What you need to know before you hit the studio
Today’s post is a quick run through of what you need to be aware of before you hit the studio to record. If you are a newbie and haven’t ever recorded anything in a professional studio, then read on!!
Plan your recording:
The first thing you need to be aware of in a studio, TIME = MONEY.
When it comes to recording your music, there are many ways to approach the execution. You might want to just produce a few ideas that you have in your head and record every element individually to have more control on the sound. Conversely, you might want to have the entire band in the room tracking live.
Communicating with the chosen engineer for the project makes sure that you an approach the process that is best suited for your song, making the whole recording process efficient.
I would suggest that you draft up a working budget for your song (gotta adult guys…) and find the studio that can give you give you the most value for your money. Once you know the rate (factor in the GST too), you know how many hours you have. When you know how many hours you have, you can make decisions on how to best spend the time. If you are in a band, make sure each member has an adequate amount of time to lay down their parts.
Also, try and factor in some ‘experimentation time’ in your sessions. I have a few clients that do this. They will come in, record their parts, and once the base is set, experiment with their equipment, instruments, recording techniques and FX to try and create a sound that hasn’t been heard before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does though, it’s usually tends to become one of the artists’ sonic signature.
Ideally, recording in a studio should be fun and fulfilling for you as an artist. In my experience a well planned recording makes this possible.
Practice, Practice, Practice:
Artists sometimes knowingly, or unknowingly come in unrehearsed. Seasoned session musicians can pull this off, but it can be a nightmare situation for the average musician. The longer capturing a good performance takes, the more tedious the process becomes. There is also a chance the engineer will lose interest and objectivity listening to the same part repeatedly for a long time.
The more rehearsed you are, the more time the engineer and producer can take to work on the finer points of the performance.
Make sure your equipment (or voice) is in the best condition possible before you get to recording it. Here’s some advice on how you an go about it, depending on what your instrument of choice is:
If you are a singer make sure to have a regimen to take care of your voice and get enough sleep. A rested voice in my experience is easy to work with and get a great performance out of. I would also suggest entering the studio a little earlier to settle in and warming-up before the session.
Guitar & Bass players can prepare their guitars by shining their frets, conditioning the neck and changing strings a day or two before the session. Stretch your strings so that they hold tune better, and make sure your electronics are up to scratch. Fresh strings will have a zing & brightness that old strings just won’t have, giving you richer guitar sounds. Some people love the sound of a freshly re-strung guitar. I personally prefer the strings to be a few days old.
Drummers and percussionists can change their skins. This isn’t as necessary as new strings, since some aged skins can have a very characteristic sound that might work great for the song. New skins will give you a brighter, snappier sound. Drummers should carry fresh sticks and moon-gel (or whatever you may use for damping).
You should make sure all of the above should be taken care of well before you enter the studio. If you come in and find out that your intonation is off, you’ll be wasting your time and thus your money.
Don’t come as you are, come prepared !!
Bring in some references:
Depending on which websites you visit, you will find that words like warm, shimmery, sparkly, muddy, bite-y are used to describe a sound. These words are incredibly subjective.
When communicating with your engineer, you need to understand that your bright can be very different compared to your engineer’s bright. Make sure to carry a reference that is in the same ballpark as the sound you are chasing. This ensures there’s a starting point to work from since you both are on the same page.
So we’ve gone through a few things you can do to prepare for your time in the studio. The above are your bare minimum basics to adhere to if you want a stress free recording. I can go on about how you shouldn’t walk in with distractions like drugs, alcohol or girlfriends but that isn’t very rock and roll is it? The important thing is to make sure you enter the studio in the best frame of mind.
TIME = MONEY!!