The Three-Hour Song Recording Challenge

RRecently, gift experience specialists Red Letter Days challenged my band, the Crying Skies, and me to record one of our brand new tracks complete with a finished live mix, within the seemingly impossible timeframe of just a few hours – hence the term ‘three-hour song recording challenge. 

The Crying Skies

The Crying Skies

Between us, we’ve been in a recording space or two in our time, and when we found out that we would be recording at Crouch End’s Crypt Studio, we jumped at the chance to take on the task.

So, we chose to record one our most recent tune, the infinitely bluesy Mister Ten Per Cent, to lay down in The Crypt. The week before our session, we ran over the track and rounded off any sharp edges to make sure that we were as prepared as possible. The night before the session we had a gig in Islington, and we opened our set with Mister Ten Per Cent. The show was a roaring success, so much so that we all had a few too many beers that night, especially considering the fact that we were due in the studio at 8.30am the following morning. 

The Crying Skies In The Crypt

The Crying Skies In The Crypt

Anyhow, we all made it down to The Crypt Studio at the crack of dawn. At first, we felt like a bunch of sloths on valium, but as soon as we set eyes on the live room, the adrenaline began to pump, and we snapped right back into action mode.

As the studio is housed in a church, the live room has bundles of character; the ceilings are high, the acoustics are top notch, and the amount of vintage equipment on offer is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a studio before.

Our engineer, George Perks, gave us a quick tour of the studio and helped Wiggy and I select our weapons of choice, before giving us a rundown of the session. George closed miked the drums and leveled the sound from the bass and guitar amps in quick time, before setting up our singer, Tel, in the vocal booth ready to record.

It was just over an hour into the session and the pressure was on – but we were all tuned up and ready to record. George gave us the signal via our headphones, and we churned out three live takes back-to-back to provide ourselves with a decent selection to choose from – every part had to be almost perfect as we were recording live as a band.

We all rushed into the monitoring room and listened to each take; we decided on the third and final one as it had the most energy. 

George In The Crypt

George In The Crypt

The clock was ticking, and we all had an hour and 10 minutes to finish everything to complete the challenge. With that in mind, we quickly assessed which overdubs we needed to do to help bring the track to life. Our drummer Andy fired into the vocal booth and ploughed through the backing vocals in a maximum of two takes, then we listened back, trimmed the fat and sent Tel back into to add a couple of extra layers.

Throughout this time, George was mixing and editing the tune while leading the session and giving a little feedback here and there, which we found very helpful.

There was just under half an hour left, so I ran back into the live room with my harmonica to complete the final overdub. I had the privilege of plugging my bullet mic into a vintage Fender Twin amp, which made the sound of my harmonica sound raw and distorted – it was fun to record my harp parts, to say the least. 

The Crying Skies

The Crying Skies

We had around 20 minutes or so left. As a band, we went through and discarded any unnecessary harmonica parts as quickly as possible, with George on the desk making the edits. We had a quick break while George worked his magic and had one final listen or two before signing it off in the nick of time (okay, maybe 5 minutes over time if you’re being pedantic).

All in all, the challenge was a success, recording at The Crypt was magic, and we are all chuffed with the final result (listen for yourself and let us know what you think). On behalf of Wiggy, Andy, Tel, and myself, I would like to say a big thank you to George, Ricky and Red Letter Days for giving us the opportunity to take on the three-hour song challenge.

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