So you’ve found the right bandmates, written some great songs, and are ready to get into the recording studio and have an awesome session. Once you go through the process of finding the right recording studio to begin recording in, there are some important details you’ll want to keep in mind before your session starts.
Let’s discuss exactly how to make sure that your band is prepared for the recording studio and able to maximize the time that you have booked.
Instrument Preparation For The Recording Studio
Aside from rehearsing and getting your tracks ready to record, it is essential to make sure that your instruments are in good working order. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times we have had bands show up to the recording studio with an array of great guitars, only to find out when hearing them back through the speakers that there are nasty buzzes on certain notes or chords that sound awful due to poor intonation.
What’s worse is if there is a problem that wasn’t bad enough to notice while recording and it reveals itself later down the road. You may think that your guitars and basses sound fine, simply because you’ve been using them during your live performances without a problem. However, it is always a good idea to have the instruments you’re planning on using in the recording studio checked out by a proper guitar technician (or you can try it yourself with a little help from Indie Rock Inc.) before heading into the recording session. Issues that may not be very noticeable in the context of a live show can make the instrument unusable in the studio.
Stringed instruments aren’t the only culprits: make sure that you have fresh heads that are properly seated on your drums and that your cymbals aren’t cracked; a crack might sound ok in a rehearsal space or venue, but when put under the microscope of the controlled studio environment, they can sound very bad.
If you have any electronic instruments, such as synthesizers or keyboards, check the outputs to see if they’re noisy. It is also a good idea to go through and check this on any pedals that you’re going to use. Sometimes a failing or faulty power supply can cause excess noise. This is usually a simple and inexpensive fix.
Besides your instruments, think about other things that you might need, such as strings, picks, batteries for pedals, and drum sticks and heads. Not having one of these little things when you need it in the middle of your session can become a showstopper and quickly end up costing you time and interrupt the flow of your recording process.
Vocal Preparation For The Recording Studio
Your voice is an instrument all on its own, and, being so fragile, it requires a very special degree of care to sound its best. Everything from what you eat to the way that you talk can impact your voice. It is absolutely critical that you know what to do and not to do in the days leading up to your recording session.
According to expert vocal coach Cari Cole, these are the things you should start doing three days prior to your session: drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, get 8-10 hours of sleep every night, eat extra fruits and veggies, gargle with warm salt water, drink organic Throat Coat tea daily, don’t have any dairy, caffeine, foods that cause acid reflux (such as sodas), spicy foods, or antihistamines, and don’t eat late, consume alcohol, or smoke.
Vocal chords are very fragile and already take on quite a bit of stress especially when touring, so taking care of them before going into the recording studio is very important. While doing everything on this list may be inconvenient, and sometimes not-so-fun, if you’re reading this post then you’re probably committed to making music more than just a hobby. With that being the case, making a great recording is a huge step in your career so taking the proper precautions ensures nothing but success.
Advancing Your Session With The Recording Studio
“Advancing your session” means getting any pertinent information to the recording studio before the day of your session. Most legitimate studios are going to have some sort of questionnaire or email that they’ll send you ahead of time in order to find out the details and specifics of your session so they are prepared. If the studio is not asking the right questions, here are some things you should take upon yourself to clear up:
- Give them some examples of artists and/or records that inspire your sound. You don’t have to give them 30 different instances or break down each of your songs into specific influences, but having an idea of what you’re after will help the engineer make the appropriate choices to achieve a sonic landscape that matches your creative vision.
- Let them know the basic instrumentation of your project (drums, guitars, etc.) so they can have some things set up and ready to go before you arrive, or at the very least formulate a plan ahead of time. You might also want to give them more specifics, such as the size and setup of your drum kit, or if you have multiple amps that a guitar player switches between. If you already have a stage plot of your live show it might be helpful to send that, noting that it’s just to give them more details about your general setup.
- Building on this, you can let them know what instruments you’re going to be bringing so they have an idea of your sonic palette and can think about how they might want to both use and capture it.
- If you’re bringing any previously recorded tracks that you want to build on, give them a heads up, and let them know the bit depth and sample rate of these files. Also, make sure that these files are prepared in a manner that is organized and easy to navigate so you don’t end up wasting valuable time trying to find or arrange things. Even if you don’t have any pre-recorded tracks, always remember to take a USB drive with you. It helps to know the studio’s policy ahead of time regarding how and when they will deliver your files once the session is complete.
- Let the engineer know your expectations and discuss a plan of action. If you don’t have a lot of experience in the studio, it might be difficult to gauge how much time you need or have an idea of how long it will take to get things done. Good engineers will be very accommodating in explaining what to expect.
The Day of Your Recording Session
When the day of your session arrives, BE ON TIME! In fact, tell everyone to arrive 30 minutes early to the recording studio. Setting up all the mics on instruments and getting sounds locked in takes time. Getting drum sounds alone can take anywhere from a couple of hours to potentially half a day.Any time that is lost due to late arriving band members is time that you could have spent getting takes.
Also remember to be patient. The engineer should always try to move as quickly as they can to get things rolling without wasting any time, but not at the cost of compromising the sound of your recording.
Drum kits can easily have anywhere from eight to over sixteen microphones on them, plus multiple signals for bass, guitars, keys, etc. Beyond getting these signals onto tape (or into the DAW), there will need to be decisions made to dial in the sounds to fit the desired aesthetic of your recording.
Taking the extra time now to address technical issues and creative direction will ultimately save you time in the long run; it is, for instance, much easier to make sure things are in-phase now, rather than having to go make adjustments in each session later.
Just remember, once you have the basic setup and everything is sounding great, that’s that. There may be some small things that need to change here and there, but it generally should not be too time-consuming.
You’re Ready To Enter The Recording Studio
So, congratulations! Once you’re this far, you’re well on your way to having a final recording you can be proud of. Believe me when I say if you follow the simple steps outlined in this post, it will make the entirety of the studio recording process much smoother and more efficient.
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Any recording studio tips you want to share? Leave a comment below!