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I've heard some standard approaches on the sequence of instruments to record first, but my personal preference interferes with the norm.

The classical method is to record drums first, then bass, then guitar, then vocals. In my opinion, I like to have the drums go first, then the guitar, and then I can adjust my bass tone to fit more pleasingly with the guitar. Then the vocals go last.

Is there any drawbacks to this approach? Everything I've read says to do bass guitar after drums, but I'm not too fond of this method.

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1 Answer

It matters less if all parts are being played in tune and on time, but in multitrack recording scenarios, this is rarely the case, so the logic is thus:

  • Record drums first to give all other parts a temporal and metric reference.
  • Record bass next because it typically plays on strong metric pulses, and because harmony is grounded in the lowest note in the chord (it's easier to tune everyone else to the bass than it is to try to fit the bass into everyone else's out-of-tune-ness).
  • Record rhythm guitar next because they're the highest-pitched component of the rhythm section.
  • Keyboards or any other instruments could go here or after the lead guitar depending on how much rhythm playing vs. lead playing they do.
  • Record lead guitar now that you have a temporal and harmonic reference for them to play over.
  • Record vocals last because they're going to do whatever they want no matter what you tell them.
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If you don't want to record the drums first, you can use a click track for the others as a tempo reference and remove it in the mix. –  filzilla Feb 9 '12 at 1:00
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