Your big moment has come. It’s your first time in the recording studio. You can’t wait to immortalize your ‘magnum opus’. It’s sink or swim time!
Before you plunge into those intense, deep waters there are are few things you should do first to help your experience be more satisfying and useful one.
GET YOUR MUSIC READY
Contrary to popular belief, professional recording studios don’t have ‘magic pixie dust’ that will transform your work into mega-hits. All they can really do is record you clearly and accurately (and maybe just clean it up a little bit). That’s about it. It’s all on you. There’s nowhere to hide! If you want the good stuff, you have to bring the good stuff. As the old saying goes, ‘garbage in, garbage out’.
Get a cheap recorder and set it in the middle of the room. Record your song. It doesn’t matter how it sounds – in fact, the worse the better! There’s something about listening to bad recordings that exposes hidden flaws and problems.
Play it back. Does it work the way you want it to? You might be surprised just how naked and small you actually sound. It takes a lot of energy to come across in a recording. Raise it up a key. Does the quality of the song ‘pop’ through in spite of the medium? What you hear is what you’re about to get. If it doesn’t happen here, it won’t happen there.
Pretend you’re listening to it for the first time. Time it – a lot longer than you thought, isn’t it? Does it stay interesting? Ask yourself if anybody would really want to sit all the way through that. What don’t you like? Can you trim it out?
Try to put the most song in the smallest possible space. If you do that really well it’ll only improve. All you’ll need then is an arresting melody, a good arrangement and an immortal lyric. No pressure there!
When you’re finally completely happy with your song, make sure you can get all the way through it without messing up . In your sleep. Keep on practicing until you can.
Before your session date, bring your songs to the engineer/producer. Don’t be shy. The point of your work is to be heard, right? This isn’t about criticism, it’s about perspective. No one can really judge their own work until it’s been filtered through the perception of others. An experienced ear can sometimes help make things better. Isn’t that’s what you want?
This is also your opportunity to work up a ‘game plan’. What instruments are being used? How many? Who’s singing? Are you planning to come back to do more? There’s a lot of things that can be done to help move a session along quickly and smoothly. Give the engineer/producer a chance to prep and save you some time.
WORK THE PLAN
Once you’re in the session try not to throw too many last-minute curve balls into the mix. Accomplish what you set out to do first, then make sure you’ve booked enough extra time to experiment a bit. Sometimes that’s where the best stuff comes from!
Don’t cram too much into the time you have and don’t overestimate what you can actually accomplish. Recording is intense, hard work. It takes a lot of concentration, much more than live performing. Remember, you’re trying to pour every good idea you’ve ever had into that tiny little song! It’s always better to have a few excellent efforts in the can than a bunch of so-so ones. The more work you put into tracking now, the less work you’ll have to do later.
Don’t expect a mix at the end of your session. The engineer will want to do some cleanup first and needs fresh ears in order to do the best job. For now, bask in the warm glow of a session well done!
Come back in a few days and listen. Not bad! Don’t worry too much about the mix at this point, just check to see if everything’s in there. Do you need to do retakes? Add any extra bits? Give it some thought. There’s no hurry, take your time. It’s not going to wilt away!
If you’ve prepared well and executed well, you’ll always be pleasantly surprised at the results and so will your audience. Now it’s time to sign off on that mix and get ready for the next one!
© 2014 Leo Bidne