Tips for a Great Recording Session

You know your songs are great (and so does your girl/boyfriend, family, pets etc), and you finally decided to record an album in a real studio. That's great! But what actually happens when you get there?

When you finally do pick the perfect studio, one that you feel comfortable at, there is a certain routine that must be followed in order to get the best performance and the best recording for your budget.

1. Tune Your Instruments. This also includes your drums and any tunable percussion instruments you may have. There is absolutely nothing worse in the world than to have a perfectly written song with a perfect performance be ruined because someone didn't take an extra 2 minutes to check their tuning. Tuning takes a few minutes; a recording lasts forever.

2. Be Well Rehearsed. You'll be surprised how many bands suffer shock when they get the final recording bill. The main reason for this is because they confuse rehearsal time with recording time. Rehearse at home, in the garage, at your uncle's house; anywhere but at the recording session. When you arrive at the studio, you should know your songs inside-out and be ready for the red light.

3. Practice with a Click Track. A lot of drummers aren't able to play with a click track. Make sure yours can. A click track is essential in getting a good basic rhythm track that the rest of the band can lock in to, and to sync-up loops and delay times.

4. Be Early. Many studios start charging their clients from the exact time agreed to in the contract. Just because you decide to show up late, doesn't mean that the studio should give up that time for free. Be early and be ready to go.

5. Get the Sound Right. Never, ever try to "fix it in the mix". It doesn't work like that. Take an extra few minutes to tweak the sound before recording it. Turn that knob, tighten that string, have another sip of water. Remember again, tweaking may take an extra minute, but the recording will last forever.

6. Know When To Quit. Recording often leads to diminishing returns. Spending 20 hours in a row at the recording session isn't going to make your song twice as good as spending 10 hours. This rule also applies to mixing. If you're tired, call the session and come back the next day fresh and ready.

7. Record Alone. Don't bring your friends, family, parents or anyone else into your sessions. As fun as it may be, you are there to do a job and record the best music possible. If you are a millionaire, then by all means, have a party at the studio, but don't count on getting anything done.

8. Mix and Match. After letting the engineer do the first rough mix alone (which he should) do an A/B comparison of your mix to some of your favorite CDs. Remember that the production CDs you are listening to have already been mastered. But it's a good way to compare levels and panning.

9. Bring Spares. Always bring spare strings, drum heads, bass strings, water bottles, throat lozenges, etc to a session. You'll always need the one thing you forgot to bring, so bring it all and leave them at the studio until your recordings are finished.

10. Have Fun! This is THE most important point of all. Creating and recording music isn't rocket science. Although there is a science involved, you should let the engineer worry about that. If you're not having fun, then you're in the wrong business!

© 2004 Richard Dolmat (Digital Sound Magic)

Richard Dolmat is owner and engineer for the Vancouver based recording studio Digital Sound Magic. Visit his site at: http://www.digitalsoundmagic.com

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