Preparing For The Studio

This article might give you a hint on what to do before you get to the studio to record, that might make your life much easier!

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I'd like to talk about something I'm doing most of the time these days preparing for the studio!

One of the reasons I chose to write about this is because I believe it's one of the most important things to do in your whole music career. Nothing is as valuable as being ready to give your best 110% in the studio. Meaning, when you go to the studio to record your songs, you're almost like carving them in the stone. After that's done, there's no turning back. Or there is, but it will cost lots of money, energy and time.

So, how to prepare for the studio?

1. This one is pretty obvious practice, practice, practice more practice and then, even more practice! Nothing substitutes practice. This is so important because you most likely aren't aware of how much mistakes you're making that cannot be heard now, but will be heard in the studio. That appears to be a common case due to cheap and low quality home musical equipment that disguises many details when playing. Practice until you're able to play whole song in one take without mistakes, and more important without effort. As long as you have to really focus on what you're playing, that's still too demanding for you. Work on those parts as much as it takes. You'll feel it when they become natural to you.

2. This one is also obvious play with your new favorite toy the metronome! I believe you heard countless times about how important it is to play along to a metronome, and now you'll hear it again; it is immeasurably important to play along to a metronome. Why? When you play with a band or a backing track you have many other sounds that distract you from hearing if you play everything enough clean and in time. Especially in rhythm parts. Make sure you can play whole song to a metronome without mistakes and effort. And if you have more than one guitar (or instruments) to record, practice each of them separately.

3. Click tracks. Make sure you have accurate click tracks or metronomes ready for the studio. Know in which bpm's the song is; know in which time signatures it is. Try to think from drummer's perspective and think about how it will be easiest for him, since he'll probably record first. Consult with your drummer when you create click tracks and make sure he gets through them.

4. Demos. You have the demos, right? Well, go and record them again. But record them as if you were in the studio. With all the plugins and programs that allow you to have really clean and good sound, you can create a sound that's representative and will show details of your playing. My advice is that you don't use much distortion as it pushes you away from playing firmer and realizing mistakes you may eventually make. Go through all the tracks and play them. Play them with drums, with a metronome, with other instruments. Make sure everything works together. This is incredibly educative thing I really suggest you to do.

5. Review demos with your producer. This is really useful if you have a person in front of mixing console when you record and mix. Make sure he's aware of what each song has to present and how it has to sound, and of course, make sure you're aware of that, too. Many ideas may come up during studio sessions. Some of them may work, and some of them may not, but if you know what you want I'm sure you'll keep the right ones.

6. If you are working with session musicians, don't hire them based just on their technical abilities. If they don't really like what you do (or what they have to do), or if they do it only for the money, I can almost guarantee you that it won't be as good as if someone who truly loves to play those songs did the task. Also, make sure the session musicians know the background of your music, and send them demos and click tracks few weeks before, so they can practice them enough. You'll see if they are sincere musicians or if they play only for money on level of their involvement in the project and their excitement about it.

7. Don't misunderstand live gigs for studio sessions. Some people just do that. They think they should play everything on the first take and leave it as it is, and let the producer worry about fixing everything. I can tell you, producers are sometimes so pissed off with how bad musicians come to them that it's indescribable. Some people are too afraid to go to the studio, and some are too full of themselves when they go the studio. Listen to everything you recorded before you end recording that specific instrument. Correct all the tiniest mistakes and edit everything. That will make yours and life of your producer much easier, and it will spare you some $$$ because your producer won't have to draw F notes to E notes and do similar things which take a lot of time. And yea, have you heard that (in bigger record deals) producers sometimes have to call musicians that have nothing to do with the band that's recording (and this usually stays a secret), and have them play everything all over again so they actually can do something with it? Don't let it happen to you! Try and think from producers' perspective and get back to the ground. Be honest with yourself and with everyone else, and don't let the lack of honesty prevent you from having a record of satisfying quality.

