- Rehearse outside the studio. Come to the studio like you come to a gig!
Picture this: The band is in the studio for a tracking session of a new song. They’ve only played the song once and it went well when they played it but that was a week ago. The band members were to have studied the rehearsal recording they made so they could recapture the performance they did for the real tracking session. Well, some band members did and some did not. The band can’t get through the song the first or second times and now the composer of the song is going over the parts with the band. They’re listening to the recording ad trying to remember what they did. I’ve been fortunate enough to have only witnessed this once or twice, but it’s an embarrassing scenario and a huge time waster. Come to the session prepared! Period!
Price to rehearse on your own? minimal. Price to rehearse in the studio? More than you should have to pay!
- Have a strategy for the studio session.
- Do the easiest parts first
When you do this you get a feel for the room, get rid of your performance jitters, feel successful and get used to the engineer. Do the hardest in the middle and save some one-offs for last.
- Track the whole band at once
Everyone is in the same room just like a gig and you play the song live. You get a nice groove when you do this and the song sound more spontaneous. The down side is that there will be ‘bleed’. Bleed is when you can hear other instruments on each of the tracks. There is no isolation. But if you have a savvy engineer, this won’t mater too much. You can always go back and add overdubs and background vocals.
- Layered recording (overdubbing)
Can’t get everyone in the studio on the same day? Playing all of the instruments yourself? Well, you’re going to use overdubbing. This is a very simple concept, but one that takes a bit of planning. In this case you will create a click track that is basically a steady pulse. Perhaps a click sound, or a MIDI drum beat. Whatever the case, it’s simple and steady. The next thing that happens is that each instrument in turn lays down their parts. For example the drummer will play her part, then the bassist will play over that part, then the rhythm guitar and so on. The advantage here is that you have total control over each track. There is no bleed. Each performer can take as much time as they need to play their parts. The downside is that the performance can sound static and lifeless. To get away from this, each performer really needs to know the song and know how their part functions in the scheme of the whole song.
- Have a Schedule for the recording sessions.
- What song are you working on today? Don’t decide when everyone gets into the studio and then argue about it while the clock ticks. What m
- What musicians need to be here today? Perhaps this is an overdub day for the vocals and so the rest of the band can sleep in? It would be good to know that in advance, so make a schedule. Don’t make people stand around. They’ll end up resenting it and pegging you as not knowing what you’re doing.
- Have demo recordings available.
Unless all the parts are written out, having a reference will come in handy. This could be a simple guitar and voice demo on your iPhone, or a video from a gig.
- Have lead sheets and lyrics sheets for the performers and the producer/engineer.
These come in handy especially if you are using studio musicians who do not know your song very well. It will also help the producer to follow along and mark the song sections for overdubs and redo’s.
- Speak the language of the studio.
Before coming into the studio, be somewhat familiar with the areas of the studio (Liveroom, iso-booth, etc…). Be able to communicate with the engineer and know the terms: EQ, Compression, Track, XLR, dynamic microphone, condenser microphone, reverb, delay, and more. The engineer will appreciate not having to decipher your asking for a little more of that echo stuff.
Use session musicians you’ve worked with before or that the studio recommends. Don’t waste time on the drummer’s cousin Sammy who says he plays guitar.
- Make sure the band is on the same page.
When the band steps through the door let’s hope you all know why you’re there. To record your new song “Daffodil Mayhem”, not “Susie I Love You”. When you deal with the studio manager or the engineer, ONE person speaks for the band. If there is a technical issue, then allow the engineer and the affected person to deal with it. Travel to the studio together and ARRIVE ON TIME!