Recording Prep Tips
Here at MayosMusic, in addition to offering great guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo and autoharp lessons, plus complete luthier services that include guitar, string instrument and amplifier repair/restorations, we are also a great resource service. Before you hit the studio, here are some tips to help your experience in the studio go smoother and save you time and money in the process.
So you want to head into the studio and cut a demo or an album, well here are some good tips to think about before hand. You don't want to waste your time, money, or worst of all, make a bad recording.
Well Before You Head In:
Treat your body well and like a good instrument, it will serve you
well. Get plenty of rest, eat well, exercise, don't use
don't smoke, and don't drink. Hydrate yourself
your ears as well, as they can fatigue like anything else.
- Make sure all parts have been worked out and finalized, which means
all instruments, all vocals, leads, and backups. Figure it
out well before you head into the studio, and get it all written
down. Lyric sheets, proper sheet music, and notes for
be edited in the mixdown. Preparation is key here.
Recording live sets and rehearsal room takes and analyzing them will
help find weak spots that need changing.
- Make sure you have practiced and perfected finalized versions of all
songs to be recorded. The tighter everyone is, the less
which translates to less time and money wasted, and/or the more songs
you can squeeze into a session.
- Prepare a few more songs than you think you will record, just in
case. You never know if you'll have more time than estimated,
if you find out midway through that one or more of the songs isn't
ready or doesn't sound right.
- Make sure all gear is properly set-up and maintained. In
studio is not the time to find out your gear acts up, has a bad hum, or
won't hold tune.
Using any digital material, sequencing, sampling, or other add-ins and
effects, make sure you have it all 100% ready to go, and backed up.
- When recording to a click track, make sure everyone is capable, and
comfortable with playing along to it. This is mostly for the
drummer in the band, but is not exclusive to them. All band
members should practice playing along with a metronome
occasionally. Timing is everything.
Budget in for delays and unforeseen issues. Expect the
- Shop around, find the studio that fits your needs and your
budget. Get a contract, signed by all, and review the
cancellation policy. Be aware of all rules on the premises,
drink, horseplay, accidents, hours, what's supplied and what's not,
fees, options, etc.
Right Before You Head In:
- If you're producing your songs, make sure the engineer understands
your vision. Also make sure your whole band and the studio's
on the same page, and up to speed. In the studio is not the
time to be explaining your musical concept. Ask to listen to
other recordings the engineer and the studio have done in the recent
make sure they are capable of achieving your goal.
- Find out what you will be recording on and how many tracks you're
paying to use (8, 16, 24, 48). Map out what parts are going
ahead of time. The more prepared you are the smoother the
- Show up
early, as in most studios the clock starts when the schedule says, not
when you got there. If you're late, the clock is already
running. Also, check the parking situation. No one
come out of a recording session only to find a ticket, or worse yet
your car towed.
Bring snacks and drinks in a cooler. If you loose energy
session, it will show on your final results. Bring towels, as
many studios are buttoned up tight for sound, and that can lead to a
stuffy or hot environment, and sweat isn't good for your gear or your
strings, new sticks, even new drum heads if you can. Bring
strings, cords, heads (snare mostly), and drum sticks.
what backup gear you might need there. Also, look up the
and hours of the two closest music stores.
- Don't bring, or at least don't bring only new gear to a session, even
if it's higher end gear than you normally use. Untested and
unknown gear can cause unwanted surprises at a session.
Understand, studios have some gear that they know
records well with their mics and the rest of their gear (for
example, cymbals and
sometimes amps). Take a minute to compare and understand that
they have gone through this before.
- Don't worry about putting something on every track in the
recording. Better to have a clean clear sound with room for
everything to be heard, than to try and fill in every multi track
spot. Remember it's just as important what you don't play as
is what you do play.
- Keep guests out of your recording session, as they will distract you
and eat up time, or they might try and influence your sound.
Whose song is it?
- Don't eat or drink any dairy products or sodas for several hours (or even
day) before you plan to record. Phlegm and burping are not
during a session. Also don't use ice in your drinks or have
too cold if you are singing. Colder temps constrict your
chords and pinch off your range and volume. Consider drinking
honey tea for while you're tracking vocals.
