So you’ve booked some time at your favorite local recording studio, and you think you’re ready to go in! Are you really, though? What do you need to do to prepare, and what should you bring with you?
Here’s a helpful guide to make your studio experience the smoothest that it can be.
Know Your Song!
This is probably obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people book time in the studio, and then come in and try to figure their song out while the clock is running. This is going to end up costing you more money, and while it might seem like that’s what the studio engineer wants, it’s really not. We want to help you bring your song to life, and that’s hard to do when you have a very vague idea of what you’re looking for. Make sure that you know the ins and outs of your song before you come in to record it. Practice it a lot, even if that means just singing it a cappella in your car or in the shower. Know what kinds of instruments you think you’ll want to use on it, and in what order you’ll want to track them. Warm up at home before you come in, too. If you’re playing guitar on the track, play it through all day before you come into the studio. If you’re singing, especially, make sure that you can sing the song well before you come in.
Demo It Out
Use the Voice Memos app on your phone, or even a cassette tape recorder, and get a good rough recording of your song. Send it to your engineer ahead of time, or bring in with you to the session. It will help them get familiar with your song, which will save a lot of time that would have been spent setting up to perform it or capturing a scratch track.
If you’re a reasonable person, who is Googling articles for how to prepare for your recording session, you’re probably ahead of the curve on this one; but this is another common issue. If you heard a song that you liked on the radio, don’t think that you can walk into a studio, and walk out with an equal product– especially on your first attempt. Studio recording is an art form in itself, and it’s awkward and unnatural at first. You’re going to hear yourself in your headphones, and your voice is going to sound different than it does to your ears. You’re going to hear your part isolated from the rest of the band, and it’s probably going to be embarrassing. It’s going to take some time before your recordings sound like the artists you listen to. Don’t expect the engineer to push a button and clean up your performance. This isn’t how recording works, contrary to what you’ve heard. Be realistic about what you’re going to be able to accomplish in the studio, and what your engineer or producer will be able to do with what you bring in.
“I like what we’ve got so far! So who’s going to play piano on this now?” I don’t know, bro. You definitely want to figure it out before your session, though. Find local musicians in your area, and agree on a fair price for their work before they come in to record.
Lastly, bring your lyrics, a simple chord sheet, and a rough tempo for the song! You can find a free metronome online at: https://www.metronomeonline.com/ Tap out a tempo, play your song along to it, and speed it up or slow it down until you find the right timing. Write down the number of Beats Per Minute (bpm) on your lyric sheet. It will help your engineer set up a click track for you to play along to.
Don’t wait to do this stuff while the money clock is running. Get everything in order, and then book your session. Record a song. Realize that it’s not as straightforward as you thought it was. Make another song. Work it out. Book another session. Get a little better. Enact world peace.