GETTING THE BAND READY

Recording at a professional studio for the first time is a big step for any band. This page should help you prepare mentally and physically. Being prepared and organized can make your time in the studio faster and more enjoyable. The best thing you can do is practice your songs as well as you can, so you can play them in as few takes as possible. Also, make sure all your gear is in proper working order.
 
Preparing your instruments:
Before you even step into the studio to begin recording, make sure your instruments are in top condition. Whether it's new strings and perfectly adjusted intonation, new drum heads and working stands, or even just cables that work, everything you can do to smooth out the process will save you money. Tuning problems can be one of the biggest frustrations during recording. Have a tuner, and make sure everyone who plays an instrument knows how to use it. This will save a lot of grief when, say, the guitarist comes in the next day to do overdubs, and his guitar is out of tune. Click tracks or metronomes can be very helpful in the recording process. Not only can they help the artist to record with steadier tempos, but also help assist the artist in making greater use of many modern techniques, such as "cut and paste" editing.

Often times it's a good idea to make a home recording of your band, even if it’s only with a tiny hand held tape recorder. Just hearing a recording of your music will help you work out kinks, and play better for the real recording.Guitarists will want to buy new strings, and adjust intonation. Also, if you have more than one guitar, you  should bring them all, because you may want to use different guitar timbres for different songs and tracks. Drummers should buy new heads, properly tune those heads, and break the heads in by playing on them for an hour or so. 90% of the time we like to put a pillow in the kick drum. We have one that we can use, but be prepared to take your head off and put it in. If you want to use your own pillow, make sure it fits properly so that it won't slide around during recording. Also, you will need a hole in your outside kick drum head for a microphone. It should be on the right side of the kick drum, about halfway up. You can either cut the hole yourself, or buy a new head.Bring an extra pair or two of drum sticks you like. Also, the engineer may ask you to slightly re-arrange the placement of your drums in order to get the microphones in the right places.
Try to be as accommodating as possible
without compromising your playing.

Singers: Often when a band is rehearsing, they can’t hear the vocals very well. We’ve had people in the studio who hear their singer sing and say “Wow, we’ve never actually heard him before!” We recommend turning down the guitars and having the drummer play soft for at least a few rehearsals so that you can hear the singer. Also, it's a good idea for singers to record themselves singing, and listen through the recordings to make sure they're hiting every note properly.

When you're ready to come into the studio make sure to print up at least 3 copies of all your lyrics: One for the singer, one for the band, and one for the engineer. They need to be clearly typed, and with no repeats (if there are 3 identical choruses, type it 3 times where they go in the song). This will be very helpful in tracking the vocals.

 


BUDGETING: TIME IS MONEY

People always want to know how much their whole project will cost from start to finish, and the bottom line is, we don’t know. The amount of time a project takes can drastically change from group to group. A large portion of this is determined by you as a recording artist. On average, an album quality song takes about 6 hours to record, 6 hours to mix, and at least 1 hour to master. So that’s very roughly 13 hours of work for each song you want to do. If you don't want an album quality project, but just a quick demo, those numbers will be more like 3 hours for recording, 3 hours for mixing, and 1 hour for mastering equaling about 7 hours per song. However, all these numbers can change drastically with factors like how rehearsed you are, how many instruments and tracks the song has, even the genre of music can be a factor. Here are some tips to make your project go faster and smoother:
 
Make sure all your gear is in working order. Make sure you have extra guitar strings, and picks you like. Make sure you have good drum heads, and that the heads are worn in. We can’t stress enough that you need to rehearse, rehearse, and then rehearse some more. If you can play every song perfectly before coming into the studio, then you should be able to play them perfectly once you’re in the studio and save lots of time.

Often when a band is rehearsing, they can’t hear the vocals very well. We’ve had people in the studio who hear their singer sing and say “Wow, we’ve never actually heard him before!” We recommend turning down the guitars and having the drummer play soft (good luck!) for at least a few rehearsals so that you can hear the singer.

It’s often times a good idea to make a home recording of your band, even if it’s only with a tiny hand held tape recorder. Just hearing a recording of your music will help you work out kinks, and play better for the real recording. It’s also a good idea for singers to record themselves and listen to make sure they’re hitting notes properly. These are just a few basics, and we recommend taking a look at our studio prep page to really get ready. But in short, being organized and prepared will make your project cost much less.

