Recording in a studio part 1
Lets get real here,You walk into a studio- there are lights and knobs and kit everywhere. It looks cool but can seem intimidating and not just for newbies, a very experienced male musician visiting my studio made me promise that I didn’t have “some young, scary, pale assistant” who was going to want to talk about compression with him.
The first studio I ever visited was the legendary Abbey Road. My big sisters boyfriend was recording his album there.
I got to skip school to go there, and even got to add ”party noise” on one of the tracks. I was hooked!
A few years later I was making my own music. As soon as I was ready to record, I booked myself into a studio.
Even though the studio was less glamorous than Abbey Road, a whole lot less glamourous, it was still a big investment for me at the time.
I had assumed the engineer would guide me through the recording process.
Call me naive, no call me stupid, I had only met him that morning, when he opened the door.
He was a nice enough guy, but he was so unengaged and unprofessional that he actually read a book during the session.
The demos turned out OK, but it was a miserable, expensive and educational experience.
Was this my fault ? No
Could I have planned to make the session better? Yes
This report is to help you have a great time recording.
Before you record
Choosing a studio and more important your engineer /producer
What kind of studio do you need?
If you are in a band and what to record playing together, you will need a studio with a decent size live room.
If you are a singer /songwriter, does the studio have a nice acoustic space for you?
If you only need to record vocals, or do a final mix on a programmed track, you could book into a smaller studio,
but you might want it to be well equipped with effects and to have a really good mix engineer.
What are your recordings for ?
Are they to get you gigs? If so make sure they reflect your live sound. Do you want to release them ?
Then make sure they are decent quality recordings.
Raw can be good . Get an idea of what you want your final product to be like.
It doesn’t have to be polished, over-production can stifle a live feel.
Who are you recording with ?
Are they great at recording heavy metal bands? Great ! But maybe less so if you are a nu-folk act.
Do you want their production ideas to help shape your sound? or their engineering expertise to capture your sound to tape?
A good engineer should make you feel relaxed so you can produce your best artistic mojo in their space.
Meet the engineer you plan to work with and listen to examples of work they have recorded and mixed
Make sure they are a good match for you and your style
Planning your time
Get ready – plan your time
Are your songs ready – really ready?
Commercial artists have the luxury of spending weeks or months in the studio perfecting their recordings and mixes. Rehearse and rehearse, if you cant hit that high note now, or your bass player doesn’t really know the chorus riff – guess what , nothing will have magically changed when you get to the studio. In fact with the clock ticking and money slipping away there will be extra pressure on everybody. Quick tip : be really supportive to each other, recording can make you feel surprisingly vulnerable.
Budget your time
If you are planning to record three tunes as a band in one day. 8 hours can seem like a lot of time, but break it down. You get in and set up your gear, say that takes one hour (if no-one is late), the engineer mics up the session and gets levels and a working sound over the next one to two hours, you now have 5 hours left. Thats under 2 hours to record each song including vocals and overdubs. You haven’t had lunch and wheres the time to do all your mixing ! get real – budget enough time to get the results you need
Most studios give a fixed price deal on 8 or 10 hour sessions, a lot of these deals revert to a much higher hourly rate if you run over the agreed time. So be on time and don’t run over.
Get an idea how you sound before you get to the studio – even a mobile phone recording of a rehearsal can give you a good idea how the songs are shaping up.
When you are taking programmed session into a studio make sure your software is compatible with the studio and will load onto their system. If your song arrangement is in the latest version of protools or logic it may not load at the studio if they are running an older version. Check that the studio have the same plugins and virtual instruments as you have used .
Make sure the all the files and audio are actually on the dvd or hard drive you take with you to the studio, even very experienced artists turn up to record and realise they have left crucial sounds at home.
Don’t assume your engineer is a programmer
Take an audio version of your session – bounce each individual track from bar one. Then lay your track up at the studio at the correct tempo and you are off. This is fool proof and although time consuming you spent the time at home, so it was free.
Alternative fool proof method – Take your laptop and drive with you.