A home set up, no matter how sophisticated todayʼs software might be, is no substitute for a professional recording facility, designed for the purpose and equipped with all the gear most people could never justify investing in. Time well spent in a recording studio should be the difference between an adequate result and a really great one.
Of course, professional recording studios can be pricey. So here are my Top Ten Tips on how to get the most out of a wise investment in the professional recording of your material.
1. Budget, budget, budget: if youʼve made the decision to pay for a professional studio, work out your budget carefully and go for the best facility your money can buy. A studio that looks like a bargain may have sub-standard/poorly maintained equipment or inexperienced staff, both of which can be big time-wasters. And time is money in a studio. Make sure you know about all the costs involved. If there is an in-house engineer, are his/her services included in the price? What will you be charged for masters and listening copies? And if you are planning to use your own engineer, donʼt forget youʼll need to budget to pay him or her on top. Although there are good deals to be had, our best studios are invaluable. Donʼt nickel and dime them. Pay them what theyʼre worth. You wonʼt be sorry.
2. Find the right studio for the job: Having decided what you can afford to spend, make sure you do a very thorough reccie with your producer and/or engineer to find the studio that best suits your requirements, creatively as well as financially. The studio is going to be your home, and even if itʼs only for a day or two, you need to feel comfortable there. If you can, talk to people whoʼve worked there before and get their take on it.
3. Rehearse!: The days of writing your album in the studio are over. Unless you have an inexhaustible budget, rehearse the songs with the producer. That way you can fine tune the structure and arrangements before you hit the studio and when you get there you can focus on having fun and giving the best performance.
4. Make sure all your instruments and equipment are in perfect condition:
Check your kit for rattling lugs or squeaking pedals and make sure your cymbal stands all lock properly. Put new heads on all the drums and if you've had your bottom skins for a long time, it's worth changing them as well. It's expensive but it will balance out. We'll be able to get a nice drum sound up much faster if we don't have to spend hours EQ-ing a dead kit.
Bassist and Guitarists:
Double check your amps are in good condition. Have them serviced close to the recording session. Split cones, noisy valves or knackered input sockets can slow a session down considerably. Restring all your guitars and have them set up for the best action and reduced fret buzz. And the same goes for the electronics. Have the knobs, switches and sockets looked at.
If the studio has a piano, it will be tuned for you. If you are using synths and electronic keys, check that all is in working order and that all the sounds you are going to use are programmed beforehand. We don't want to spend an expensive few hours waiting for that particular sound to be programmed in. Also, if your keyboard allows for it, carry back-ups for the sound banks.
5. Golden Rule: only people who really should be in the recording studio are allowed in: . Recording is a fun but intensive and focused process. Loud friends and bored girlfriends are a distraction and they will run up the studio bill in the long term. Meet them at the end of the day to wind down. And if you canʼt shift them, at least get them to turn their mobile phones off when in the live and/or control room. Mobiles can interfere with the audio signals, they bleed into the studio monitors and make a hell of a racket.
6. Know when you need to let off steam: The studio environment is all about having fun, working hard and letting the creative juices flow. You're all working in close proximity, sometimes for a long time, and things can get cranky. When they do, don't blow up. Just go out for a breath of fresh air, a scream or maybe have a game of pool or watch a favourite comedy programme - then come back and start afresh.Wesʼs Top Ten Tips For Optimizing Your Studio Experience
7. Communicate!: If you need anything more or less in your cue mix, ask. It's all about the vibe, so your performance is directly related to what you're hearing in your cans. Spend some time getting it right with the engineer or assistant. Theyʼre there to help.
8. Make friends with your producer and engineer: These guys are going to get the best out you and will make the coolest record for you, so you need to be on good terms with them.
9. Be well rested: Studio time is very rock and roll, but if you're tired or hung over your performances are going to suffer and you'll end up with an inferior product. Or money will be wasted with a dayʼs work lost because you werenʼt up to it, making you deeply unpopular with everyone.
10. Treat everyone as you would wish to be treated: The studio is going to be your home and work place, perhaps for a considerable chunk of time. Treat it with respect, enjoy your time there and be nice to all the staff. Piss them off and your session is going to be far from fun.
Happy tracking and see you on the other side of the glass.