Working in the studio should be fun and creative, but in the studio, time literally is money. Remember you are renting equipment and hiring an engineer to get a job done. Before you enter the studio, calculate your recording budget. Since you more than likely will be charged by the hour, planning how much time you need is the most important part of budgeting. When you book the time, talk to us about exactly what you want to do. We can also help you predict how long it should take. Always schedule extra time, more than you think you'll need, because you probably will need it. Allow yourself some breathing room.

You should plan to give yourself enough time to do the job right. As a rule of thumb, less is best. If you're going for high quality recording, you might want to attempt fewer songs than you think you can finish in your allotted time. Make sure to allow an equal amount of time to mix your songs as you allow to record them. Even the best performance will sound off if you don't take the time to mix it properly. Also take into account any money needed for materials, for example, reels of tape, and external hard drive, etc. Find out if the studio can sell you these items before the date of your session.

     
THE IMPORTANCE OF SNACKS

It's important to bring supplies to the studio: instruments, cables, strings, guitar picks, lyric sheets, drum sticks, duct tape, cigarettes, and the rest of your band paraphernalia. But don't overlook the snack factor. You should be prepared for long hours of hard work in the studio, and that means you will probably get hungry. Plan ahead of time and bring some things to munch on, or pack a lunch. You should plan to bring drinks too. If you are going to sing, it's best to drink something that is not too cold or too sugary, both will tighten up your vocal chords.

 
WORKING IN THE STUDIO

So now you are rehearsed, you have your money, snacks, gear and you're ready to go. You've talked to the engineer about what you want to do. But recording is an environment like no other, so make sure you are prepared. First and foremost, the studio is about getting a good sound on the selected media (analog tape or digital). This is very different than a live performance, where acts of extremism, such as jumping around or smashing your guitar, communicate an emotional reaction to the audience. In the studio, these things may not work. So concentrate on playing well. The power of your performance comes from subtlety and finesse rather than from more loud guitars. Power is in the quality of tone, rather than quantity of guitar tracks. Power comes from careful planning. In other words, thumping that bass note extra loud doesn't help you in the studio, you're going to have to re-record it.

You can go into the studio with a general idea of how you want your recording to sound, but it is important to be open to experimentation. Don't let your abilities as a live band limit your chance to add interesting parts in the studio. Don't get reactionary. What worked well before may not now. Listen as you go. Don't expect it to go exactly as planned; be flexible to change your plan as you go. Respond to what you are hearing rather than what you think you want to hear. At different times during the recording, each member of the band will spend a lot of time sitting around while other members record their parts. You'll probably be sitting in the control room, so it will be a temptation to chat with the engineer. Remember you are paying him your hard earned cash to work, not to gab with you. So bring a book, magazine or some other silent activity to do while you are waiting for your turn to record. People who are not usually put on the spot are going to be, and you'll be hearing them. Try to go easy on them. For some people, it's embarrassing to hear themselves, especially in a recording that picks everything up. Don't be freaked out by that. Give each other the respect and the room they need.

 
MIXING

The final stage of the basic recording is mixing the songs down to either tape or digitally. Make sure you allow enough time in your budget to do a good job, at least three hours per song just for mixing. At this time don't be afraid to assert your ideas, but the engineer is the person who is actually going to make it happen. A good cooperative way to mix your songs is to let the engineer set up a rough mix that he thinks sounds good, and then let everyone comment on that. Taking it one step further, if you have worked with the engineer before, and have liked what they have done, don't even say anything during playback. In fact, you might not even want to be there during the mixing. Just tell the engineer what your want, and maybe he/she can do three different mixes, and you pick the one you like.

 
MASTERING

Mastering is the blanket name applied to the various processes used to prepare the final mixed product for manufacturing. These processes include sequencing and editing of songs into their final form, equalization and level adjustments for each song in order to even out differences between various mixes, and preparation of mechanical part necessary for delivering the entire product.

HAVE A GOOD TIME!
* This information was compiled with the help of Morrisound Recording and Outer Sound University. Contact our staff for any other questions. We are happy to talk to you!

 

 

 
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