26 Mar Getting the Most Out of Your Recording Session
Most people have never made a professional studio recording. In fact, most people have never even set foot into a professional recording studio. However, as recording studios are popping up all over the world, from full sized, commercial, multi-room behemoths to basement home studios, studio time is becoming easier and easier to come by for the average person. In fact, with this rise in amateur studios, it is pretty common (and even expected) for every local garage band to need to have at least a passing-quality demo to book a show. This new availability of studio time is fantastic for up-and-coming artists and studios alike to get their products out there, but also brought down the quality of the average recording.
Throughout history, recording was an exclusive privilege. Now, it is easy for anyone with a computer and a mic to record in a DIY studio, but it is not easy to get your recording noticed. In this new world of over saturation, it is very wise to fully capitalize on your time in the studio to get you on the right track from the start and help set yourself apart from the rest without spending more money.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your studio time BEFORE booking your next studio session:
Weigh all your options
With all the new upstarts, there are not only more places you can get a great recording made, but also more places you can go terribly wrong.
Visit every potential studio and speak with every potential engineer.
Check out space
Look at all the spaces and engineers to get a feel for the studio atmosphere and engineer attitude that makes you feel the most comfortable and best fits the vibe of the band and music.
Check out the sound of the rooms, do they fit the band’s sound or not? Ask for sample recordings/projects the studio has done. Beyond just “sound quality,” does the sound of the recordings (drum room sound, natural reverbs, echo chambers, specific mics or instruments) fit the sound you’re looking for?
Price or expediency may also factor into your choice. This is the time to discuss pricing, timeline, and payment. Get a price and time estimate for the entire project to make sure it’s in your budget before moving forward. Many studios require a down-payment before starting.
Have a chat about expectations with the engineers and studio staff. What services are included for the price?
Find out what’s appropriate under their roof as far as drinking and bringing friends to sit in on sessions. They will want you to be comfortable, but it is their space and may be worth many thousands or even millions of dollars and is always a good idea to ask first.
This is the time to discuss what you want the record to sound like with your engineer.
Be on time. Be respectful of their time and yours!
If you come in unprepared, or you show up two hours after the session was supposed to start, don’t be surprised paying more for the same end result. Not to mention, you will lose the respect of the studio staff/engineers.
Most studios charge by the hour and that hour starts immediately, even if you aren’t there yet. The staff is required to have the studio up and running and ready to go on time for your session, so that’s when the clock starts ticking. They worked very hard to get the studio prepared for you, it is not cool to disrespect their time.
Discuss cancellation fees and expectations BEFORE you need to cancel a session to avoid paying extra fees. Many studios will charge a late-cancellation fee or even full price for a no-show.
Keep a good image
Music industry networks often operate by word of mouth and studios and engineers can be a part of vast networks. Showing up late can get you pegged as one of “those bands” and as word travels. Because of this, other studios may become reluctant to work with you in the future.
Make sure you have everything you are going to need for the session. Don’t forget to include:
Bring your gear
All instruments, cables, pedals, power supplies, picks, extra strings, tuners, fresh batteries for all pedals and active guitars. Anything that might be used in the session. In addition, maybe even bring a backup instrument if you have one on hand.
Be sure all instruments are setup, tuned, and ready to go when you arrive. Guitars should have new strings on and broken in, and intonation set up properly.
Songs must be completed
All songs/arrangements/parts/solos/sections/lyrics/tones/FX/instruments/etc. need to be finished and ready to record BEFORE the session begins. This step is very important and is something that should be done before booking studio time.
Each performer needs to come to the studio ready to lay down their best take. It should be a matter of how perfect you can play, not a matter of playing it properly. The less time you waste trying to get “the right take,” the less your overall session will cost.
The studio is NOT for practicing
Double check that you are fully prepared and you don’t need to work through that one part that you “just can’t get”.
Everybody needs to stay hydrated to perform at their peak.
BONUS TIP: Bring extra coffee/tea for your engineers for a morning session! The small things can build major brownie points.
And (of course), have fun! Recording an album or EP can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and should be enjoyed and savored. Just make sure you’re getting the most out of your studio time, and not enjoying it at the expense of your recording engineer!