Recording Your Music: 'Ready, Set, Record!'
By Eric Tunison, Owner of Groove Tunes Studios
This is the third of five articles in the series “Recording Your Music!”. In this installment we will discuss what to do and what to expect the day of your recording session. –ET
Get off to a good start!
Here is your checklist for the day of your session:
Take to your session whatever snacks or drinks you are particular about.
Vocalists should bring their own tea or throat lozenges.
Have some cash on hand in case someone wants to run out to buy food.
Arrive at the studio on time. The recording studio clock starts at the time of the booking, not when the band arrives.
Do not bring guests to your session. Guests will distract you and the engineer, disrupt and delay the recording process, and they may sway your opinion of how the music should sound.
Bring your own instruments (the portable ones), the ones you are most used to playing. Unfamiliar instruments can cause surprises, and surprises can cause problems.
Bring your own guitar amp if it has the sound you want. Some studios may have their own studio amps that you can use. Ask beforehand about them. Also, most studios record the bass guitar “direct” into their console, so a bass amp is usually not required.
Bring your own guitar pedals and effects, and extra guitar strings and picks.
Bring a guitar tuner. Make sure all guitarists and the bass guitarist use the same tuner during the session. Check tuning often, and between takes.
The drummer may want to bring parts of his kit (snare, cymbals, kick pedal) but it is not always necessary. Check with your studio beforehand. All drum kit change-outs are usually “on the clock”, so it’s best to keep these to a minimum. The drummer should bring his own sticks.
Bring several copies of the lead sheets (!), two for the studio engineers, plus extra copies for the musicians and vocalists. Everyone will want to make their own marks on their own copies.
A recording project is a process consisting of three main steps: recording, editing, and mixing. Mastering is an optional fourth step that we’ll discuss in Article Five. On the day of your recording session your engineer will review the recording plan with you before you start. A typical recording sequence for a full-band song is: Determine the proper song tempo and assign that to a click track (engineer does this), record a “guide” rhythm guitar track, record a “guide” vocal track, then record: drums, bass guitar, guitars, other instruments, lead vocal, backup vocals, miscellaneous “fills” and “pads”, and additional percussion. Note: The “guide” tracks are thrown away at the end.
If you are planning to record more than one song start with the song that’s the least complicated – the one that’s the easiest to play or sing, and/or the shortest song. Once you have recorded your first song you’ll be more familiar with the process, and the more complicated songs will go smoother.
You will be playing and singing your parts several times while the engineer records you; it is common for there to be multiple “takes” of each part. If you make a mistake while recording don’t stop unless the engineer stops you. The engineer can piece together parts of different takes during the editing process. He will be listening to all the takes as they are being recorded, and he will decide if he has enough material to work with. Your engineer should be trained in music and sound reproduction, so be open to his gentle coaching during your sessions.
Keep in mind what the main focus of your music is. If it’s the vocals, plan to spend more time on them. If it’s the lead guitar, plan to spend time perfecting them.
Make the studio a comfortable and relaxing place. Stay loose and have fun! If you wish to drink alcoholic beverages during your session keep the number to a reasonable level. Alcohol makes you think you are playing better, but the reality is often different. The recording never lies.
Know when to quit for the day. If you’re tired, it will show in the recording.
In the next article we will discuss what happens after your recording session. – ET