How to Make a Multitrack Recording with Spire

May 10, 2018 | By David Bawiec, Spire Contributor

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It's amazing how easy it is to get great sounding results when recording a quick demo of yourself, say, singing and playing guitar. Spire Studio makes that effortless. But what if you want to record and layer more instruments to create a much richer sound? With so many variables at play, it could be easy to get overwhelmed with where to begin.

Follow these tips and tricks for different ways to make a good multitrack recording using Spire Studio.

3 Basic Phases

A good multitrack production process consist of three basic phases.

1. Planning the song

Planning is where you prepare for everything you're going to do. You’ll want to figure out when your bandmates and friends are available to record, find the perfect space to record everyone, etc. This is your planning phase.

2. Recording

Recording is all about the process of "getting it done." In this case, this is the actual recording session (or sessions).

3. Editing and mixing

Editing and mixing is when you get to put everything together, edit all the takes, mix, and wrap it all up so you can share your song with the world.

So what can you do to take your song through all three stages with the least amount of stress and help you achieve great sounding results? Follow me.

Planning

The more of the following questions you can answer ahead of time the more you'll be able to take the unknown variables out of the equation:

  • What song will you be recording?

  • Will you be recording yourself or will your bandmates be joining you?

  • What instruments will you be recording?

  • Will any of the instruments need to be recorded together?

  • Where will you be recording?

  • How will you record each instrument?

Let's go through these questions and see how preparing to deal with each one can make your life easier when it comes to recording.

What song will you be recording?

Let’s say you’re working on your or your bands new EP. Whether you'll be tracking a cover of an existing song or an original that you’ve been working on for a bit, it helps to know which song you’re setting out to record.

Try not to overwhelm yourself. Record one song at a time. When that one’s done and sounding great, start working on the next one.

Will you be recording yourself or will your bandmates be joining you?

If you’re an awesome multi-instrumentalist, rock on! You can record yourself singing and playing each instrument.

On occasion you may want to invite a friend to play and collaborate with you on your song. Or maybe you’re already in a band and want to record everyone. If that’s the case, your bandmates will need to know what they'll be playing. At the bare minimum, try to prepare a lead sheet or chord chart for them, that way everyone knows exactly where they are in the song at any given point in time. This is particularly helpful if you'll be recording one instrument at a time over the span of multiple days. The last thing you'd want is your guitar player playing different chords from the what the bass and keyboard players recorded a couple days prior.

Recording multitrack with spire

What instruments will you be recording?

Spire Studio lets you record up to eight tracks. Knowing what instruments you will be recording will allow you to better figure out the exact order in which you'll want to record all of them.

Vocals should usually go last. The reason being, singers perform better when they get to hear all the other instruments in place. That way they can dynamically and passion-wise match how the song grows as it progresses. (For tips on that, check out “9 Ways to Make Sure Your Song Takes Us on a Journey”). Plus, hearing the other instruments will help them stay in pitch. So it's best to record vocals last.

In that case, in what order do all the other instruments go? Piano, keyboards, and other similar instrument that don’t require constant tuning should probably go first.

Next, you can record any of the additional instruments (like bass, guitars, horns, etc.). They’ll be able to match the pitch and tuning to the piano/keys. Drums and percussion can be recorded whenever.

The general rule of thumb is: if a specific instrument could help the other players record their parts, then record that instrument earlier so the others can use it as a reference.

Will any of the instruments need to be recorded together?

Sometimes you may want to record a vocal and yourself (or someone else) playing guitar at the same time. Or any other combination of two instruments. There's something organically beautiful that can come out of two people performing together and playing off of each other's energy.

The great news is Spire Studio you can record up to two tracks at once, using the built-in professional quality mic on the front, and one of the XLR/TS combo jacks on the back. Or you can use both inputs on the back.

Either way, recording two tracks at once is not a problem. But you still have to plan for this accordingly. The place you chose to record will have to be able to accommodate you both. You'll also want to make sure you have all the necessary additional cables and microphones you may need.

Where will you be recording?

With Spire Studio, you can record anywhere you are. So the question will be, how can you get the best sounding recording out of the space you choose?

You'll want to find a quiet space that sounds dry. If you're recording at home, one of the best and cheapest places to record yourself is in your closet. The space is naturally filled with clothes in almost every direction. Why is that important? Clothes absorb sound, which means that you will get very minimal (if any) sound reflections and room noise in your recording.

Sometimes you'll want to record in another room with more open space. Make sure that wherever you record the recording is as clean as possible, meaning minimal room noise, hum, outside sounds, etc. Check out these five tips for limiting room noise in home recording situations.

How will you record each instrument?

