How to get the best out of a studio recording session
Today it is possible to create very high quality recordings at home with a relatively small budget, and a good ear. Many musicians and bands have successfully released their own, self-produced material but not all musicians have the know-how to capture their material in the studio. Commercial studio recordings still account for the vast majority of music releases. The simple reason for this is that quality and knowledge of sound recording professionals has been developing alongside the home-recording revolution, and the equipment that they use is way beyond the budget of most home or project studios. However, as with most commercial concerns, there are pitfalls which can be avoided, and many different types of studios which cater to specific needs.
Think about what you want to record during the session
Are you recording a single, an EP or an album? Make sure you budget for the right amount of time in the studio. In general terms it is safe to say that allowing 1 day per track should be sufficient for a band, two or three for a solo artist. If your budget does not allow for the right amount of time for a record, consider how ‘polished’ you want it to sound, as working live can save time, and can sound better. You may consider mixing at a different time, or possibly a different place, but tracking is best done in one go.
Do some research
Most towns have a ‘commercial’ studio of some sort. Bear in mind that your local studio may not be the best one. Look on the internet, check the specifications of the studio. The latest ProTools or Logic programmes are only the beginning. How many live rooms are there; will all the musicians fit? Is there adequate soundproofing and baffles for separation of sound if you are working live in the same room. Do they have good equipment? Even if you don’t know your RE20s from your U87s, there are places on the internet that do, so search the names of equipment online to see how they are viewed by other professionals. It may be more beneficial to use a studio which is not local to you as it may be a more suitable for the sound you are looking for. Try and arrange a visit to the studio. Most studio websites have links to projects recorded there, have a listen and even contact the band to see how their experience was.
Do you trust your ears?
If you are happy with what you hear from the studio’s back catalogue then that is not necessarily the end of the story. Ask the engineer how much input he had in the recording process. If he left it up to the band, you may want to look around for a producer, or separate mixing engineer.
Have you thought about using mediums such as Youtube to get your name out there? Getting a music video production done might not be as expensive as you think and uploading your video to Youtube is free so why not give it a go.
The recording process is not always smooth. You may find yourself sitting around waiting while the techs do their stuff. Don’t crowd into the mix room all the time if you are not recording. Don’t hurry the engineer if there is a problem; it is their space, and they are professionals who know what they are doing. If a song or a part is not working, move on – you can always come back to it.
And finally – keep calm
Make sure that you eat whilst recording. Rock and roll is one thing, but playing poorly because your blood sugar is low is another. Do not panic if you are reaching the end of the session and have not finished. Most engineers are happy to continue out of hours to get a project completed, and this rarely increases cost.