw in an hour for a guitar solo. Oh and don't forget the editing, which might add 15 minutes to each of those overdubs as well. Total hours for a song multi-tracked is 7 hours 45 minutes. Of course, this doesn't account for lunch breaks, coffee breaks, chatting between takes, switching microphones, adjusting compressors, etc. You're easily looking at a multiple day session for one song in many cases.
Now compare this to tracking it live: we get the bed track done in 30 minutes. This includes the final recordings of the drums, bass, and rhythm guitars. Then we do overdub session 1, which includes keys, aux percussion, and vocals. This takes 60 minutes. Add in an extra hour for the guitar solo, and an hour to edit, and you're at 3 hours, 30 minutes. All of a sudden, instead of it taking multiple days to do one song, you can record multiple songs in one day, which makes the overall cost of the record significantly cheaper.
Thirdly, artists and musicians perform better with other people. It may seem like bands play tighter when multi-tracked, but often this truly isn't the case, and then heavy editing must be applied to achieve the desired tightness, and oftentimes, over-editing kills the organic groove and vibe of the song. At The Swamp, we've witnessed time and time again that bands perform tighter when they are well rehearsed and all in the moment of recording together. It's gotta just be biology. Of course, there are also emotional components to this phenomena. We believe that people musically reacting to each other creates the emotional x-factor in recordings that is so often lacking in modern music.
DOES TRACKING LIVE MEAN THAT WE HAVE TO GET THROUGH THE SONG WITH ZERO MISTAKES FROM ANYONE IN THE BAND?
No. Just like with multi-track recording, we having the ability to freely edit either individual instruments, or splice together entire band takes if preferable. If recording to a click, this becomes all the easier, as it is possible to playlist takes and flip between them instantly.
Sure, sometimes there is something in the live track that you just can't take all the way out. That would be the risk of using a huge, loud guitar amplifier to record the guitar solo live with the bed track. At The Swamp, we just view this as another creative problem that we solve tactically by balancing volumes within the live room. We have tie lines that run throughout the cabin so it is possible to put amplifiers in other rooms for isolation if necessary, but we always prefer to find a balance with all the sound sources in the room if possible.
At the end of the day, it's technically ever so slightly more risky in terms of editing flexibility than multi-track, but not enough where it becomes a serious concern or major difference from multi-tracking.
WHAT IF WE UNDERSTAND THE RATIONALE FOR TRACKING LIVE, BUT STILL WANT TO MULTI-TRACK OUR RECORD?
We understand that not all artistic visions and genres can rely solely on live sessions, and many artists prefer to layer textures and overdub as a primary recording method. We have nothing against this at The Swamp, and will do all we can to facilitate this. Of course, this may mean that the project takes more time, and as such will be more expensive. Sometimes, it works better for an artist to make a live bed track and a lead vocal, go recored overdub parts on their own, and then get the project mixed professionally. Therefore, we are flexible and can customize services to fit the specific project. We we're to help realize your artistic vision, not to impose rules. Tracking live is merely a suggestion, not a rule.
WHY GO TO A STUDIO TO MAKE A RECORD WHEN I COULD USE THE MONEY TO BUY MY OWN RECORDING EQUIPMENT AND DO IT MYSELF?
While buying your own recording gear may be a worthwhile endeavor for some, there are several big reasons that the money might be better spent at a professional studio. Chief among these is experience. Having someone in the room who has been making records for years and who knows the gear, the technique, the physics, and the theory inside and out is invaluable in the recording process. With The Swamp you get this, plus expertise in theory, arrangement, and composition.
The other big thing that holds back most home recording setups is the fact that one of the most important ingredients in a good recording, and even more so for a good mix, is a good room. The Swamp features custom acoustic treatment done right - not cheap foam glued to the walls, but proper broadband absorption, bass trapping, and diffusion. This has a myriad of benefits including making the room sweeter for tracking, while also making it more neutral and creating a reflection free zone for mixing. In addition the natural acoustics of the entire building are wonderful with the tall ceilings, room dimensions in the sweet spots, and walls and ceiling made of cedar.
At the end of the day, it's not just the gear that you're paying for here, it's the entire experience. In addition to everything mentioned above, our studio as a home-like feel, and is located on a scenic couple of wooded acres giving the artist the chance to enjoy being in nature, at a cabin-based recording studio in the woods. Seeing the wildlife through our oversized live room windows sure beats staring at basement walls all day.
WHAT GENRES DO YOU TYPICALLY WORK WITH?
We will work in any genre, but traditionally we have gravitated towards indie rock, folk, pop, blues, country, and Americana. We are a guitar based studio with the gear needed to track a rock band type ensemble. We love variety however, and there are very few genres that we are uncomfortable within.
WHAT IS THE TYPICAL SCHEDULE LIKE FOR A SESSION AT THE SWAMP?
We either do a full day or a half day. You can expect to be at the studio for about 12 hours for a full day and about 6 hours for a half day.
Typically, but not always, full day sessions are for full band work. The band typically arrives between 10 and 11am to find me already set up and ready to get sounds. We typically will spend 11am-2pm rehearsing and getting sounds, and maybe doing some takes before breaking to each lunch. Then from 2pm-6pm we will do some more takes, perhaps take a walk down to Medicine Lake to clear the mind, and maybe hang on the deck for a bit to enjoy the natural surroundings. Then it's off to dinner at around 6 and back on it at 7 until about 10. Then it's time to bounce out what we recorded that day and have a listen.
Half days are a little bit less intense. They start either late morning or late afternoon. Typically we get sounds quickly for an overdub, do some takes, then break for a meal before coming back to do more takes, listen and bounce.