Having run a recording studio for 34 years, we’ve picked up a few tips on what makes a recording session run smoothly and productively. There are many recording techniques that you pic up as you go along, which can make a good recording sound awesome. The key is to have a creative atmosphere and be in the right frame of mind. Bands who do a bit of homework and preparation tend to get a better result. Here’s a few basic tips which will set you off on the right track.
1. Turn up on time. In recording, tine is money. If someone is late, then that costs you and people will not be in a creative state of mind. If a member of the band has lateness issues, collect them.
2. Be sober. Going to the pub before a session is not the best way to get a great result.
3. Bring some food/drink along to the session. It may not be feasable to nip out. If you do, then you are paying for a studio and for lunch.
4. Make sure you have prepared. If you are a drummer and you plan to use a click track, make sure that you have practiced the technique.
5. Make sure you have spare sticks, strings, batteries and any other extras you need. Mil Hill Music Complex sells all of these things, but not all studios do and this can scupper a session.
6. Make sure you have copies of all of the lyrics. These are useful if you want to get the other band members to do backing vocals and are also handy for the engineer to use as a reference (ie “Please restart the singing from where you sing…..”)
7. If you are a vocalist, make sure to have a supply of water at hand.
8. Test all gear before you get there. If guitar has a crackle or a lead is dodgy, it will cost you money !
9. Put new strings on your guitar, if they are old. New strings sound better. Play them in. That way if you break one, the replacement will not sound different.
10. Drummers should go through their kits and eliminate any rattles or buzzes in the kit. Consider new heads on the kit. If the heads are worn out, the kit sounds dull and lifeless.
I spent several years managing bands. Often the bands would start getting bored and want to have a drink during the session. The drummer and bassplayer were especially keen as they are usually done first. I learned that this could cause problems, if they drank and hung around as they would disrupt the session. Have a rule that people either stay sober in solidarity with the musicians who are still working or leave completely. Agree the in studio protocol in advance. If all of the members of the band want to drink all the way through the session, then that is up to you. For some musicians it works and there have been some great albums recorded under such circumstances, which is why many bands think that is the way to do it. Just bear in mind that you don’t have the budget the Rolling Stones had to record Exile on Main Street. If you have scraped together the cash for eight hours, you can’t afford to spend six months getting there.
One last tip for any musician getting into recording. The best way to develop your skills is to see what other people are doing and have learned. There is a great bulletin board on the Sound on Sound Website, where people share all manner of recording tips and recording techniques – http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/postlist.php?Board=MRT – check it out.