I hope you (and your band if you have it) understand what responsibility you have when you go the studio, and even more, I hope you create a record that will really rock. And in the end, it's all about it Rock n' Roll!

www.josippesut.com

37 comments sorted by best / new / date

    TheHawk2012
    Nice article. Im new to the studio, when recording does the whole band play at once or one at a time then someone overlaps? Or how does that work...
    GuitarViking
    l.u.c. wrote: 95% of the session musican I've worked with need to hear a song once before they can play the entire thing at record quality. No prior knowledge of the band, no idea if they are even going to be called in that day,
    Good job on hiring Mozart 95% of the times you've been in the studio.
    bthibo0872
    Never underestimate the power of a home recording. Recording your music at home with a click track and trying to get it as close as you want it to sound at home will expand your ideas on the song as well as give the producer in the studio a much better idea of what you want your music to sound like. Fiddling at home with pan, delays, eq's, etc. will make everyone happier when you finally go to a professional studio. Also, don't forget the producer and engineer when you go for coffee and or food. Nothing makes them work harder than a cup of coffee and greasy fast food hahaha.
    ReynboLightning
    Cool info on here.....I ve always been curious though. How do you make/get a clicktrack and how do they work? Because whenever I jam with my drummer he constantly changes the tempo....which is anoying as **** lol! Because I feel like it's me, but then I realize I'm changing my tempo to compensate for him :/
    white_ibanez10
    thanks for the info. I will take that into consideration next time I go to the studio. Except my aunt owns it so I will probably be the one mixing the stuff.
    l.u.c.
    First: Am I the only one that thought this article was painfully redundant? Not to mention sexist due to the constant referal of everyone as "he". And no, I'm not a girl. Second: Your first point should have been the importance of a metronome after that it really doesn't need to be mentioned again. 4 of the 7 points you made talk about it and there are far more details that you left out apparantly in lieu of rambling on and on about it. I'm also not sure if you think there is a difference between a click and a metronome but "click" is just studio linguo for metronome. They are in fact one and the same. Third: You clearly have an uneducated view of session musicians. Although, maybe you don't because you directly contradict yourself between your 6th and 7th points by saying that "(in bigger record deals) producers sometimes have to call in musicians that have nothing to do with the band that's recording". your 6th point of course reads: " 6. If you are working with session musicians, dont hire them based just on their technical abilities. If they dont really like what you do (or what they have to do), or if they do it only for the money, I can almost guarantee you that it wont be as good as if someone who truly loves to play those songs did the task. Also, make sure the session musicians know the background of your music, and send them demos and click tracks few weeks before, so they can practice them enough. Youll see if they are sincere musicians or if they play only for money on level of their involvement in the project and their excitement about it." This literally could not be worse advice or just plain wrong in every sense of the word. You should hire session musicians based ONLY on technical ability. It is not their job to like what you do, they are there to do their job, get paid and go home. Why? Because they are session musicians and thats how it works. And not to discredit your "guarantee" but I assure that just because someone may love a certain piece of music more does not mean that a session musician can't come in and play it just as well if not better. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that though because even though i've quoted it once and you wrote it initially - "(in bigger record deals) producers sometimes have to call in musicians that have nothing to do with the band that's recording". I'm sure that those guys in said band loved their music more than the session musician that came in and played the oh-so-loved music of the band. Despite all this when you REALLY gave away your lack of knowledge on the subject was when you said "make sure the session musicians know the background of your music, and send them demos and click tracks few weeks before, so they can practice them enough" No. Just no. That is what your band should be doing. In my own experience (and please forgive me for assuming that it could potentially be more educated than your own) 95% of the session musican I've worked with need to hear a song once before they can play the entire thing at record quality. No prior knowledge of the band, no idea if they are even going to be called in that day, and half the time they're hungover and/or stoned but it doesn't matter beacause they are professionals and it is what they are paid to do. Please do not write another article unless you are going to do your homework.
    !-twisty-!
    l.u.c. wrote: Despite all this when you REALLY gave away your lack of knowledge on the subject was when you said "make sure the session musicians know the background of your music, and send them demos and click tracks few weeks before, so they can practice them enough" No. Just no. That is what your band should be doing. In my own experience (and please forgive me for assuming that it could potentially be more educated than your own) 95% of the session musican I've worked with need to hear a song once before they can play the entire thing at record quality. Please do not write another article unless you are going to do your homework.
