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I am teaching myself home recording using GarageBand. I play guitar and piano, and have a Korg padKontrol to enter drum data.

My question is, what is the best order in which to lay down tracks? Guitar first, drums first? Scratch tracks, click tracks?

I would think that there is no one best answer, but any suggestions as to an efficient approach would be appreciated.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There is of course no set way of doing this, but a typical workflow would be :

-sort out the Click Track and tempo changes
-record scratch guitars(or whatever instrument needs to be present as a guide)
-record Drums
-delete scratch tracks, do all drum editing and comping
-record next most important rhythm instrument, bass, guitar or whatever.
-record subsequent tracks in order of their importance to the song, typically leaving the vocals and leads to last, any editing should be done during tracking or immediately after.
-record overdubs and "extra" parts.

The whole point of this process is to start with a strong rhythmic foundation and to build from there.
For a typical rock or metal song the order might be Drums, Rhythm Guitars, Bass, Vocals, Lead Guitars, then Extra stuff at the end.

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This is exactly what I've done every single time. To me it was just "common knowledge". I've found that playing live guitar dummy tracks as opposed to recorded also helps it "feel" more natural for the drummer, but this can get tiring if you don't get a winning drum track in the first 10 takes. –  Wesley Murch May 25 '11 at 16:58

Great question. I offer custom drum tracks via online collaboration - so this question comes up a lot. The absolute best order (in my opinion) is to lay down scratch tracks first and foremost to get a feel of where the song is headed. Then record the drum tracks TO the scratch. From there, you can record your finals to the drum tracks.

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I haven't used Garageband software yet, but I'd say go with the drums first as your solid base and timing indicator, then guitar (as it's normally rhythm).

But really it's up to the song type and feel you're looking to get. I say do whatever sounds and feels best musically. If the piano feels more like the centerpiece of the song, then go with that first and follow with guitar.

Normally you'd record a whole song with each instrument on its own channel using slightly more expensive hardware and software, and then maybe add in pieces.

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