I wanted to go over a few recording studio tips that I feel the artists need to know before entering the studio.
There are two sides of recording music, the engineering and the performance. Typically the performer is coming into the engineers ‘space’ or ‘world’ in order to capture as best as possible, their art.
That being said, and myself having played both roles, I am confident that if you take these suggestions into consideration the next time that you record, it will go much smoother for everyone involved.
Show Up Rested
If you were going to give a public speech, or maybe if your team had a game, you would surely make sure you were rested and prepared for your big day. The same goes for the studio.
Just because Jim Morrison made it through sessions in a drunken ‘rock and roll’ fashion, doesn’t mean you can. Many of you will be on your own budget, not the seemingly endless budget of a major record label, time is YOUR money. Instead of abusing substance to try and ‘get creative’, show up relaxed and focused.
In my studio, every minute late that you are is on your dime. If we agree to begin recording at 10am until 6pm, and you show up an hour late, you will only have 7 hours to track.
Include your set up time, especially drums, and you will run out of recording time fast.
I recommend showing up at least 30 minutes early, or even try and talk your engineer into letting you come in the night before to set up drums. Given the amount of time it takes for the drummer to set everything up, and the engineer to mic everything properly, and then get levels, you could spend an hour or two.
Bring extra everything. If you are a guitarist, bring two guitars, bring extra strings for each, bring a pack of picks.
Drummers, bring several pairs of sticks, have a backup set of drum heads, etc.
The more prepared you are for any kind of mishap, the less time and money you will waste when they happen, and they DO happen.
Master You Material
That is to say, know your music. Practice until it is perfect and only then is it time for you to try and record it. You would be surprised how many bands show up to record and are still ‘arranging’ their songs or unable to cleanly play their music.
There is nothing worse as an engineer than having to sit through one guitar riff or vocal line for 30 minutes while the artists fumbles their way through. It is a waste of time and money for everyone involved.
I recommend to any group that is coming to record with me, to spend the two days before coming into the studio rehearsing the material.
Practice With A Metronome
Regardless of using a click track while you are recording, practicing to a click or metronome will help your internal clock. The more you do it, the better you will become at it, and you will be able to hold steady counts and beats more naturally as your progress.
Sometimes songs will change beats in the middle of the song, and with many software metronomes you can set them up to make those changes properly.
Tune Your Instruments
The two instruments that are out of tune the most in my sessions are the drums and the vocals. Tuning drums is something every drummer, and in my opinion every engineer, needs to learn.
While many studios have house instruments that you can rent or use that are probably already tuned up, they may not always be available. Also, being a musician, I know the feeling of wanting YOUR instrument to be on the track and not some studio gear, so tune up your own instrument.
As for tuning vocals, this is something that comes with being a good vocalist. If you can not sing on key, learn how to or find someone else. Auto tune is not as cool as the mass media might lead you to believe, though that is not to say it does not have its purposes.
If singing on key does not come naturally for you, take some lessons from a professional. It takes time and effort to learn how to use your voice as it does with any other instrument. Nobody wants to record or listen back to out of tune vocal tracks.
Having any instruments out of tune on your recordings is going to greatly bring down the quality of your sound, so make sure you being your tuner.
Quiet On The Set
There is NOTHING more annoying or distracting while trying to work with an artist than having to talk over or listen over the other band mates talking behind you.
I am a big fan of having the band involved in the whole process, but I have definitely sent people out of the studio and asked them to stay out until we are finished because they were being too loud and distracting to both me and the artist being recorded.
In this light, you also need to LEAVE YOUR FRIENDS AT HOME. The studio is not a place for your whole posse to come hang out, bring the band only.
A mentor of mine once said the phrase “too many chefs ruin the brew”, which is exactly what happens when you get too many people in the studio.
Take Me To Your Leader
Who is the person in your band that has the best ear overall? The one that can see the music as a whole of many pieces and not just want to crank the guitar tracks up as loud as possible.
This may be one or two people, but you need to decide on the ‘leader’ who will work closely with the engineer to make sure the bands concept is getting across.
After everything is recorded, this person will also sit in on the mixing sessions to work out levels and placement of instruments and such.
Leave Your Ego At The Door
If you have taken my advice and ‘mastered your music’, ‘practiced for the two days before recording’, when you step into the studio, you should be able to knock it out.
What you shouldn’t be doing is arguing between each other(like all bands do) in the studio. Save that drama for your mamas basement.
The studio environment needs to be relaxed and creative, not stressed and tense.
Relax and Have Fun
After all these ‘rules’ it might seem like recording isn’t any fun at all. Quit the contrary, when all parties involved are aware and comfortable with these ‘rules’, the recording process becomes a very special time.
Without having to worry about being in tune, people chatting away or being distracting in the background, rushed for time, etc., you are allowing yourself to let loose. This gives you the opportunity to really let this music you have been working so hard on, really shine.