HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME IN THE STUDIO
It is easy to rush things when taking your music out of the practice room and into the studio. While it is understandable to want to throw a release together and get your songs to be heard by new ears as quickly as possible, the recording process is not something to be taken lightly. After all, your recorded material might be the first and only impression that your music leaves on a lot of people. With this in mind, we've collated some advice on how to make the most of your time in the studio and leave with a finished product that you just can't wait to show off.
Decide exactly what you want to record
A good first move is to establish the songs that you plan to record nice and early. Clear up any disagreements between band mates and make sure that whatever you choose is sounding super tight. Along with this, make a call on how many songs you want to get out of your studio time... and be realistic. It is better to have 2 songs that have had plenty of time poured into them, recorded to a standard that you are happy with, than 5 sub-par recordings that don't do your act justice. If you're unsure as to how much time you should be putting aside for each song, then ask the engineer that you'll be working with to give you a rough idea. They will ensure that you have plenty of time to get each track airtight.
Get your practice in
Once you've decided which songs you're looking to take into the studio, it goes without saying that you need the material to be well practised. Again, make sure that all of the band are in agreement on the finer details in the arrangements; nail down all of your parts and solidify any last minute changes. If the band/artist is not well practised, not only is it frustrating for whoever is helping you with your recording but it can also eat up valuable time, cost more money or lead to other parts of the process being rushed.
Pre-production is something that professional acts take very seriously—and so should you! This includes practice but also extends to getting all instruments, amps and voices sounding exactly how you want them to, and even putting together some demos. Listening back to a rough demo is a great way to get an idea of what works, what doesn't, and what can be improved. If you have some basic recording equipment and know-how, you'll have the ideal opportunity to audition some multitrack recording too. Playing each of the parts in isolation feels very different to a live performance. It is also a solid method of identifying any small changes that might need to be made into individual parts. Do you lack the right gear for multitracking? If all else fails, a scratchy live recording on your mobile phone can still be an effective way to get a general feel of any imperfections that might need ironing out.
Engineer or producer?
The first question to ask yourself when choosing the person to work with on your recordings is whether you are looking for an engineer or a producer. What is the difference? Generally, an engineer will capture your work with minimal creative input - getting the best sound possible without suggesting any changes to your work. A producer will be more hands on and will sometimes go as far as giving advice on altering/adding instrumentation and enhancing a song's structure. And although the two roles can cross over depending on who you work with, it doesn't make an engineers input any less important. For some artists, less input from the person pushing their buttons is better. It all depends on what sound you are aiming for and how much you value and trust outside input.
Choosing the right person to work with
There is a reason why many great bands consider a producer that they have worked with as an honorary member. Turning a composition into a recording is tricky, and what works live doesn't always translate easily to tape (or hard drive). The person you choose to work with is probably the most important decision in the recording process, so take your time to decide.
Give your producer some homework
We've already established that the relationship with your producer or engineer is crucial. So it goes without saying that before you set foot in the studio, you need to make sure that everybody involved is on the same page. A good engineer or producer will want to know exactly what sort of sound you are aiming for before getting stuck in. Send some examples of the music that has shaped the band's sound. Keep it relevant of course. If you're recording four Thrashcore tracks, then there isn't much point in providing the engineer with your favourite acoustic ballad. Especially if they plan to have some creative input, it will be a boost for a producer to know what to expect before you show up to the studio. So if you've managed to get some demos recorded, make sure you send those over too.
Research your studio
If you're working with a particular producer, they might have a preferred studio in mind, but if you're making this choice by yourself, there's a lot to consider too. Keep in mind that bigger isn't always better. It may not be necessary to spend loads of money on the fanciest and most spacious studio you can find. You may find a much more modest looking one that can provide a sound that is just as good. Ask around and listen to samples of previous bands that have recorded at the studios you looked into and decide if it is the sort of sound that you're looking for. If none of the recordings resemble what you're aiming for, it might not be the best suited for your style.
So, you've finally made it into your chosen studio, with your chosen producer and tracks, and you're ready to roll. There's one final thing to keep in mind here. You want whatever you leave the studio with to match the thing you had in mind when the song was first written as closely as possible. Performance is a huge part of this. Ensure that all band members are well rested and ready to do anything so that you can to get yourselves into the collective zone. Talk about what each song means to you, listen to your favourite artist to get you in the right mindset, meditate or even throw up some mood lighting if you need to! In the end, it is important that you enjoy yourself and lay down some cracking takes.