- Make sure the group is well rehearsed. This is extremely important. The quality of the sound comes mainly from the musician’s fingers and the vocalist’s vocal chords. A well-rehearsed group will have an easy recording session. Most of the sound quality is due to the player or band or artist. If an engineer recorded a bad performer on the best gear in the world, the sound recording would still sound only as good as the performer no matter how amazing the gear is. So, remember to always be well rehearsed.
- Make sure you have worked out all tempos for your songs and try getting used to playing along to a click track. You may not use a click track, but in some situations, it is useful to do so.
- Always listen carefully to what you just recorded. You may hear something wrong in the performance that the engineer did not necessarily pick up (such as a wrong note or inflection); and sometimes you can point these issues out to the engineer.
- Write down as much information about each of the songs you are going to record; details such as song title, the key of the songs (or the key for each part of the song) and the tempo will all help at the editing stage should we need to do any vocal correction or adjust the timing of any instruments.
- Make sure you bring all the accessories for each of your instruments.
- Remember that recording takes longer than just playing the song. The setting up of the mics, setting up the console and getting the right levels are essential for the recording quality. Be prepared to allow for some setup time.
- Remember that if you want to achieve a very “personal” sound, you will need to set aside some time to experiment during the recording process.
- Try and stay away from alcohol before your session as it may tighten up your vocal chords.
- Milk or chocolate is also not a good idea as it lines your vocal chords and throat and may prevent you from reaching your full vocal range.
- Apple juice, lemon juice and pineapple juice are great at clearing all the junk from your throat.
- Remember that your voice needs to be looked after so try to reduce the number of cigarettes you have if any. Some believe their voice sounds better due to smoking heavily, but the reality is that it will severely degrade the range and strength of your voice.
- The key of a good sound lies in a good sounding drum set and the proficiency of the drummer.
- It doesn’t matter how good the studio equipment, if the drums sound terrible it will be difficult to improve the sound in the recording stage.
- Make sure you have a new set of heads, both top and bottoms.
- Tune them a day before the recording session; once you’re in the studio they’ll probably sound different, but it will take you less time to retune them.
- Remember that setting up the drums for recording can be laborious and time consuming. Be sure to set aside enough time to set up your drums.
- If you like to hit the cymbals hard, consider rehearsing before you go into the studio and try to hit them a little more softly; this helps a lot in getting an overall good sound through the overhead mics. You can still hit the drums hard, though.
- Do not forget to bring spare sticks.
- Have new strings and break them in; also, always have a spare set.
- Check all your pots and electronics.
- Know your amp settings. If your amp needs to have the volume at 10, consider a THD hot plate or a Marshall Power Breaker (they allow you to reduce the volume while the output tubes are running at full power).
- Have your guitar amp and bass amp “sound” set up before the session, store any presets in your effects, but remember to also find out what additional equipment the studio has as you may find some better alternatives.
- Use good cables.
- Check your effect boxes for noise.
- Check the action and adjust to avoid fret buzz.
- Always install new batteries in your stomp boxes before the session or in your guitar preamps if they have active hardware or piezo preamp for acoustic guitars.
- Remember to bring lots of spare picks.
Keyboards, Midi and Sequencers
- Save any settings so they can be easily recalled.
- Always think to add live instruments to a sequenced track – percussion, cymbals, tom fills, live bass tracks or live guitar tracks.
- If the group uses midi tracks, pre-production is mandatory. Regardless of the sequencer or software used during pre-production, the sequences can be dumped into the computer and then you can use either yours or the studio sound modules or plug-ins.
Remember that nothing is carved in stone till the Mastering phase; experimentation can lead to a very particular and beautiful sound and you don’t want to miss this opportunity.
Don’t forget to take pictures and record videos. Recording in a studio is a lot of fun, and it’s always great to keep your memories of the day. Plus, you can add pics and video of your recording session onto your website, social medias or even on your CD as bonus material.
The Recording Process
The Following are the typical phases of the recording process:
A process whereby a recording artist spends time creating and refining their musical ideas and sound sources. Sound sources include the brand and model of instruments, amplifiers, cabinets, synthesizer patches/samples, and the quality of the vocalist. Great sounding sources will make it easier to mix the songs later. During this phase, an artist usually produces a demo recording of the song to pre-establish the song’s creative promise. This reduces the time and money spent during the recording process. The goal is to enter the major recording phase of production with the basic and most promising ideas having been already established.
SELECTION OF PERFORMERS
The selection of the performers is the next most important thing after the sound source. Great sounding instruments played with passion by great performers can overcome even a bad recording. Therefore, put your ego aside and get the best performers to perform on the recording.
This is the phase where the actual recording happens. The quality of the microphones and DI boxes are extremely important to the results, along with the mic-pres, additional processors (such as reverbs, eq’s and compressors), digital converters and the quality of analog tape recorders. Of additional importance is the “sound” of the room in which you are recording, the maintenance of the equipment being recorded, mic placement, the quality and length of mic cables, the techniques used by the recording engineer.
Once everything is recorded, additional editing in the computer can be done to the recorded tracks to correct any performance errors and get the tracks ready for mixing. Editing the tracks into their final form allows the mixing process to be just about mixing.
The mixing phase is where you take all the individual tracks that have been recorded and edited and apply processing to make the song sound as good as possible. Processing can include volume levels, panning, compression, eq, reverb, delay, flange, etc. Any further problems with the mix should be address at this stage and not left for the Mastering stage where it becomes more difficult, if not impossible to fix things. The result of this stage is the mixing down of multiple tracks “down” to two (2) tracks as a stereo mix.
The mastering phase is where you take the mixed 2-track source and apply any additional processing that might be necessary and create a master suitable for replication. Here the product becomes more “finished” and will appear to have more sheen, heft, punch and clarity than the original mix alone. Processing here can include high quality eq, stereo enhancement/correction, noise removal, and limiting. All processing here will affect the entire mix.