What Are the Main Steps in the Recording Process?

Dan Cavallari

Much preparation work must be done before the recording process even starts. The band or artist must first rehearse all songs, making note of important transitions and working out any kinks in the individual songs that will be recorded. The layout of the recording space may be modified to accommodate several musicians and to isolate the sounds of each instrument without bleeding over into other recording tracks, and the musicians will be prepped on the overall recording process. All recording devices, such as microphones and cables, are set up and tested thoroughly to ensure they are working properly.

An artist must rehearse all songs before the recording process.
An artist must rehearse all songs before the recording process.

When the recording process is ready to begin, the engineer will adjust the sound levels of each microphone that is set up to pick up sound. The band or artist will generally warm-up during this time to allow the engineer plenty of time to adjust levels properly. This warm up period is important as well because it allows musicians to get used to the space in which they are playing; sometimes the individual musicians are isolated in separate rooms, so they must learn to play without having a direct line of sight on each other.

Vocal parts are typically recorded last, but not always.
Vocal parts are typically recorded last, but not always.

The recording process continues with the recording of basic tracks, such as rhythm instruments, drums, and so on. These tracks will provide the foundation for the rest of the recording process that will include recording the vocals, overdubs, additional instrument tracks, and so on. This phase of the recording process will vary in length according to the quality of each take, and the comfort level of the musicians. Some musicians can complete this phase in one take, while others will require numerous takes to get the track they want.

Overdubs are short tracks that are meant to fix any mistakes or add any accents to to the basic tracks. A recording may or may not need such overdubs, as the original tracks may be sufficient to complete the recording. Once overdubs are completed, the mixing phase takes place. This part of the recording process often takes the most time, as the sound engineer must adjust the sound levels of all instruments and vocals to work well together. Effects may be added or deleted from the tracks during this phase as well, and fading, panning, and other processes can be added at this time. This process leads to the mastering phase, which is the final phase in which the tracks are completed and prepared for writing on a CD or other format.

Recording songs for an album usually takes place in a studio.
Recording songs for an album usually takes place in a studio.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - On the one hand, you're right, there is a measure of respect added to your group if you can manage to get professionally recorded tracks out there.

But, if all you have is a group of friends, an excellent song and some hired recording equipment in a garage you should go for it anyway.

There are a lot of modern examples of people who have made a decent song and managed to get it out there and got themselves a recording deal.

Recording music professionally is great, but having a decent song and building up a fan base are the most important steps to breaking into the music business.


It's amazing how complex the music recording process is. I have friends who would like to make their own music for release and while it seems like that would be more easy now than ever, considering the internet, it would still be difficult.

In order to be taken seriously you would need a professional quality track, and probably more than one. In order to record one at a studio, in the way this article describes, you're talking about a lot of money.

It's not just a matter of coming in, recording the track and then going off. I know big groups often record their tracks multiple times just to figure out how to record them for the master track.

When you have to think about stereo effects and all the different instruments and so forth, it can't really be done in just a short time.

Post your comments
Forgot password?