Five Simple Studio Tips

Five Simple Studio Tips

August 02, 2018 5 Comments

The recording studio is a different beast than the stage in many ways. You are often paying for your time there, and as such, and are expected to come prepared and work efficiently (unless, of course, you have a home studio or your label is paying for your album to be made).  But whether you are a studio veteran or a new musician, there are certain things to keep in mind to help your studio experience go as smoothly as possible.

 

  1. Set up your instrument. If you don’t remember the last time you changed your strings, there’s no better time to do so than right before going into the studio. While you’re at it, make sure your guitar is properly intonated and double check your string height to ensure it’s at a comfortable spot. If necessary, adjust the truss rod. If all of these steps seem too complicated or risky for you, that’s okay. Take your instrument to a trusted tech so that on the day you head into the studio you’ll have peace of mind knowing your guitar or bass is in tip top shape.
  2. Tune, and tune often. Nothing ruins a good take like your guitar being out of tune. Even if you nailed your parts, it’ll still sound bad! Bring a high quality tuner and tune before every couple of takes. It may seem excessive, but keep in mind your guitar may need some time to adjust to the temperature of the studio. And if you put new strings on right before the session, you may find your guitar going out of tune often as the strings are not broken in. Pedal tuners are especially recommended here as they will prevent you from having to unplug to tune each time, and are generally very accurate.
  3. Know your parts inside and out. It pays to be well rehearsed before going into the studio. Forgetting song structures, not nailing fills, or not being familiar with your fellow musicians’ parts are a sure way to frustrate the engineer and your band mates, especially if they’re chipping in for your shared studio time. Practice up, and be sure to work on parts with your band during the rehearsals leading up to the recording session. You may find, for instance, that you’re playing on the one when everyone else is coming in on the and of one. Being well prepared and having your parts be second nature will make the recording process much easier.
  4. Come with an open mind. If you’re working with a producer, he or she might suggest that you try different things. Even if you’ve been playing a song the same way for the last two years, never underestimate the power of perspective- especially when it’s from someone who is more removed from your music and can offer an honest outside opinion. Be open to suggestions and understand that nothing is set in stone- even after the song is recorded, each time your band plays it live it can and will be different. Or you can re-record it years later. Try to give different parts and ideas a chance- if they don’t work, you can always go back to the original. But if you never try, you’ll never know.
  5. If you’re new to music or recording, the studio may understandably seem like a daunting environment. Although you’re getting down to business in the studio, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! What happens often is that musicians get nervous about making mistakes while tracking, and end up making mistakes. But in reality, if you mess up, the engineer can just patch you in to where the mistake was made and you can simply try again. Enjoy your time in the studio creating music.
Got any pro tips for the studio? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Responses

Terry Rangno
Terry Rangno

August 16, 2018

Make sure you are ready to be produced. If you can’t take direction save your money/time and stay home.

Rik Pomares
Rik Pomares

August 16, 2018

go in clean and sober… any chemical ‘enhancements’ can muddle your mental mix, and therefore the audio results… respect your bandmates and the engineer’s time by being as alert and productive as you can.

Doug Dickeson
Doug Dickeson

August 16, 2018

6.) It’s not mandatory to use all of the additional instruments in the studio. “Oh yeah! A glockenspiel on our death thrash tune would be perfect!”

Not.

Ernest S. Papay
Ernest S. Papay

August 16, 2018

All good points, but get those new strings at least a week before. A freshly strung guitar is likely to go out of tune easily (especially with a lot of string bending) unless it’s been played (and strings properly seated) for a few days. Less so with the higher end guitars, but the low-to-mid end guitars won’t be so lucky.

Rick Erdman
Rick Erdman

August 16, 2018

Studio is indeed a different animal from live stage. Unless you are running full IEM for everyone in the band when playing live, it will take a little bit of adjustment when in the studio as you will all be using studio headphones to hear the entire mix. Part of that adjustment is that you will be hearing everything without the (ok so it’s mostly imperceptible but still there) delay due to distance and speed of sound from the floor monitor, amps, drum kit etc. In the studio you all get the same mix at the same time. Again, if you use full IEMs live you are used to it but if not…… This can throw your timing off.

Studio mix and live mix are also different. For live, often the mix is slightly heavier on the bottom end (drums and bass). Studio mix is generally more even across the board. Trust the sound engineer on the mix. If you request more bottom, when you hear the rough mix you’ll find that what you perceive to be a lack of bottom is, in reality, too heavy when you hear the playback. Can the tech edit that back down? Yes. Does doing that take time? Again, yes. Will that cost you more in the end? YES! Nobody wants to spend more if they don’t have to so, trust the mix.

As stated in the article, practice and be sure everything is right and tight. If you do and get it right you might even be able to lay down tracks in one take! One of the bands I recorded with was able to lay all 4 demo tracks down in one take and this was due to 3 practice sessions where we concentrated on just those 4 songs before our studio date. The end result was a happy recording engineer and we had enough time to order pizza and sit with the engineer in the control room, eating pizza while listening to him tweak the tracks, all within our allotted time slot.

Preparation most certainly IS the key to having a more productive and enjoyable studio experience.

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