Is this a FAQ, or a rambling and incoherent diatribe? You decide.
Uncle Dave Lewis called me some time in late 1996 and said "How do you make a CD? How much does it cost?" He had some idea that the Young Friends of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting might be interested in making some sort of CD of their music and poetry et. al.. Because of the general lack of structure and, if I may, anarchy, of Young Friends (and Quakers in general) I just showed up at the Washington D. C. meeting with a pile of recording equipment. There are many, many poetically and musically talented BYM YFs. We recorded some of it. I'll be at the State College meeting in April.
Here are some questions I heard at the Washington Meeting and some questions I just heard in my head.
My name is Andrew Bellware. I am Uncle Dave Lewis' brother-in-law (yes, his wife and I look a lot alike). I'm a recording engineer by trade plus I like to try to make films and CDs of my own stuff. My company is Braidwood. Note that not all the links work because I don't have a scanner to scan in the art-work.
Nobody really knows what we're doing. You can do whatever you want.
Basically, I have a little (well, not so little, let's say portable) recording setup. Anything that makes sound we can record.
Really, this is a Young Friends show, but there is no committee yet. My guess about how this will all turn out is that we will record a wide range of music, poetry, tribal drums, chanting, etc. and make some kind of CD with it. The CD will reflect the diversity of Young Friends. Everyone will be joyous and happy.
But hey, that could all change.
Basically, I have a digital sixteen track recording studio. I have about six microphones and a couple cool effects boxes. I have an IBM-compatible computer with which digital audio can be manipulated like a word processor and a CD-ROM recorder which will record "one-off" audio CD's as well as master CD's that can be sent to a manufacturing plant for replication.
A more complete list of equipment is at the Braidwood Audio page. More about what this stuff can do will be explained later under "How do you make a recording?" (hah!)
Most of what I do for money is corporate broadcast audio. Many big companies love to put their meetings up on sattelites so that their employees around the world can watch. Sometimes they like to put their meetings on TV because they know that television validates reality. TV is good. TV is cool. TV is the best. It's what pays my bills. Watch more TV.
I don't do what is known in the industry generically as "Rock 'n 'Roll". There ain't no money in rock, and besides, the damage on your ears can be pretty dangerous. The only rock I do is my own stuff.
I used to do theater, which pays only a wee bit better than rock (and it took me to Europe a couple times, but that's another story) but the pay was still pretty lowly. So now I am a freelance corporate audio guy. It gives me plenty of time off to do whatever I want (which explains the non-moneymaking schemes on the Braidwood Entertainment page.)
The best single reference for audio engineering is not on-line. It is the Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook.
But here are some links: The Audio Engineering Society, Mix Magazine, Doctor Audio Links
When I come up with some others, I'll post them.
The simple answer is that you get a microphone near something that is making a sound you want to record. Make sure that mic is plugged into a preamplifier which takes the very, very quiet signal the microphone puts out and makes it "line" level (about the same level as what comes out of the back of a CD player or tape deck) and plug the output of the preamplifier into a recorder.
Well, OK, that probably wasn't a very satisfying answer. I don't know if I can really make a good answer here, but I'll try again..
Let's pretend we are recording a band. The band has a bongo player, an acoustic guitar player, a singer, and a trombone player. We put a microphone on each one of the instruments (sort of in front of the instrument, where the sound comes out) the microphones turn the sound into very, very quiet electrical signals. We get those signals up to "line level" with a preamplifier (which may be a box in a rack or it may be built into a mixing board) so that the electrical signal is strong enough to put on tape. Then we send each instrument's signal to a separate track of a recorder (either by pressing some buttons on the mixer or by plugging a cable from the preamplifier directly into the recorder.)
Hmm . . . that paragraph could probably be more clear. It's probably easier just to show you.
Anyway, my two recording decks can record eight tracks each. We'll only be using one recording deck for this imaginary band. Here is what is on each track:
2. acoustic guitar
(There are four empty tracks right now.)
Now, let's pretend the singer wasn't very happy with his performance. We can put headphones on the singer and play back the other tracks for him. He can sing along and we can record him on another track (say, track 5) or over his old voice (erasing track 3 and replacing it with the new performance).
There are all kinds of things that can be done. The bongo player can overdub a shaker part in the third verse on track 6. The trombone can play a lead on track 7. We can have a wild, crazy party.
The main thing the mixing board allows us to do is to change the volume of each track when we transfer the multitrack (more than two-track) recording onto some kind of two-track (or stereo) tape deck.
Say the trombone was too loud (now that would be shocking, wouldn't it?), we could just turn him down. We could turn some parts on and off during the song. We can put different effects on different parts, making the parts seem closer or farther away. We can make parts zoom back and forth between speakers. We can have even more of a wild, crazy party. Wa-hoo!
This is most definitely easier done than said. Let's just say that it's fairly easy to move music parts around like a word processor. If we have a song which we've mixed and put into the computer, we can change the order of the verses, or tack a piece of poetry at the beginning, or add a thunderclap at the end. We just can't quiet down that trombone -- to do that we'd have to go back and re-mix the song).
Really, this is much easier to show than explain.
Once all the music is in the computer, it can be burned onto a recordable CD. Then you have a shiny gold CD which can be played on most any CD player. The blank CD's cost about ten bucks and they take about thirty minutes to make.
I think it's something under two thousand bucks for a thousand CDs. It's probably two hundred dollars less to get five hundred CDs, so it's usually worth it to get a thousand. This includes the printing of a little four-color booklet and the plastic jewel case. These are ballpark prices, I haven't had a CD made for two years, but the prices seem to have stablized (they aren't going down much more). There is a price breakdown in the next section.
There is a facility in Lancaster, PA called KAO. They are pretty good, although it is actually cheaper to not go to them directly, but through a broker.
If a computer disc can be given to them, with all the art and everything on it, those little booklets can be printed in the bazillions for a couple hundred bucks. The printing is relatively cheap -- a couple hundred bucks for all you can eat. The price breakdown for everything is roughly as follows (for a thousand CD's)
$.90/cd for the "raw disk" = $900.00
$600 to make the "glass master" from which all the CDs are stamped
$.30/cd for the plastic jewel case = $300.00
a couple hundred bucks for printing
So the whole thing comes to about $2000.00 plus or minus a few hundred dollars.
Yep. We can put all the cover songs we want on the CD but we would theoretically have to pay the Harry Fox Agency a few cents on each CD manufactured. Also, the original music really ought to be copyrighted. Click here for a downloadable acrobat-reader copyright form with instructions.
Also, the writers of songs should become BMI or ASCAP to get royalties from radio airplay (I'm BMI, because its free). But after all of this, there's no money in it. I spend thousands of dollars promoting my records and I make about twenty bucks a year in royalties.
The other option is that we can ignore a lot of copyright issues -- like paying Harry Fox. If we sell a million records, we could be sued -- but we'd have enough money to pay them, too. This is all something that needs fairly extensive discussion.
I never claimed to be coherent. I'll make another try if need be. Contact:Andrew Bellware e-mail Bellware@Castle.net PO Box 4621 Metuchen, NJ 08840 USA phone 908/548-8542
No, I'm just insane. Luckily I'm the happy kind.