Here’s my list of the top 10 things you can do to get the most out of any recording session…
Practice makes perfect for recording sessions:
This goes without saying, but it’s almost certain that the better practised you are, the better your takes will be. The more you practice the song, the more the performance will become second nature.
Know your parts for your studio session:
Knowing your parts will make a massive difference in making sure you achieve what you want from a recording session. Going into a recording with your parts prepared means that you can concentrate on performing great takes. Going in with half-finished songs and trying to write your parts on the day can really slow things down. Plus, if you’re self-financing the project, then it’s usually more cost-effective to write at your band’s rehearsal space than it is to write during a recording session.
Plan to be spontaneous in the studio:
This point is very much linked to the one above. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the appeal of going into the studio and letting the parts flow. And if you’re in a position to do that, then go for it! But if you’re working to a bit of a deadline, or you’re on a budget, then at least have something of a plan. Have a few ideas ready to give things a bit of a head start when you get into the studio.
New drum heads, new guitar strings and new amp tubes:
This is a simple one really – don’t go into your session with dead drum heads and lifeless strings. Fresh skins, strings and tubes will really help to get a great sound from your instruments. As a result, your tracks will sound great from the very beginning.
Know the purpose of your recording session:
Perhaps you want to record a demo to get a better feel for how your songs sound. Or perhaps you’re recording the tracks for a commercial release. Whatever the reason, knowing the purpose of your recording will undoubtedly determine multiple aspects of your session. Will there be a CD release of your tracks? If so, do you require a DDPi for the pressing plant? Or are you releasing digitally only? If so, what format does the digital distributor require from you? There should be no unanswered questions provided you make your decisions early. This is the only way to ensure that the results of your recording match the purpose of the session.
Communicate your expectations with your producer:
If you have specific hopes or expectations in mind, then be sure to talk about these with the producer. If you want your tracks to sound a certain way, be sure to let your producer know. And, if you’re the one doing the producing, be sure to ask the musicians if they have any ideas about how they want things to sound.
Never assume anything about a recording session:
If you’re not 100% certain about any aspect of your recording session, be sure to ask. For instance, if you’ve seen that the studio has a certain amp, and you’d like to use it, double-check that the amp will be at the studio on the day.
Be realistic about how much you can get done in a session:
Overestimating what you can get done in a session is really easy to do. For example, heading into the studio and expecting to have an album of material recorded by the end of the day probably isn’t realistic for most musicians. Instead, discuss with the studio how many songs you want to record and what the instrumentation of each song is. They will be able to advise you on how long they propose you spend on the drums, guitars, vocals etc. Agree on your time frame with the studio and go in with the aim of achieving exactly that. Often a ‘quality over quantity’ approach will serve you best.
Manage your time in the recording studio:
Staying on task is a huge factor in making sure that you achieve all that you set out to in the session. Plan out start times and finish times for the day, and then factor in some time to take breaks.
Have a recording session backup plan:
Before your session, come up with a clear backup plan just in case something goes wrong, and you run out of time. Which song would you drop if you had to? Which track could you settle for a stripped-down version of? Having a backup plan of what you can do if things don’t quite go to plan means that you’ll still come away from your session with something you can be proud of!
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