With the rise of social media platforms and music streaming services, it has become easier for musicians to put their work out there for the public. But although distribution has gotten easier, the process of recording music is still a mystery to some. The general perception is that it requires a lot of technical know-how, as well as a load of money. To some extent, this is true especially with most musicians spending a lot of money on studio time. However there are some indie artists that record their stuff on a budget. I talked to three Pakistani artists that have managed to produce on a shoestring, offering a blueprint for aspiring musicians that want to record but don’t know where to start.
For Moheet Ul Islam, a singer-songwriter from Karachi, it is mainly about melody. Everything else just falls into place
A few years ago Moheet did a really unique rendition of the late Amir Zaki’s evergreen track Mera Pyar. “I wanted to use the current production methods and give guitars a new look; that’s how Mera Pyar came into being. I simply changed the chord progression into a darker tone and created a soundscape using only guitars and payed homage to a song that was led by soul which came from Zaki’s guitar playing. No drums, no keys. It was a mixture of different guitar tones in a sort of modern twist. I think there were 10 different layers and tones in the song layered together,” he told me.
As far as the overall recording process is concerned, according to Moheet, your computer is your best friend. “You will find people telling you that mixing and mastering is a Hans Zimmer level thing. No it is not… You can create all sorts of guitar tones imaginable using guitar rig, a free to use software. It’s all in your ears. Mixing is simply treating each layer of recording individually, mastering is combining all of them in one track and then correcting its EQ. It all depends on what sort of sound you want. Most people are creating amazing metal tracks using just their PCs.”
Speaking of metal, guitar player Ahmed Nadeem has managed to produce some technical and complex numbers with limited resources
“The major requirement I have are good high gain guitar tone. For years now I have been using a Line 6 POD XT live for recording the wet guitar tracks. More recently, I just use a USB recording interface to record the direct input (DI) and then re-amp the guitar tracks through plugins (see EZ Mix, Amplitube, etc.) or through an effects processor depending on what serves the song better”
“For drums, I use Superior- or EZ=Drummer. You can literally copy beats other drummers have recorded and edit, however which way suits you. You’re not going to be good from day 1 or day 100. The more you record and mix the more you’ll learn. It always helps to talk to people who have been doing this as well. It always helps to get ideas. Youtube is a great source for people recording on a budget. There are plenty of YouTubers like Fluff (Ryan Bruce), who very informative videos on recording on a budget, sequencing drums, free plug-ins, etc. ” Ahmed here has done both original work and metal renditions of the most cheesiest Bollywood tracks.
17-year-old electronic music producer Hatim Siddique has his own way of doing things: he uses his smartphone
“Initially I would record vocals in my room on my Samsung , and I’ve actually released most of my songs using that phone or an iPhone. I made my room “soundproof” by putting mattresses near the windows and blocking all sorts of external sounds by closing doors and windows. All my music is made in my bedroom using just my laptop, which is honestly the most comfortable and creative setting for me. I have a mic and a small audio interface now but it’s definitely not a necessity for good music” he said. Hatim actually began producing his own stuff at the tender age of 13 and much like Ahmed has relied alot on Youtube tutorials.
“I would say that you don’t need lots of expensive equipment or a fancy studio to make good music. All you need is the passion, the ideas and the will to actually make the music and the rest happens on its own. As a producer, all you really need is a laptop and some torrents and you’re good to go. As a vocalist, a phone recording will do. If you want to make music and you have love for it then don’t let lack of resources be a barrier”.