Here is some insight on the recording process I use to create my songs for Sapita Music.
I’m a lyrical snob so I take forever to write songs. This is mostly because I want the ideas to connect and have meaning deeper than surface level. Sure, I can produce instrumentals, but I usually do production and songwriting simultaneously. This gives me the opportunity to text paint and match the lyrical structure to the musical idea instead of doing them separately. I’ve never understood how artists hire in producers and then write to their tracks, props to them.
I write all of my songs in the notes app. I thought it would be super sick to write them on paper but I’ve never had the patience to actually do it haha. I usually will just be walking down the street and will think of something and instantly jot it down.
I have a full section in my notes folder titled scraps where I just throw down ideas to revisit later. I like the notes app the most because it’s incredibly simple and minimizes distractions. I can quickly bounce between iPhone to text type and laptop to keyboard lyrics. I prefer writing on laptop when I’m most tuned in because I can use a thesaurus, web search, and Rhymezone quicker. At no point have I ever felt like using a dictionary or rhyme generator is cheating from a lyrical perspective. For me, they are all just tools, and we all have access to it. If they produce better work for us all then I’m all for it.
I use Ableton Live for every aspect of recording, mixing, and mastering. I was traditionally schooled on ProTools but still prefer Ableton for the versatility with general music production. Have you ever tried to quickly add MIDI to ProTools?? You could probably solve a 1,000 piece puzzle faster than that.
With UAD Apollo, I am able to easily multi-track 16 channels of audio into Ableton simultaneously. I typically use this to record full drum-kits with 8 or so mics at once.
I don’t use a traditional recording console, but instead prefer UAD’s Console app. I use 16 pre-amps into the Apollo and then send them into Console. This is great because any digital gear I add uses the Apollo’s DSP in real time outside of my computer’s CPU. I prefer this over a traditional console because you can save your settings and load them up quickly instead of remaking wire patches like a studio does with analog.
Versioning is my cheat code for making progress on songs. I used to have issues moving forward because I would worry that I would change something and make it worse, or try something and end up disliking it. Today I’ll version 20-30 files for a track, and I’ll also version 10 or so times for mix and master files to reference if I made something worse or better over time. Sometimes you just have to step away to realize what kind of changes you’ve made and reflect on if you actually like them!
I record all of my vocals into either of the following…
1. SM7B with a Cloudlifter
2. U87 Clone with a LPF
After this I pretty much use the same vocal processing chain to compress and compensate for other EQ issues. I call it the Zach Rach and I use it every time without barely changing anything. I literally copied this chain from a YouTube video I saw like 8 years ago because who cares.
If I’m doing auto-tuning, which I do a ton, I use iZotope Nectar 3 for pitch correction. I never use Melodyne for anything really. If I don’t like a take for a specifically portion, I punch in directly and fix it instead of doing it digitally. I don’t use Antares because I have a strict no i-Lok policy. You’ll catch me dead before I carry around a USB to use software on my computer.
True story: I literally had a professor in college say he prides himself on never once having used Auto-Tune on any vocalist…and I was like “cool, that’s pretty dumb.”
I also do all of my harmonies in iZotope Nectar 3.
Delay + Reverb is added using Ableton’s audio effect rack, where I use H-Delay and Valhalla room about 90% of the time to dial in these effects.
I use Shure mics for pretty much everything I record. For kick I use Beta52A, snares SM57, toms Beta56A, and drum-kit overheads KSM131 pair.
Acoustic guitar and pianos I’ll use KSM 131 stereo pair
Guitar amps SM57
SM7B for vocals and voiceovers
I gravitate towards these mics just because they are what I learned on when in recording school. I found a formula that works pretty consistently for me and just flip flop them around as needed. Highly recommend!
MUMBLE THE VIBE
I started out this page talking about songwriting, which reminded me of a critical way I try to progress songs quickly lyrically. I noted that it takes me long periods of time to identify which lyrics work for me, but I also want to note that a lot of lyrics can be interchangeable.
I titled this section Mumble the Vibe because something I will often do when I’m in a flow state of writing is simply to mumble the vocal portions sonically so I know what they will sound like in the song and then come back and write actual lyrics later. This helps me prevent analysis paralysis where I don’t finish songs because they don’t have lyrical content to complete the track. Trying to write solid lyrics while producing is certainly possible, but I usually need to step away to make sure they all make sense together.
I will add more info to this page over time and add changes to this process as my recording process is always progressing and changing.