    You must have extreme luck with session musicians or be doing some pretty basic songs, most require a couple of attempts at least to get more complex pieces down. And not every session musician has been playing for the last 50 years, they're good but not perfect and it may be ncie for them to go into the studio knowing what they're going to be playing.
    Kanthras
    No. Just no. That is what your band should be doing. In my own experience (and please forgive me for assuming that it could potentially be more educated than your own) 95% of the session musican I've worked with need to hear a song once before they can play the entire thing at record quality.
    LOL just... LOL No session musician will nail any song remotely complex after hearing it once. Find me anyone that nails this after one single listen:
    And I'll eat my laptop.
    l.u.c.
    The savants are out there I assure you, you just need to look hard enough. I have a list of 2 at just about every western instrument (most of them are actually the same few guys who can play just about anything). Maybe I'm extra fortunate or maybe I just put more effort into actually looking and preparing for going into the studio vs. hiring the first session musician that was offered to me. This is the big leagues, this shit absolutely happens.
    cptazad
    Xenocide just recorded in the studio, and I must say, I much like the cleaner tone on the guitars, normally we were going to put a lot of distortion on it but in the end it was fairly clean. Basically we let the Bass guitar and Drums take centre stage kind of like what Lamb of God did w/ Wrath. The end product was some kickass perfect clarity Death Metal!
    l.u.c.
    Kanthras wrote: No. Just no. That is what your band should be doing. In my own experience (and please forgive me for assuming that it could potentially be more educated than your own) 95% of the session musican I've worked with need to hear a song once before they can play the entire thing at record quality. LOL just... LOL No session musician will nail any song remotely complex after hearing it once. Find me anyone that nails this after one single listen:
    And I'll eat my laptop.
    HAHA! I'm not even one of the savants that I was speaking of in my previous post and I could grasp everything that happened in that song after the first listen. I bet I could've played it back to you in 3 or 4 takes. I'm sorry but all the concepts are very simple if you are adequetly trained. It's not a matter of the music being overly complex its only a matter of some people having far superior memory recall than others.
    rockingamer2
    While what l.u.c. said was an exaggeration, his point is still valid. Session musicians beasts. They don't care about your music, but they deliver. It is expected of them to play a song or riff accurately after reading the sheet music for it in one or two tries, never having seen the music before. They also are able to play a wide variety of styles competently.
    l.u.c.
    rockingamer2 wrote: While what l.u.c. said was an exaggeration, his point is still valid. Session musicians beasts. They don't care about your music, but they deliver. It is expected of them to play a song or riff accurately after reading the sheet music for it in one or two tries, never having seen the music before. They also are able to play a wide variety of styles competently.
    Thank you! My number were absolutely exaggerated to prove a point, also couldve been that I was not entirely in a lucid state of mind. But yes I aboslutely stand by every point I made.
    l.u.c.
    oh and Kanthras... shall I be setting a table for two? I'd very much like a front row seat!
    ARichards
    This is ridiculous - every session musician is chosen for what they can bring to the recording, not necessarily because they can play and read thechnically perfectly. For instance, somebody who plays in a heartfelt 'loose' way might be ideal for certain jobs and not for others. Likewise, someone who is a very technical player might not be comfortable in a job that doesn't demand instant perfection whilst reading from a sheet, as they may have to 'think outside the box'. I've been a session player for the past 3 years and have found the criteria has vastly differed from job to job. My sight-reading's okay, my improvising's alright and I can play several styles well - but am rotten at a few too. Nevertheless, the work I've got has been because the style I'm known for, and also that I can arrange strings and brass. To get more work as a session player it helps to be an all rounder, but there's merit in just being able to do one thing very well! Also - (although this is more applicable to a 'touring' scenario) Session musicans are chosen as much for their ability to get on with everybody and be a suitable companion for months at a time in buses, dressing rooms etc - I know some excellent players who have lost out on tours due to their personality not 'fitting-in'.
    cptazad
    [quote=diefordethklok] diefordethklok wrote: /\musi/\ wrote: if you have a really great drummer, he/she usually won't need a click track. I hope you don't really believe that. No one is perfect enough to play on a studio recording without a click track. That's just asinine. [/quote] Not for Death Metal dude, w/o a clicktrack you're pretty much screwed. Sure, you can play through it live at a concert setting or do it up no problem at rehearsal, but you're paying thousands of dollars to record at a studio, make it count. Things like going from 3/4 at 200bpm to 4/4 at 120bpm, you are not going to be doing that perfectly on time if you don't have a click/metronome. Unless you want noticeable errors in your recording to give it that human element to it.
    Caressing Death
    diefordethklok wrote: /\musi/\ wrote: if you have a really great drummer, he/she usually won't need a click track. I hope you don't really believe that. No one is perfect enough to play on a studio recording without a click track. That's just asinine.
