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When you go into the studio, you want to make the best use of your time. After all, you are paying for the time and you don't want to be wasting your time or that of the engineer, producer, and others involved in the recording process. Here are some tips to keep in mind to make your studio time more effective. [Note: Click on highlighted words to go to their definition in our glossary.]
(1) Have all your material ready. If you are planning to record twelve songs for a CD, bring 14 with you. You never know which song on your list will be disappointing after it is recorded.
(2) Practice all your material thoroughly before coming into the studio. The studio is a very expensive place for rehearsals.
(3) Have all your vocal and musical parts worked out. You don't need to have all the lyrics memorized. However, they should be written down so you can refer to them if necessary. Last minute lyric changes are acceptable—sometimes they just don't work right. But keep this to a minimum. Consider bringing a copy of the music or lyric sheet for the engineer—that can be really helpful.
(4) Make sure everyone in the band is on board with the musical arrangements. The studio is not the place to decide who is going to play what.
(5) Consider making a rough recording your songs at home. You can use the record function on your smart phone or even an old cassette recorder if one is lying around. Such recordings can reveal problems that need to be worked out before arriving at the studio.
(6) Practice with a click track. A click track is a great tool to keep your tracks on tempo and to facilitate editing. If you have not worked with a click track, consider rehearsing with one before hand. First-time users sometimes find the click track uncomfortable or annoying. This is especially important for drummers. Don't have a click track? Get an electronic metronome with earphones.
(7) Make sure your instrument is in good condition. If your guitar strings are old and sound dull, put on new strings. HOWEVER, new strings often sound bright and can rattle or ring. So put on new strings 24 to 48 hours before arriving at the studio to allow time for them to break in. If your guitar has noises or fret buzzes, you need to take it to a guitar shop to be adjusted correctly. Beside adjusting the action, they can also adjust the proper tension on the neck. Drummers need to be sure heads and drum sticks are in good condition. Don't forget to bring a tuner and spare batteries, picks, and drum sticks with you—the nearest music store is several miles away.
(8) Have an idea of how you want to go about doing the recording session. Do you want to record all the parts simultaneously? Do you want to record a “scratch track” and then go back and record each part individually? There are many different ways to approach this process. If you are not sure, call us ahead of time so we can discuss it with you.
(9) Decide whether you will be recording a demo, an EP, or a full album. If the purpose of your demo is to show off your songwriting, it will not need to be as polished as a full album. If the demo is to demonstrate you or your band's musical prowess, then you probably want to record a professional sounding performance. If you are recording an EP to save money, keep in mind that the cost to run off a thousand copies of an EP is the same as it to run off a thousand copies of a full album. If you will be selling them at your gigs, your profit margin on an EP will typically be $3 to $5 for an EP, but $8 to $13 for an album.
(10) Be well-rested and eat properly. If you stay up late and party the night before, it will show in your performance. This is especially important for vocalists. Rest your voice and drink plenty of liquids (non-dairy and non-alcoholic). All band members should keep their ears rested and fresh.
(11) All band members should plan on arriving early and being prepared. Time wasted waiting on one band member is money wasted. You don't want to be standing around twiddling your thumbs while the guitar player hunts for a pick.
These are some of the tips to help you prepare for your visit to the studio. Also check out the tips for the recording process.