(Click here for a printer-friendly .pdf)
So you’ve got the shows, you’ve got the look, and everyone in the band has been dreaming of artwork & working on their autographs for that big, cd release party of yours. It only makes sense to call the studio (or your bleary-eyed friend at the recording school) to get some time booked for that album. You’re ready, right?
Well, a simple answer is no, you’re not. There is no way you can be completely ready for the challenging, unpredictable, very rewarding and very growth-filled experience that comes from making your very own slice of sonic history.
This month, I have listed what I find to be the many nooks and crannies sometimes unexplored by musicians clambering into the studio for their first (or fifth?!?) time. Some of these items are subject to change, obviously, depending on the genre and instrumentation, but this list should hopefully get your gears turning in the right direction.
Step One: REHEARSAL
First of all, you cannot over-rehearse. There’s a lot of superstition going around about “good rehearsals make for bad shows/sessions,” and that’s ridiculous. If you’re concerned about making sure there’s enough “edge” or “urgency” in your performance in the studio, don’t forget that it’s very likely that you’ll be in an unfamiliar listening environment, perhaps in separate rooms, and hearing some or all of each other over headphones. No matter how rehearsed you are, the whole atmosphere will be different and exciting enough to still make you have to work hard for that magical performance.
- Rehearse the songs and all parts as you will play them in the studio.
- Have more than enough songs ready to play.
- Vocalists: Sing every day in the shower for at least two weeks. (You are showering, right?)
- Rehearse with your drummer listening to the click.
- Select and document your tempos, but be prepared to be flexible.
- Record your rehearsal on something, no matter what the quality, and listen to it.
- Prepare any sequences or loops that you’ll be tracking alongside.
*More notes on rehearsal: Many bands make the mistake of rehearsing a lot before the tracking session and put a gap without rehearsals and/or shows in between the tracking, overdub and/or vocal sessions, only to discover that their overdubs needed rehearsing as well! If any length of time is passing before you go in for vocals or solos, tambourine, etc., it’s always a good idea to rehearse things more than you think is necessary.
Another option is to prepare a series of shows to adequately practice your set, perhaps even earning some additional money to put towards your studio bill. It’s a great way to hype the album before you go in and get some last minute feedback from your friends, fans, and fellow bandmates. Don’t forget to put your engineer or producer on the guest list and record the shows for reference, as well!
A note to singers: Yes, I know your voice is unlike anything anyone’s ever heard before, and you are assuredly the second coming of Sam Cooke or Nina Simone. However, banging through a 45-minute show as a prelude to a two-hour screaming match at home with your domestic partner is hardly enough preparation for a four- to twelve-hour marathon in the recording studio. Do yourself a favor and put in a few minutes every day keeping your pipes warm & healthy, be it in the shower, in traffic, or in the church choir. It’s a hard job, and it’s hard on the body. Don’t underestimate your need to take care of yourself.
Also, the reason I bring up the click option is because no matter how good the drummer is (I am NOT a fan of time-correcting drums, or anything else, for that matter, although I've had to develop significant skill at it for several projects), recording to a click allows you the freedom to fly in solos, background vocals, loops, or any number of things from a different place, rather than having to re-record it. It's a great arrangement tool & a fantastic way to try out ideas. Some consider this cheating, but others consider it a way to save time. And in the studio, saving time means saving money!
Thanks for reading! You are welcome to contact me for questions and/or input. My extensive touring & recording experience may be of immense use to you, and I welcome any chance I might have to make your project & recording experience as amazing as it can be. My contact information can be found at the top of every page on this site.
In the next article for bands, you will find out how to best navigate that exciting phone call you're going to make, and find out what you need to prepare when you book your studio time.
"It's not the recording that takes all the time. It's the listening."
Stay tuned for other upcoming articles you may find helpful:
Recording Preparation for Bands Part Two: The Phone Call
You might also like:
A [Not-So] Modest Proposal for -14dBfs
Subscribe to the RSS Feed.