Tips for a Successful Recording Session
After years of experience in the studio as both players and engineers we have developed a pre-production checklist for you. Use this list in preparing for your session it will save you money and help your session go smoothly. They may seem obvious but it always helps to have things written down.
Before your Session
1. Record rehearsals and performances and really study each one to find weak areas
2. Make sure everyone knows the parts they are playing inside and out
3. If you are playing to a click track or sequenced part make sure the drummer has done it and rehearse that way.
4. Don’t over produce the song. Leave air and space in the material.
5. Prepare more songs than you actually plan to record
6. BE PREPARED for your session. Take care of your body before and during the session. Eat well, get enough sleep and don’t burn your ears out.
7. Get your gear tweaked out. Have a professional set up your guitar and bass. Put new strings on. Drummers change heads and tune the kit a few days before the session. Make sure cymbals are not cracked and felts and sleeves are in good condition.
Consider how your song is arranged. Remember you are trying to put your best foot forward. Think about what everyone is playing and make sure all the parts support each other and are not just there to showcase a member of the band. Think about if your song really needs a 16 measure guitar solo. Does the drummer need to play fills all the time? Maybe the drummer should only play fills to support musical changes. Are the drummer and bass player locked up or just playing all over each other? Playing live and in the studio are 2 different things. In the studio the idea is to get the message across not show off. Remember these 2 things, sometimes less is more and KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). You can cut and paste to arrange the song after tracking, but it is not as cost effective nor does it represent the true sound of your band.
We track to capture the performance of the band. So, before you get to the studio you should know your parts and arrangements. If you need to change things the place to do it is in rehearsal and not in the studio. The studio is an expensive environment in which to write material or work out major parts.
If you plan to use a click track in the studio, then rehearse with one.
For bands, we will track everyone at once. Make sure you rehearse the parts as they will be tracked. If you have a song that features a solo rehearse without the solo. Play the groove through out and then we will overdub the solo in. This keeps the feel consistent. The solo should be rehearsed on it’s own so that it can be played by it’s self. Every instrument will be dedicated at least one track.
If you sing while you play guitar or another instrument, it may not be best to track that way. Rehearse both the vocal and the music separately so that you can perform either one without the other. The band should also rehearse without vocals to see if it can perform that way.
Charts ARE RECOMMENDED.
While not everyone will think they need one, in the studio even a simple map of each song for the musicians and the engineer to follow or refer to is helpful. If you are using studio musicians then this will be required by most of them. This does not need to be complicated. A type written sheet with the lyrics and the chord changes in the correct arrangement is all you need. This allows everyone to focus more on how to play instead of when and what to play. It also helps the engineer quickly become familiar with your material and can be added to session documentation.
1. Be EARLY so you can walk in on time. Time starts when booked not when you get here.
2. Be relaxed in the studio you need to feel at home.
3. Spend time getting to know the engineer and being comfortable
4. Understand the recording process and who will do what when and why.
5. Bring spare EVERYTHING.
6. Don’t use new or different gear unless you have tried it out and are familiar with it.
One of the most time consuming and boring parts of a studio session for everyone else in the band. If you are using your own drums we require the drummer to be at the first session 1 hr before the rest of the band and should load in 15 minutes early to the session. Drums are time consuming to setup, mic, and sound-check properly. Please have any maintenance (new heads, felts, squeaks) taken care of before you get in the studio. If your heads are over 6 months old we do recommend they be changed. If you are changing heads we recommend Aquarian Drum Heads as they seem to tune and record better but your producer may select other heads based on the sound they want for your record. If needed we charge $150.00 (plus the cost of heads) to replace and tune heads on our in house kit and this is done the day before a session begins. Our Studio Kits are available for free without cymbals and $150.00/ day with cymbals. Please bring your pedals and sticks. If you wish for us to replace and tune the heads on your kit we charge $150.00 (plus the cost of heads) and require drums to be dropped off at the studio 48 hours prior to session.
- Remember to take care of your voice and get plenty of sleep the night before your session.
- Before you get to the studio remember to Avoid alcohol, dairy products, tea, coffee and colas, These will make it more difficult to sing by either drying your throat or increasing your phlegm production
- Don’t over rehearse your part, in the studio we will try and get more from you and if your over rehearsed it will be hard to adapt
- Remember the 3 P’s – Pitch, Passion, Pocket. need all three for a great vocal.
- You’ve got to hear yourself at the correct level to stay in tune. Unless you have a lot of experience, you’ll most likely sing sharp if you’re not loud enough, and flat if you hear too much of yourself.
- Phrasing is everything in background vocals. Concentrate on the attacks and releases to stay tight.
- Dress In Layers- Studios try so hard to get air comfortable and quiet. But even the best built system can be too warm or cold for someone. Worse, the temp may rise and fall uncomfortably. Wear a few thin layers — nothing starched, because it’s noisy — to get comfortable again quickly.
- Bring copies of lyrics for everyone involved in session plus extra’s. The engineer can help with phrasing and as they get comfortable with the vocalist they can anticipate dropping volumes and loud passages and can “ride the fader” to produce a better vocal take.
- Make sure you have comfortable headphones at the studio or bring your own. Many people are use to in-ears these days and if you have them and like them please use them.
- Sing with your throat open looking up or forward at all times, don’t look down at the music stand or floor.
- Some foods and drinks to remember that help your vocals
- Tart Green Apple: a common remedy for sticky, clicky mouth noise. The tartness gets the mouth wet.
- Bring your favorite greasy potato chips: it reduces phlegm and oils the throat too.
- Honey helps lube the throat
- Throat Coat Tea
- Citrus (Lemon) clears the throat.
- Gargling with warm [not boiling] Water with a spoon full of salt mixed
If you have special requests or issues we need to know ASAP and no later than 72 hours before a session.
The Recording Process
1. Play from the heart with feeling. A technical part may be cool but not always the best for the song, it’s the emotion and feeling that you want to come thru.
2. Continue to play if you make a mistake, act like it never occurred. The part may be able to be punched in or over-dubbed later
3. Concentrate on the parts that really are the focus points of the song and don’t waste time on perfecting the little things that will be buried in the mix more or less.
4. Remember to track it like you want to hear it. Play the best you can and get the tone right first. Never assume that it can be fixed in the mix.
5. Unless the effect is unique and needs to be there for the song to work track everything clean and dry and add effects in later.
6. Don’t always double track everything. The engineer can help decide when and where.
7. Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Do over do anything. Remember if your tired then the engineer must be tired. Work in blocks of time that keep everyone fresh and at their best. Your mood and the quality of the recording are linked.
8. Keep guests out!!!! Guests will distract everyone involved and may sway your opinion of how the music should sound.
9. Tune your instrument often
10. Singers DRINK WATER but don’t use ice or real cold water. Hot Tea and Lemon work well to relax your vocal chords and water keeps them fresh.
BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP….. Get 2 Hard drives… One for the studio to use and one to back up the data after every session and take home both when you are done.