Here’s my list of the top 10 things you can do to get the most out of any recording session…
Practice makes perfect for recording sessions:
This goes without saying, but it’s almost certain that the better practiced you are, the better your takes will be. The more you practice the song, the more the performance will become second nature. Trust me, those perfect first takes almost never happen by accident.
Know your parts for your studio session:
Knowing your parts will make a massive difference in making sure you achieve what you want from a recording session. Going into a recording with your parts prepared means that you can concentrate on performing great takes. Going in with half finished songs and trying to write your parts on the day will surely hold things up. Furthermore, its far more cost effective to write at your band’s rehearsal space, than it is to write during a recording session.
Plan to be spontaneous in the studio:
This point is very much linked to the one above. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the appeal of going into the studio and letting the parts flow. So, If you’re absolutely set on coming up with your parts whilst the session is already running, then do so with somewhat of a plan. Have a few go-to drum fills ready or have a good idea of how the vocal melody might go. That way, you have something to fall back on if the ideas just don’t come.
New drum heads, new guitar strings and new amp tubes:
This is a simple one really, but don’t go into your session with dead drum heads and lifeless strings. Fresh skins, strings and tubes will really help to get a great sound from your instruments. As a result, your tracks will sound great from the very beginning.
Know the purpose of your recording session:
Perhaps you want to record a demo to get a better feel for how your songs sound. Or perhaps you’re recording the tracks for a commercial release. Whatever the reason, knowing the purpose of your recording will undoubtedly determine multiple aspects of your session. Will there be a CD release of your tracks? If so, do you require a DDPi for the pressing plant? Or are you releasing digitally only? If so, what format does the digital distributor require from you? There should be no unanswered questions providing you make your decisions early. This is the only way to ensure that the results of your recording match the purpose of the session.
Communicate your expectations with your producer:
Its really important to communicate your expectations, or consequently, you could be several days into a session when you realise that the producer is not able to accommodate one of your requests. This is as much a responsibility of the producer to point out that some things are not included. Communicate what you expect to receive and listen to what the studio is offering. That way, there will be no unpleasant surprises when you find out that what you were hoping for might not happen.
Never assume anything about a recording session:
If you’re not 100% certain about any aspect of your recording session, raise the question as early as possible. For instance, you may have seen that the studio has a certain amp and you’d like to use it. Double check that the amp will be at the studio on the day and that its available for you to use. Sadly, if these issues don’t come to light until after the session has already begun, then its almost certainly too late.
Be realistic about how much you can get done in a session:
Overestimating the outcome of a session is really easy to do. Unfortunately, heading into the studio and expecting to have an albums worth of material recorded by the end of the day will likely lead you to a disappointing outcome. Instead, discuss with the studio how many songs you want to record and what the instrumentation of each song is. They will be able to advise you on how long they propose you spend on the drums, guitars, vocals etc. Agree your time frame with the studio and go in with the aim of achieving exactly that. Often a ‘quality over quantity’ approach will serve you best.
Manage your time in the recording studio:
Staying on task is a huge factor in making sure that you achieve all that you set out to in the session. Have fun and enjoy the experience, but above all, you need to stay focused and stay on task. Hence, agreeing with the studio what will happen on each day of the session will give you a great guide. Staying on target will make sure that you’re making the most of your studio time.
Have a recording session back up plan:
Before your session, come up with a clear back up plan just in case something goes wrong and you run out of time. Which song would you drop if you had to? Which track could you settle for a stripped down version of? If one thing is certain, its that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Therefore, having a back up plan of what you can do if you’re trying to make up for lost time, means that all is not lost if the worst should happen.