Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recording tips for bands (and recorders)

Even though this blog is geared more towards home recording and DIY recording, there are some things that can be done to drastically improve studio efficiency not matter the level. The things that transcend all tiers of studios is usually on the side of the musician. Today I'm going to give a few tips on how to be prepared for studio time and help the process go smoother/better/faster/stronger...

1- Practice
Ok, I know this one seems like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised at some people. In the weeks before you plan on being in the studio (or have people come into yours) musicians REALLY need to practice their songs so that they can nail them when the time comes. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have people come in and the guitarist asks the drummer about the form or the bass player gives confusing glares to someone who changed the whole song and didn't realize it. Being able to One-take a track tremendously speeds up the recording process so that the recorder (or sound engineer I guess) can get more actual work done and the performers aren't wasting time/money in the studio. It's a win-win situation.

2- Instrument Maintenance
You know what also sucks when you're in the studio? When you're instruments won't tune correctly. Take some time to go get you're guitar set up or sit down and give your drums a good ol' tuning. If you have the budget get new strings, drum heads, and vocal chords. (Sometimes I wish) This can also help you lazy musicians that never actually do a check up on their instruments. I've had people com to my studio (and by studio I mean my garage) and find that their guitar won't tune because their neck has a crack going from just below the headstock to a quarter way down the neck. Tuning is essential to the recording process and makes the post-recording work of the engineer less of a nightmare, I don't care how punk you think it sounds.

3- Breaks
While some people might disagree with me here, taking breaks can do wonders for the band and the engineer's productivity and sanity. If you're getting stuck on something, take a break. Listening to the band (even you're own songs) repeatedly can often make the song noticeably feel out of context. If you just sit there and try to drill the same 4-5 chords in this chorus over and over you're gonna forget what you thought you wanted the song to sound like and concentrate on just making sound acceptable. Sometimes you get stuck. It happens, and it's agitating. Just take some time to step back and take a breather.(The same can be said about the mixing process)I've personally had my band get what we thought were some quality recordings only for them to turn out bad because we and the engineers couldn't tell what it was turning into.
4- Be able to play along with a metronome
This really simplifies the whole process. It makes your tunes sound nice, even, and in time. Also, since a lot of recording these days is multi-tracked and stacked on top of each other, it makes it way easier to punch you into the song at the right place and you be able to know what's going on and it also helps the engineer with the mixing process since all your playing is nice and even.

5- Don't expect absolute perfection
This is the mentality that I go into the studio with. With DIY recording, perfection will rarely be achieved. You have to accept that sometimes things just go wrong. This doesn't mean that you should't do you're best to lay down a sweet track, but don't expect your recordings to sound like they came out of a huge-named studio. Also, you might find that things that go wrong can be fixed in the mixing by your engineer (and sometimes the engineer's problems can be fixed by musicians during the recording process)

6-Don't be dicks
Come on guys. I know you're in a band and I know you like to have fun and party, but you're coming to this engineer's place to get you're tunes recorded. Also, a lot of sound engineer's these days (especially the DIY ones) do their recording in their own home. You don't have to be uptight and super strict, but don't yell throughout the house, break stuff, show up drunk/on drugs, get drunk/do drugs, knock on every house on the street's door, burn buildings to the ground... you get the idea. If you piss of the engineer he's not gonna care about your tracks too much and if you piss of the band they'll take their business somewhere else.

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