27 Tips Before Entering a Recording Studio
1. Rehearse regularly. Know your parts and come in prepared. Have all parts worked out before entering the studio to ensure the recording process is efficient.
2. Record your songs during live gigs and pre-production rehearsals. Even a simple cellphone recording may reveal weak spots in a song.
3. Using a computer or sequencer? Prepare all sequenced material before the session.
4. If you plan to use a click track, make sure your drummer/band is comfortable playing to it. (To
get “tight”, practice to a click track/metronome at tempos you will use when recording.)
5. If possible, inform the engineer of the tempo, key, time signature, and any other info for the songs. If there are key, tempo, or time signature changes, inform the engineer of what measures they take place.
6. Rehearse more songs than you plan to record. You never know which songs will sound strong in the final mix. (If you plan to have a four-song EP, prepare six songs just in case.
7. Take care of your body before and during your recording sessions. Eat well, get enough sleep, and keep your ears rested and clear. Know what helps you relax! Dress comfortably.
8. If bringing friends or family be sure they understand that the engineer will need quiet in the control room. Recording can be a long and somewhat boring process at times. Bring things to do for when you are not recording. (reading material, etc.)
9. Be early! At some studios, the clock starts running whether you’re there or not. Find out about their cancellation policy as well. Sonlight Productions allows for load in and load out time and only charges for the actual time, setting microphones, getting level checks, recording and mixing.
10. Make the studio a comfortable and relaxed place. If it’s not, it will show in your finished product.
11. Make sure you and the engineer have the same “vision” – go over your songs with him/her before recording. Before booking your studio time, ask to hear other material the engineer recorded, and give the engineer reference material for the sound you are going for. This can be as simple as a YouTube link to a song with your favorite mix.
12. Use new strings, cords, drum sticks and heads – and bring spares! Know where local music stores are and their hours...just in case!
13. Don’t use new gear or different equipment that you haven’t used before, even if it’s better than what you have. Surprises can cause problems. There is always a learning curve with all new gear.
14. Remember, it’s emotion and feeling that make the best song, not necessarily the best technical rendition. Therefore you may want to talk to your engineer about different recording techniques to foster the capture of the emotion and energy in the music.
15. If you mess up a part while recording, don’t stop and start over. That can easily cause you to burn out. Instead, check to see if the engineer can punch in the correction. Trust the engineer will stop you if needed.It is stressful and challenging to get everyone in the band to have a perfect take…that’s why we have great editing capability!
16. Always keep in mind the focus of your music. If it’s the vocals, plan to spend the most time on them. Don’t waste time on things that don’t highlight the focal point.
17. Get the sound you want while recording. (Never assume that you can fix it in the mix.)
18. Unless you have unique effects, record individual tracks clean and add effects later.
19. Don’t necessarily double track everything. Doubling a lead vocal can hide all the subtleties that make a song personal and likable (although it can work well for a chorus).
20. Tune up often.
21. Singers: always bring water but don’t use ice! Ice constricts your vocal chords. Hot tea with lemon and honey works just as well.
22. Listen to your music at moderate levels in your car and other speakers. This is how most of your fans will listen to it, and mixing at loud levels will fatigue your ears and distort the true sound. Listen on multiple systems (Ipod, headphones, car, home stereo) It is always amazing how things sound different in each setting. Then take notes, return to the studio to adjust the final master.
23. Typically it’s good to take a day off and come back to listen. The same applies for mix-down. Ears don’t last very long in the studios! You will be amazed how your ears can deceive you once they are fatigued. What was considered a great master two days later can sound like a mix that needs a lot of work. This is natural so plan more then one mastering session, keep them short and plan to come back and refine the mix more then once.
24. As you review each mix make sure you can comfortably hear all of the instruments. Tweak the mix on a small pair of speakers at an extremely low volume. Headphones are also very valuable at this stage, but don’t base your final decision on them. You should be able to pick up each instrument even at this level.
25. Know when to quit for the day. You’re better off quitting a session early when you’re tired than wasting time making a bad mix that will have to be redone anyway.
26. Trust your engineer. You may have the final decisions on your projects, but engineers are experienced and may offer insight that will take your recording to the next level.
27. Always, always, always make a safety backup file (CDR, Zip Drive) Protect your recording investment should your original master get damaged. Back up both the session and the final master.