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A Guide to Preparing for the Studio

June 7, 2010

By Simon Miminis

In today’s music industry we’ve seen a massive increase in DIY projects (independently recorded, produced, manufactured and distributed projects). This phenomenon is generally attributed to the recent rise in availability of recording technology. It’s now easier than ever to go into a studio and record without spending thousands and thousands of dollars. So what better time to discuss preparation for the studio? Below are some Pre-Production tips to consider before you hit the record button.

State Goal of Recording:

Think of how you will use your recording, i.e. radio promotion, demo for club owners, single on your website/myspace, part of your full length album? These all carry special production decisions so give it a thought or two and let your engineer and producer know.

Description of Musical Style:

Let your engineer know in advance the genre of music your recording along with examples of what you want your recording to sound like, maybe a favorite record of yours that you admire for its production value.

Plan The Packaging:

If applicable make sure you have a plan for your CD package. Will you be hiring a graphic artist or designing a simple cover using software at home? If you’re using a graphic artist plan that into your budget as well. This is also a good time to look at getting quotes for pressing your CD.

Organize Rehearsals With Stated Goals:

Basically make sure you and your band are well rehearsed. I recommend bringing in a friend with a good ear to listen to your tune or to record it on an MP3 player and listen back to it as a band. Most importantly BE PICKY and fix things no matter how small! You don’t want to waste takes, time and money on performance issues in the studio. Also make sure that you and your band are comfortable playing to a click, it’s fairly common practice to use one in the studio.

List of Tunes With Instrumentation:

This will be important for the engineer to know so he can have a game plan for set up and the order of takes.

Verify That All Recording Equipment And Misc Gear Is Available:

Do you need a Piano, Rhodes, special reverb unit, specific microphones? Ask before your session so that the proper arrangements can be made and equipment can be rented if required.

Select And Book Any Additional Musicians:

Missing a vocalist, drummer, extra violinist? Make sure to arrange to bring one in. Standard Union pay for a single session musician is around $380.00 for a 3 hour slot (minimum booking) so budget that into your expenses if it applies to you.

Bring A Lunch:

Sessions can be long. Either make sure that the studio has a working kitchen or pack a lunch for the day. It’s hard to work on an empty stomach!

Print All Charts And Lyric Sheets Double Spaced:

This will help the engineer map out the song for quick editing and play back later. It will also help if you need to take notes (i.e. point out exactly where that wrong note was played or the tempo rushed, etc.)

Make A Schedule:

Having a play by play schedule will make sure you’re on track and not wasting time. Delegate specific time slots for arrivals, setting up, tracking, listening, editing, overdubs, mixing, mastering and lunch breaks down to the minute. This will help budget your time and assure that you can complete the project in the allocated amount of time and money.

… And last but not least…

Back-Up Plan:

Last but definitely not least, BRING IN YOUR OWN PORTABLE HARD DRIVE TO BACK-UP YOUR SESSION! This cannot be stressed enough, technology is unreliable at best so if your session is not backed up in at least 3 different sources then it is not saved at all. If you don’t own a portable hard drive then invest in one as soon as you can. They are extremely cheap in this day and age and necessary if you plan on doing any studio work.

Hopefully these tips help make your next recording session a little more organized.

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