Whatever your goals are, nothing is more exciting than taking music you have created and recording it to share with your family, friends and fans. Hitting the studio is a big deal, so you need to make sure you’ve got everything in order to make the best album / EP / single possible. This guide will help you focus on some of the most important items so you are ready the moment the red light turns on.
Practice Over Everything
This may seem obvious, but unless you are working with a producer who is helping to write the songs in the studio, each song must be completely ready and well-rehearsed. I even recommend recording some of your rehearsals, so that you can go back and review which spots need additional practice. Here’s a couple of specific practice preparation tips:
Record with a metronome: while this is obvious for a drummer, everyone should be doing this. Being able to follow a click track will allow tight, consistent performances on tracking day. This is where recording yourself and listening later is really important. You may find out that the guitar player lags behind on a certain riff or that the drummer is rushing through a particular fill. Identifying these things before recording day can help you focus on specific areas of practice.
Clean and distorted for guitar practice: speaking of targeting specific areas, having the guitar (and bass to a lesser degree) practice all the songs on a clean channel can be a revelation. By going clean it’s possible to hear the intonation of each note / chord / strum more clearly, making it obvious which areas are tricky and need extra practice.
Keep Things Fresh
Those drum heads you’ve been pounding on for the last 2 years? They are toast. The strings that are ready to make your fingers bleed? Ditch them. It’s time to get your instruments in tip top shape for recording day. Fresh heads properly tuned will make a massive difference on the tone of your drums. Fresh guitar strings will have impressive clarity. And this is true for the bass guitar as well, get those things replaced before you switch on the amp. Beyond that, be sure to check your guitar / bass intonation. If you aren’t comfortable tuning drums or doing your own guitar setup, take it in to a shop that can do it properly. A musician with the properly cared for tools will produce consistently great results in the studio.
A Full Bag of Tricks
Musicians are used to having gig bags, and the studio is no exception. Make sure you have extra of everything you need for your setup. Here’s a short list to get you started: strings; instrument cables; batteries; tubes; fuses; sticks; moon gel. Accidental derailing of a recording project because something fails can completely throw off the mood in the studio and cause unnecessary delays. When you are figuring out ways to work around gear shortcomings it removes the ability to focus on being creative with the crafting of your songs.
All the Zzzzzz’s
Finally getting your music recorded is all the parts of exciting, intimidating, frustrating. It’s important to make sure you get yourself in the proper mental state to execute your songs. This means getting a full-night’s rest before and during your studio time. So while it may be tempting, avoid staying up the night before practicing your songs on overkill; avoid the celebratory bender that you finally get into the studio; and keep a regular schedule during recording to avoid burnout on long studio sessions where it’s easy to lose perspective on the project.
Keep Them Intonated
That tuner on the stringed instruments is critical to avoiding a train wreck down the road. Since everything has just been restrung for the studio, things have not completely settled. While this makes for great tone it means that tuning must be a focus. So after every take check the instrument to ensure it’s not slowly shifting on you. This has to become a habit in the studio, because by the time it’s obvious you’re too late.
Time to Get Creative!
Following these steps can help avoid challenges and pitfalls in the studio. This puts you in the position of having an efficient recording session. And by being this efficient there may be a little extra time to get creative and find that magic sauce to make your music stand out among the crowd when it is released. Being fully prepared on the front end will ease your mind which allows it to make new connections that only you can see. Now go make some fantastic music!