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Recording Studio Tips

  • 1998 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
Recording Studio Tips
A common-sense guide to making the most of your time in the studio

These 37 common-sense tips and techniques were culled from some of the country's top studio and mastering engineers-courtesy of Disc Makers. We hope you find them useful.

Before You Go Into The Studio

1. Record your songs during live gigs and pre-production rehearsals. Even a simple cassette recording on a boom box may reveal weak parts of songs.
2. Have all the musical and vocal parts worked out. (Know your guitar solos!)
3. Using a computer or sequencer? Prepare all sequenced material before the session.
4. Make sure your drummer is comfortable playing to a click track. (To get "tight," practice to a click track at a very slow tempo.)
5. Rehearse more songs than you plan to record. You never know which ongs will sound strong on the final tape. (If you plan to have a four-song EP, prepare six songs just in case.)
6. Take care of your body before and during your recording sessions. Eat well, get enough sleep and keep your ears rested and clear.

Setting Up

7. Be early! The clock starts running whether you're there or not.
8. Make the studio a comfortable and relaxed place. If it's not it will show in your finished product.
9. Make sure you and the engineer have the same "vision"-go over your songs with him/her before recording. Before booking your studio time, ask to hear other material the engineer recorded.
10. Depending on whether your studio has 8, 16, 24, or 48-track capability, plan out how you will leave room for all the essential parts. This should simplify the mix and eliminate the need for bouncing tracks later.
11. Use new strings, cords, drum sticks and head-and bring spares!
12. Find out the hours of the local music store just in case
13. Don't use new gear or different equipment that you haven't used before, even if it's "better than what you have." Surprises can cause problems.

The Recording Process

14. Remember, it's emotion and feeling that make the best song, not necessarily the best technical rendition.
15. If you mess up a part while recording, don't stop and start over. That can easily cause you to burn out. Instead, have the engineer punch in the correction.
16. You don't have to fill all the tracks on the tape-don't try to force something that won't fit.
17. Always keep in mind the focus of your music. If it's the vocals, plan to spend the most time on them. Don't waste time on things that don't highlight the focal point.
18. Get the sound you want while recording. (Never assume that you can fix it in the mix.)
19. Record individual tracks clean, and add effects later.
20. Don't necessarily double track everything. Doubling a lead vocal can hide all the subtleties that make a song personal and likable (although it can work well for a chorus).
21. Know when to quit for the day. If you're tired it will show.
22. Keep guests out! It's your recording. Guests will distract you and may sway your opinion of how the music should sound.
23. Make backup copies after every recording session.
24. Tune up often.
25. Singers: always bring water but don't use ice! Ice constricts your vocal chords. Hot tea with lemon and honey works just as well.
26. Always get a track listing and accurate time log from the studio.

Monitoring The Mix

27. Listen to your music at moderate levels in your car or on a boom box. This is how most of your fans will listen to it, and mixing at loud levels will fatigue your ears and distort the "true" sound.
28. Sometimes it's good to take a day off and come back to listen; ears don't last very long in the studio!
29. As you review each mix make sure you can comfortably hear all of the instruments. Tweak the mix on a small pair of speakers at an extremely low volume. You should be able to pick up each instrument even at this level.
30. Know when to quit for the day. You're better off quitting a session early when you're tired than wasting time making a bad mix that will have to be redone anyway.

Mixing

31. Listen in the studio to CDs you're used to hearing on your home stereo to get an idea of how the studio's system sounds.
32. Determine a band spokesperson ahead of time. An engineer getting five different opinions on how to mix will grow tired and try to rush through the job.
33. Once you have selected an engineer (or a producer) to mix your recording, trust them to do a first mix. Their ears are better trained than yours. Try to keep an open mind.
34. Think about the songs as a whole and not just the individual instruments. Otherwise everyone will want their instrument louder in the mix.
35. If mixing somewhere other than the recording studio, make sure you use the same speakers. If not the mix will sound completely different.
36. Decide which format you want the finished mixes to be on: DAT, one-off CD, PMCD, 1/4" or 1/2" analog tape, or 1630 (your studio may not offer every option). Use the format that is most practical and economical for you.
37. Count on and budget in unforeseen delays.

Extra Bonus Tip
38. Always, always, always make a safety DAT. It preserves your recording investment should your original master tape get damaged.

Reprinted with permission of DiscMakers. Contact them at 1-800-468-9353 or visit their website at www.discmakers.com.