Happily, I was able to get a full pass of rough vocals done last night on the song, so I present it to you for listening (7MB mp3, 160K).
This is what your average first rough pass at a song sounds like. The mix is just a quick "put the levels where it sounds ok and run it," there's plenty of wonks and fnerts and thubs and spangs in there (you'll see what I mean). It runs a bit long because I haven't figured out how to fade a full mix in Digital Performer yet, so you get to hear the goofing around at the end. The vocals are pretty raw, the only process on them is some reverb and delay. There's no guitar solo.
This is a decent start. From here, there are dozens of things to do to turn this into a "professional" quality track. First off, I recorded all these tracks at 44.1 kHz, 16-bit quality, which is the standard of CD Audio. My gear is capable of recording at 96kHz, 24-bit, which captures roughly 4 times the amount of waveform information as 44.1 - higher quality, more comparable to old-school 2-inch tape, with much better high frequency resolution. It makes a big difference. When I do the final tracks I'll do them all at 96/24.
Then there's the fancy studio tricks, like double-tracking all the guitars and vocals, which adds some dimension and breath to the sound and tends to smooth out irregularities. All that means is you play the exact same part twice on two tracks, doing your best to synchronize them so it sounds like one instument - or not, for a different effect. A lot of guitars that you hear in commercial recordings are even triple- and quadruple-tracked, sometimes with different guitar/amp combinations for each duplicate. Vocals usually sound better when double-tracked to some extent, and for "huge" backing vocals it's great to get 2 or 3 people on a mic and double- or triple-track that. Ever wonder why it takes months to record a major-label CD? That's one reason why, lots of tracking and re-tracking.
Then there's all the effects. The most important is usually compression on all the vocals and the bass guitar, which evens out their volume levels, makes them sound more consistent. Then there's the usual array of delay, reverbs, chorus, flange, etc. Might add some subtle synth orchestration too, depends.
Listen to the album version of this song to hear all that in practice.
So wow, I'm really doing it, I'm making a new album, I'm in the process. It's actually fun again! Very cool.
I'm going to put this song down now, and live with it, let it sit and stew in my brain for a while, and move on to another song right away. Next song I'll tackle will be "Lead Me Over," I think. I'm gonna do a very different version of it, so it might take a bit longer to get something listenable. Well, I hope you like what's going on so far. :)