The final piece of the puzzle is planning how you intend to record each instrument. Will you be using the studio-quality built-in microphone? Will you be connecting your own microphone via an XLR cable? Will you be connecting an instrument using the 1/4" input?

Make sure you have the necessary cables to record each instrument. Since on occasion cables do fail, always have a spare one as backup.

Keep in mind that each person recording will need to hear the click track and/or any other instruments that were previously recorded. Spire Studio has two headphone outputs, one on the front and one on the back, so make sure you have a pair of headphones available for everyone.

Recording

Once you have your planning all done, it's time to record! The process will really be the same, regardless of whether or not you're recording an acoustic instrument, an electric guitar, or vocals using the built-in microphone. Here are a couple tips to make your recording go as smooth as possible and achieve the highest quality audio you can get:

1. Set up everything before bandmates arrive

You don't want to waste anybody's precious time on trying to figure things out and getting things set up. So do it beforehand. If you're connecting your own microphone to Spire Studio, use a pop filter to eliminate the plosive sounds that are so particularly audible when singing words with the letters “t”, "d", "p" & “k”. Here are some great tips on microphone choice, setup, and placement.

2. Plug in your headphones

Since Spire Studio features two headphone outputs, make use of that. If you're recording a friend, connect one pair of headphones for them, and another for yourself, so you can monitor live what's being recorded.

3. Perform a soundcheck

The beauty of using Spire Studio is that it includes a super nifty Soundcheck feature, which will automatically set the perfect recording level for each instrument you record. So before you start your recording, press the Soundcheck button and play or sing at the natural level of the song for about 10 seconds. Your input will be calibrated to get the perfect recording balance.

4. Turn on the click track

You want everyone to stay in sync. Especially if you're recording people on different days in different environments. The Spire app has an included metronome. Before you start recording set the correct meter and tempo that everyone will be playing to.

5. Apply recording effects (optional)

If you're planning on exporting all your tracks for further editing and mixing in a DAW like Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, etc, you'll want to leave your recordings as dry and natural sounding as possible. But if you prefer getting a great recording with effects all in one go, choose any of the included recording effects that are available to you through the Spire app.

If you want to give your vocal some beautiful reverb-y love, choose one of the Spaces. If you want to run your electric guitar or bass through an amp, run it through one of the included Amps. Check out our article on the different Spire Effects and how to use them.

6. Get a headphone mix

You may need to adjust the level of the previously recorded instruments as you go along. Sometimes a player may ask you for more of one instrument and less of another. Use the Spire app’s mixing panel to make these quick adjustments on the fly.

On occasion, you may find that it may help to actually entirely mute one of the previously recorded parts. This is particularly helpful if the rhythms of one of the recorded parts is so contrasting and complex that hearing it at once is throwing your player/singer off. Every time I've had a situation where a singer seems to repeatedly struggle with one section, I try to pinpoint what in the headphone mix is distracting them and I entirely mute that element. Like magic, things always seem to go better after.

7. Hit record

All engines, go? Hit record and make some music. I always recommend you start with 2–4 bars of silence at the beginning. That will give your players/singers time to focus, mentally prepare and take a breath.

8. Keep the noise down

You want the recording to be as clean as possible. A little hum and noise on one track might not seem like a big deal. But now multiply that by eight. Noise on eight tracks instantly becomes noticeable. It will make your mix sound muddy and will distract from the great performances that you captured.

9. Extend the recording

At the end of the recording make sure to leave about 10 seconds of silence to accomodate for the natural tail of various instruments. You don’t want that beautiful ring of the last guitar chord to be cut short.

10. Edit

Once you get the perfect take recorded, you can celebrate! Just don't celebrate too much, as you have plenty of other tracks to record. This is a great moment to edit the recording you just did. Although editing is part of post-production, it's never a bad idea to trim off the excess noise at the beginning and end of your recording. That way those additional noises of your player preparing to record don't distract the other players who will be recording later.

11. Repeat

Once you're happy with how that first instrument is sounding, it's time to repeat steps 3–10 for all the remaining instruments.

Edit, mix, and share

This is where you get to bring it all together. Trim any remaining parts of the audio that need trimming. Then, use the Spire app's built-in mixer to place each of the individual tracks/instruments on a virtual stage. The higher an element, the louder it will sound, and vice-versa. Drag the individual parts left and right to pan them accordingly. You can even set certain instruments to stereo mode while keeping others in mono.

Once you're happy with the outcome, share your finished song with the world!

You can pat yourself on the back, as you have successfully created a multitrack recording using Spire Studio! No crazy wiring. No studio setups. Just easy pain-free recording.

Now you’re ready to edit and mix your tracks in a DAW!