7 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR RECORDING SESSION A SUCCESS BEFORE YOU EVEN START RECORDING
Before you hit the studio, what should you do? What are the essentials for you (or your band) to make the best music you can possibly record in the time you have? In short, be prepared. However, what does that mean? Common sense really, but here goes:
Know your material
It sounds ludicrous to think that people would pay money and turn up at a studio without knowing the material that they want to record. It happens sometimes. Don’t do this. Recording can be immensely good fun or it can be a brutal, taxing nightmare. Turning up and hoping that you can just fumble through it is generally when things go wrong. Take the time as a band to listen to each others parts and vocals to make sure they fit. Record your rehearsals to check that you are where you want to be. Nobody wants to have to try and fix a problem of not really knowing their own material before they get in. Lyrics especially can become problematic if they have to be changed on the day. It all wastes your time and can become a source of stress for people in the session.
Maintain your instruments/amps/gear
Again, most people wouldn’t think this, but you’d be surprised that sometimes people turn up with guitars which aren’t intonated properly, drum kits with battered skins. Obviously this affects the end result drastically. Dead bass strings will always sound dead and if you don’t want that, you have to change them. Unless you want a dull drum sound, fresh skins and tuning are the order of the day. The worst example of this is cracked cymbals which under any circumstance will always sound awful.
Bring spares of everything
Spare strings, tools to adjust your instruments, spare drum heads, spare batteries for any effect pedals/active circuits. The more prepared you are for something to go wrong, the less likely you will be anything other than mildly irritated if it happens and disaster will be averted.
Make sure you’re in top condition
Maybe going out partying the night before wasn’t a good idea. Trying to get your best work down can sometimes involve a great deal of effort for people. Do you really want to try it with a hangover? Plus, don’t get drunk in the studio. In over 20 years of me playing I have never, ever seen anyone record or play better drunk than sober. You might think you have, but the recording never lies.
Have a vision in mind and make it known
This is simple. What do you want to sound like? Have you told your producer? Have you sent any reference tracks with the kind of thing you might like to sound like? The more information you can give, the more you’ll all be on the same page and pulling in the direction you want to go in.
Bring guide tracks
If you can record a guide guitar at the chosen bpm, especially if your material is very twisty (e.g. progressive metal) this can save you hours and hours of tedious working out. I’ve done this on occasion and if it’s complicated material it can take longer to work out the click track than it does to record the drums.
Know your limits
In most things there will be a certain amount of compromise. How much time can you devote to the project? What’s your budget? What sort of quality are you expecting? Obviously, you’re not going to get a result like your album has been produced by Brian Eno or Quincy Jones if you pay your mate £50 or if you expect to record a 10 song album in a day. I like to think that there’s a happy medium for this where people can get a professional product that they are proud of without having to spend their life savings or working on the album for a decade. Recording should be something that brings out the best in your music and makes it sound as good as it possibly can. The excitement, the changes of texture, the overall feeling you get when you hear it. You can make it easier for yourself to sound your best. Do your homework and turn up prepared.