- Emotion, not precision make hit songs that people can relate to and
connect with. Concentrate on the feeling and project that
Tune up constantly. Tune several times before you get
your instruments will need to acclimate to the temperature and humidity
of the studio environment. Also, right before each take, tune
again. And remember always tune up to pitch, not down, as
will put the gears in your tuners under tension and reduce falling out
of tune during playing.
- Get the sound you want at the recording session, don't assume you can
tweek it in post. However, if you use effects, unless they
unique, consider recording clean and adding the effects later, or
consider cutting the track twice, once dry and once with effects.
Better yet, see if you can feed the dry (pre) and wet (post) signal
into two individual tracks on the take. This is best for
you can easily turn off any track you don't want, but save it for
- If you make errors during a take, keep going. See if they
punch in a fix later. Too many takes can burn you out
faster. Keep in mind one mistake doesn't mean it's not your
overall take, and don't forget you're looking for emotional
- Focus on what your sound and goals are with the song. If
vocals, focus on spending more time on nailing them. Don't
caught up and waste time on factors that aren't the main point of your
song or sound.
- Don't double up everything. Doubling the background vocals,
the chorus in a song is one thing, but doubling up the lead vocals can
loose that emotional feel and hide the subtleties that make people
connect with a song.
- Know when to take breaks and eat snacks, or go outside and move
around a bit. Tired or restless behavior will interrupt your
session and show up in your final sound. Don't forget it's
just hand and vocal fatigue (both of which are obvious), but ear
fatigue can also ruin a recording session. Infact, it can be worse as
most people don't think about it. Also, be aware when
call it a night. Better to stop for the day than to lay down
bunch of tracks that will all need to be redone next time anyway.
Time Off - Sometimes
it's good to take a day or more off and come back with fresh
ears. Remember ear fatigue…
- Pick a band leader to be the voice of the band to the
You don't want multiple people talking to him at the same
The engineer might feel crowded or rushed or rush through the mixing
process to get your band out the door.
- Once you have chosen your engineer (or even a producer) to help with
the mixing, let them make the first pass at mixing, as they are
professional and trained at this. Be open-minded and
their input, but polite and diplomatic with your counter suggestions.
- Listen to your songs at various levels, on near field mini monitors,
near/mid field regular monitors and higher volumes on the big
monitors. Also, if you can, take the mix down and put it on
and listen to it on a boom box or in your car. This gives you
more averaged idea of how it will sound at all levels and on various
qualities of sound systems. And bring some CDs you know well
listen to them in the studio to get a mental calibration of
their sound system so your ears don't get tricked.
- Think about the song as a whole, and not just one specific instrument
track. You don't want to think about only one instrument at a
time otherwise each instrument will keep going up in the mix until it's
all a mess. Each musician will want their instrument to
the spot light. Play and mix for the
not yourselves. Make sure you can hear all the instruments
keep your ears focused on the final result you had in your head.
Always make a back-up master and backup copies of every recording
session. It's not just for a lost or damaged master later,
you never know if you want to go back and remix something
Or you might want to pull out of it a take or track not used in the
final for something else. Also, get a track listing and
time log from the studio.
- Decide on which formats you want for your final mixes, do your
research and ask what options are available. Multiple formats
a good idea for flexibility.
- Be thankful and courteous to the staff and crew at the studio, and
periodically keep in contact with them. Remember to
network. You might need their help on a future project, or
their recommendations for future sessions or replacement musicians, or
maybe they can help
you network for more gigs. You never know…
Instructors Hot Tip:
Now go forth and promote, promote, promote!
Experience since 1968
Providing Guitar, Electric Bass & Ukulele lessons and Guitar/Amp Repair in the Greater Phoenix Valley area of Arizona
including Maricopa County and The Salt River Valley.
Mayos Music will continue to provide Guitar/Amp Repairs in Southern California's South Bay cities and Greater Los Angeles Area.
Originally located in Manhattan Beach and Torrance, California.
Now located in:
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(310) 955 - 0246