If you’re preparing for a recording session in a pro studio, you’ve probably been thinking about it for some time. Which means you aught to be feeling like you’ve done all the preparation and you’re totally ready. Maybe, but you’d be surprised about how many people come unprepared.
You may be paying by the hour or you might have a set price. But especially if you are paying by the hour, being unprepared for a recording session can be stressful and expensive. If you have a set price then the polite thing to do is be well prepared.
So what does it mean to be prepared for a recording session? I’ll give you a few tips…
- Firstly be well rehearsed. If you’re a singer/songwriter it’s an easy thing to go through the song as often as you can and have it totally sorted. If you’re a band then it’s a little trickier but you really don’t want to be working out your parts in the studio unless you have a great budget. Memorise your words and sort out as much as you can in terms of composition, arrangement and harmony.
- The Click Track. You don’t have to record to a click track and if you don’t want to, don’t. But before you write a letter to the united nations about how your personal freedom is being impinged upon by the tyranny of the metronome take a minute to consider some of the benefits…
Editing: If your track is changing time a lot then editing from one part of your track to another is pretty much impossible.
Can’t see yourself editing cause you’re too organic? Wait til you’re there and you hate the way you sang the chorus harmonies the first time around and you’re already over budget. Flicking the second choruses harmonies across can be pretty seductive.
Fixing bad timing: Maybe your timing is great (in which case ignore this) but in my experience even the most professional musicians need to move around the odd note and it’s much easier to do it with a reference grid.
Sounds mechanical? Not usually. Metronomes have been around a long time and musicians have always strived to improve their timing. When you work to a click you still have a lot of room for expression in every bar, just try to be in on the one!
Can’t do tempo changes? You can, we just automate them in.
Why all this about the click? In short, if you’re going to be recording to one (and nobody says you have to) but if you are… Practice to one!!! Especially you drummers, as you should be anyway.
- Intonation: If you’re a singer, practice your notes. Nothing takes longer or is more laborious than fixing intonation. It usually sounds good when we do it but sometimes it can introduce unwanted artefacts. That is bad in anyones book. Record yourself singing and check to see where you’re out. Do us both a favour and practice, practice. Your wallet will love you for it and I won’t need extra counselling!
- If you’re going to change your guitar strings, do it a couple of weeks before you come in so that your guitar isn’t constantly going out of tune.
- Try to have a clear idea of what instrumentation you want in your composition and who is going to do it. Guitar, bass, beats production and simple keys we can do here at no extra cost. But strings, banjo and other arcane and as yet undiscovered and mysterious instruments might need some research. It’s worth calling us because we may know someone who plays what you’re after. If you are not sure, it may be worth your while to come in for a consultation. After all, production is what we do here, but the more you do yourself the more money you save!
- Only hire musicians who are very competent, they will cost you money if they are not. Again, if you’re not sure call us. We can help. We would recommend that you pay between $100 to $300 for a session and leave those sessions to towards the end of the recording process so that you don’t have to get the musicians to come in again. Of course some instruments like drums need to go down earlier than that.
- Make sure you have water and snacks to see you through – people sing and play much better when they are not hungry.
- If you’re bringing in stems (Files of recorded instruments/voices) that you have recorded at home or in another studio, make sure that you bounce all of them from the absolute beginning of the song to the absolute end of the last audio section. If you’re including reverb and delay sends, make sure you make room for any decays at the end of the track.
Usually we will ask you to bring all files without any insert effects. Talk to us about this!
Make sure you provide them at the native settings they were recorded at. For example… 24bit at 44.1khz. Whilst on the subject, make sure that they have been recorded at at least this quality.
Make a note of BPM and time signature.
Make sure that none of your output bounces exceed zero DB.
If you don’t know what some or any of this means, call us!!
- Relax and enjoy the process. Many people get nerves, especially if it’s their first time for a pro recording session. But they soon find that there is no need to be stressed. If you get it wrong, you do it again and again until you’re happy with it. It’s digital and we won’t run out of tape! You really can’t mess it up. If you come to a professional and experienced studio, your engineer/producer should be infinitely patient.
Hopefully this gives you enough insight to come in well prepared. If you feel like you’re still in the dark about anything don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. Happy Recording!!