What to Do Before Coming to the Studio
Making a record is like taking an audio snapshot of where you are as an artist at a given moment in your career. Recording a song properly in a studio environment isn’t cheap. Chances are you’re going to using this recording to represent yourself for a long time, so it’s crucial to get the best sounding recording possible. With band’s budgets shrinking it becomes less realistic to book the studio for months on end, forcing bands to record a song in one or two days.
Working in a commercial pro studio is quite different from working at a home studio. Some of the home studio habits just won’t apply when you record in a place where you’re charged by the hour. Effective and focused working is king in a recording studio – you need to make sure that you’re properly prepared. So here are some tips to get the most out of your recording session.
Set Clear Goals for Your Recording Session
How many songs are you recording? What parts are you recording? Come in with a concise plan of what instruments, vocals, and back-ground vocals you’re recording. It will help determine how much time you’re going to need to get everything done in an efficient manner. This allows you to make the most out of your studio time from the moment that you walk in. The basic rule is, the more instruments and vocals you use, the more it will cost. We will be happy to visit with you about this.
Money and time are almost always an issue when it comes to making a recording. Unless you have a huge budget to spend experimenting in the studio, showing up prepared will go a long way in getting the most for your dollar out of your recording experience. If you’re on a budget it’s crucial to have your songs written before you come in. There’s nothing worse than showing up with a half-written song. Writing in a studio is an expensive way of achieving very little, so finish everything before you arrive. Knowing your parts by heart will often mean fewer takes. Fewer takes means you can get more done in less time, saving you money. So practice, practice, and practice until you have the songs nailed down to a tee.
Being prepared also means that all of your gear is functioning and ready for a studio recording. Tracking in a recording studio is like capturing your performance under a microscope. Every little movement, strum, breath, and sound will be recorded and be audible in the final recording. If you have the ability, bringing out your equipment the day before the recording will not only let us set up all of the mics at no expense to you, it will also let your instruments adjust to the room, so you don’t have to pay us $100 to listen to you tune.
If you have made some cool demos in the past and want that same kind of sound, bring them with you. It will help us know in advance of what you are looking for and can hopefully get to your final product sooner. Home recording can also be helpful as a way to save studio time. Feeling pressure to get that guitar just right? Feeling shy about performing your vocal? Give it a try at home and move on to the next task.
Treat The Recording Session As a Gig
We’ve all seen the movies where recording in a pro studio is nothing but a big party. Booze, strippers, drugs, and crowds of people awaiting your next big hit record. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that making a recording takes concentration and focus. Despite the music business being populated by some undeniable drug sponges, you’re not at a studio to sit around and get hammered. There’s nothing wrong with a couple of drinks here and there, but rendering yourself useless isn’t doing anybody any favors.
Sometimes it’s great to have friends and loved ones around to give support and act as your cheerleaders. But be mindful of whom you allow to hang out on your session. Not just for your sake, but also for everyone involved in making the record. If someone is having a hard time nailing a part or is very shy to perform in front of people, then visitors might impede on their creative process. Also, don’t forget about your engineer! You’re paying good money for their expertise and ears, and a loud laughter of your drunken friends impedes on their ability to assist you in getting the best recording possible. If you find it hard to tell your friends to leave, you can have your engineers be “the bad guy”. It’s not rude to ask them to leave, you’re in the studio to get work done!
Practice With a Click Track
If you’re not used to being in a studio environment then it’s time to start practicing to a click track. It’s easy to think you know a song perfectly, but then suddenly you have to play it with headphones and an annoying click track the whole thing can start to fall apart. During a studio session, you won’t be playing in the same room when working on final tracks due to sound separation, so it’s important to know your parts without looking at each other.
If your songs have any tempo changes be sure to let the engineer know so that he can change the click tempo at the appropriate part of the song. Most songs are recorded to a click track, but there are no rules or laws in the recording studio. If you’re confident that you and your other musicians don’t need a click track then feel free to do it without one.
Do your research! As we said before, your recording will be used to represent yourself for a long time, so it’s crucial to get the best sounding recording possible. Detailed research is a vital part of the process to ensure that you have the best sounding record. Research the recording studios, who recorded there? What gear do they have? Do they have a specialty genre? What’s their hourly rate? These are all questions you should be asking yourself when researching a pro studio.
Mix Another Day
I know it’s tempting to want them to start mixing your project right after recording, but it’s often better to let the engineers ears have a rest for a couple of days. Come back after a day or two and listen to it with fresh ears, this will often inspire your mixing process
A good recording engineer will make sure that your recording sounds mixed already. We always mix as we record. This will give you a rough reference of what the end product will sound like. Keep in mind that there are several steps after recording that can drastically change the final sound of your song. These steps can only alter the source sound to a certain degree, so getting the best source sound should always be your main goal.
Stepping into a recording studio for the first time can be daunting. The overwhelming amount of gear and the large recording consoles can be frightening as first. “How will I be able to make a record that sounds good?” “How do I know what gear to use for my song?” Don’t worry. Everyone started off from that very same position. Try not to think about any of that stuff and just enjoy playing music. If you feel comfortable and go with the flow then chances are you will come out with a good sounding record.
If being a recording studio for as long as we have, if it has taught us anything, it’s that no amount of gear or engineering expertise can make a mediocre performance sound like the best record in the world. It all starts with the performance. So practice, practice and practice some more and give the studio performance of a lifetime.