The recording process can be a daunting task for new artists and established bands alike. Sessions can take too long, albums can go over budget, and musical and artistic differences can put a real strain on band relationships. Here are a few useful tips for artists preparing to record at a studio that can help save time, money, and relationships.
#3 – Think about the sound you want to achieve
Nobody likes to classify their sound, but it is important to have reference points when trying to explain the tone you’re looking for. Listen through your favorite CDs and find elements that are similar to the sound you’re trying to achieve. Being able to say “I really like the drum sound on song x” or “I want a vocal reverb like song y” is a huge help for the recording engineer. It’s not about copying the sound of another artist, it’s about establishing a starting point for your creative vision.
#2 – Get your gear into shape.
Before coming into the studio make sure your gear is in good working order. Change guitar strings and drum heads. Swap out the batteries in any active gear. Get some WD40 for that squeaky kick drum pedal! You may want to get any guitars or electric basses checked out by a tech beforehand; if the neck needs adjusted there is little a studio engineer can do to fix the intonation.
#1 – Prepare your songs!
In my opinion, the #1 way to save time and produce the best recording is to come into the studio with your songs prepared. You don’t want to waste your studio time working out arrangements, you want to spend it tracking and mixing. Sure, those moments of artistic inspiration happen when you want to try a different harmony or rearrange a chorus, but the bulk to your arrangements should be complete.
Last month I had a band come in that brought a spreadsheet outlining instrumentation for every song. It sounds sort of nerdy, and not at all “Rock & Roll”, but it was a huge time saver. Remember to establish the tempo for each song. Nobody wants to record the rhythm section tracks and realize it’s the wrong tempo once the vocalist cuts their lead.
When working out arrangements remember that recording in a studio allows you to do things you can’t do live; things like harmonies, doubled parts, or extra instruments. Take the time to work these ideas out before stepping in the studio and you’ll save money and end up with a better recording.