    Iron Maiden don't use click tracks, and neither did a really good band I had to record/master before. By the same token, I don't recommend doing that, and I feel it's almost essential to have a click track. Some bands groove better with click tracks, some don't know that they do.
    DesertEagle
    Rock N Roll to me is about going in there and getting the best takes, if its farting and theres fuzz and the solo's kinda not the way you usually played it but the band rocks use that take, the recording you are describing costs upwards (way upwards) of $5,000 - $10,000. Kids these days can do a very decent recording for much much less with their own computer. Dont suck the magic and the energy out of the process. and if you have gone through all this effort only to not realise when the producer has re recorded your parts you are a fool, and a producer (doing their job) should make you play it again until you find the desired sound whether that be a tight crisp sound or a loose sloppier live atmosphere type thing. Not everyone wants to make a Def Leppard album.
    drama.princess
    TheHawk2012 wrote: Nice article. Im new to the studio, when recording does the whole band play at once or one at a time then someone overlaps? Or how does that work...
    Typically each person records seperately. But you can all record together, whatever you feel like.
    iwannabesedated
    Being in tune is another good tip. My only edit to this is that, depending on your style of music, don't worry so much about being clean and perfect. Overproduction has killed more records than it has helped.
    saint22
    Not a huge fan of your writing style. Good article though. I'm not sure why you spent so much time talking about click tracks, given that they're pretty much glorified metronomes, but good advice overall.
    austhrax
    heard many stories of really good drummers not being able to keep time in studio,paul bostaph for 1
    /\musi/\
    if you have a really great drummer, he/she usually won't need a click track.
    kildog40
    urrynater86 wrote: Make sure your guitar is intonated properly! I learned this the hard way fellas.
    I did as well lol
    4stringedMetal
    /\musi/\ wrote: if you have a really great drummer, he/she usually won't need a click track.
    Brann Dailor plays with a click track
    GITARdud391
    Just about every drummer plays to a click track in the studio. If the drums aren't on time nothing will be....But yeah this is a really great article. I was in the studio last August and I pretty much learned all these things the hard way. Without boring everyone with a long post, we had to record 3 songs in 5 days and it took us just about each of of those 5 days. I hadn't practiced the songs to a click, my band hadn't practiced the songs together and it was just a mess. You cannot be prepared enough. And this isn't just for really "expensive", "top-notch" studios. This is for just about any studio. If you're trying to put out a good product you can't cut corners and you can't half-ass it, 'cuz it'll show.
    Linkerman
    DesertEagle wrote: Rock N Roll to me is about going in there and getting the best takes, if its farting and theres fuzz and the solo's kinda not the way you usually played it but the band rocks use that take, the recording you are describing costs upwards (way upwards) of $5,000 - $10,000. Kids these days can do a very decent recording for much much less with their own computer. Dont suck the magic and the energy out of the process. and if you have gone through all this effort only to not realise when the producer has re recorded your parts you are a fool, and a producer (doing their job) should make you play it again until you find the desired sound whether that be a tight crisp sound or a loose sloppier live atmosphere type thing. Not everyone wants to make a Def Leppard album.
    Agreed. 150% agreed. Some music genres, especially in the rock and punk areas, benefit greatly from a "loose" feeling, as long as the recording captures the raw energy of the band.
    diefordethklok
    /\musi/\ wrote: if you have a really great drummer, he/she usually won't need a click track.
    I hope you don't really believe that. No one is perfect enough to play on a studio recording without a click track. That's just asinine.
    l.u.c.
    ARichards wrote: This is ridiculous - every session musician is chosen for what they can bring to the recording, not necessarily because they can play and read thechnically perfectly. For instance, somebody who plays in a heartfelt 'loose' way might be ideal for certain jobs and not for others. Likewise, someone who is a very technical player might not be comfortable in a job that doesn't demand instant perfection whilst reading from a sheet, as they may have to 'think outside the box'.
    Your statement is only true if the producer who brought in the session musician is a lummox that is underqualified for their job. I think you are confusing technical difficulty with technical proficiency. If someone has been trained well enough to sight-read something of great difficulty and perform it for the sake of recording simultaniously then I assure you they would also be perfectly capable of performing a piece in a "heartfelt 'loose'" way. That "way" you are speaking of has a name and is easily transferable through written music. If you know what you are doing of course. As for your other arguments I discount them all because they fall under the same umbrella: Anyone who has been trained in any field well enough can perform nearly any given task in said field . What you call "thinking outside the box" we call improvisation, and i'm sorry if you thought this was an edge that you had on the kind of session musicians I speak of but it's quite commonly asked of them just the same as playing a pre-written piece of music note for note (and they're just as comfortable with it!). This is turning into an episode of the Twilight Zone for me...