Originally Posted by Dr. AIX
The standard way of creating commercial recordings is to record the rhythm tracks (drums, bass, guitar, keyboards with a scratch vocal), then overdub all of the additional parts (which might actually involve replacing the original drums or other basic elements!) including the lead vocals, brass, strings, percussion etc., and then mixing the whole thing together. There are tremendous advantages to this in terms of flexibility, isolation and mixing. It is a sound that you heard everyday on the radio and on discs. Even jazz is done this way.
These recordings are done in acoustically dead or neutral rooms...usually the drums are in their own room to keep leakage to a minimum. The mics (usually a single mono mic) are placed very close to the sound sources, lots of processing is used to "color" or control the sound (dynamic compression, EQ) and then artificial reverb is used to "liven" the sound back to acoustic reality.
I love this type of record making. Imagine the Beatles, Peter Gabriel or Keith Urban without this recording methodology. However, there are also other ways to make records.
Classical music, soundtracks and a lot of jazz and world music is done with the entire group in an acoustically rich auditorium. The performers play, the sound is captured on a minimal number of mics (usually 2-6 in stereo pairs...ORTF, XY or Blumlein) and then the best takes are edited into the final result. I've done lots of recording this way AND made hundreds of edits for a single 60 minute classical disc!
AIX Records combines the best features of each of these two types. We do record everyone in the same acoustically rich room at the same time...including the vocals! The drums, background singers, percussion, strings, brass and everything else are all playing at the same time. No overdubs and no replacements. We do sometimes make an edit here and there to get a cleaner performance or better head/tail, but essentially it is a single take very much like the jazz or classical world would do.
However, we capture the individual instruments with stereo pairs of mics placed close to the performers to get the intimacy that Windham discovered in their guitar recordings AND to maximize the separation between instruments...to the extent that we can. We also place microphones in the back of the rich hall to capture the natural reverberation of the hall.
We do not dynamically compress, use equalization or artificial reverberation to "control" the natural sound of the instruments in the room. The bass drum is not going to sound like a cannon because that is not the sound that they produce (in spite of the sound you hear on commercial releases).
I then take the 24-36 stereo pairs of tracks and mix them into 7.1, 5.1 or 2.0 speakers...in "stage" or "audience" perspective. The selection is left to the listener.
Since everyone is there at the same time, we can shoot video of the whole thing. We've done this since the first session over 10 years ago...and now do it in HD and even 3D HD.
Everyone makes records according to their own production requirements. I've made lots of recordings for others that use the tried and true methods...but when it came to making my own recordings for my own label, I opted for the most open, high-definition, unprocessed, natural sound I could create. Basically, I get out of the way.
I believe it works and leave it to our customers to decide. Thankfully, our reputation has grown by word of mouth and we sell enough to make the next ones. Others do it other ways...but I'm sticking with a technique that we refined over my 30 years plus of being hooked on music AND recording technology.