First studio recording with your band? Congratulations, your band is going to split soon!
You only really get to know each other when you sit together in the studio! You spend long hours and days watching each other’s face, have to deal with nerves, stress, fatigue, deadlines, ego tripping, thick necks, know-it-alls, disagreements, you hear for the first time how badly the drummer plays, how falsely the singer sings, the sologitarist wants to redo his solo 200 times to everyone’s frustration to get that one stupid note (which no one hears) better, the bass player has looted the fridge with beer and has just undercooked the relaxation room, the rhythm guitarist has brought his new flame who “also wanted to see a studio from the inside”, everyone becomes more sensitive and gets longer toes, no one can tolerate anything from each other, everyone starts to be bothered by everything, even the smelly breath of the guitarist becomes a problem, frustrations, throbbing arguments when the studio technician proposes a replacement session musician, now… almost game over. If you keep it up until the final mix, the disappointment of the end result can make the bucket overflow. Are we really playing that bad? Yep, sorry.
What do I really mean by this? If you are going to the studio soon for a first studio recording, make sure that everything and everyone is prepared in every detail in all areas! That saves a lot of misery and money (yes the studio costs a lot of money).
• Make sure your songs are ready, don’t mess with the structure or lyrics in the studio
• Make a demo in the rehearsal room and send it to the studio in advance. The technician likes to hear in advance what he will record, and can already detect any problems (e.g. too weak musicians where he can suggest a session musician to save time and quality).
• Bring CDs or LPs with the sound you want to approach, and NO no MP3 !
• Are the instruments fine, the strings of your guitar, bad contacts, drum heads, tubes in your guitar and bass amplifier, batteries in the pedals
• Each musician should be able to play the songs on their own, from start to finish
• Every musician has to practice with a click (metronome)
• Make scores or an outline so the studio technician can follow when you talk about the third verse, or chorus or bridge. Bring a printout of the lyrics.
• Do your shopping in advance … And by this I mean providing enough food and drink
• Make good and clear agreements in advance, and set high standards: e.g. if one of our band members performs insufficiently, we now agree that we will call in a session musician in such a case
• Be fit and fresh: go to sleep on time so that you leave for the studio with full concentration
• Don’t sit in the studio looking at each other: after you have recorded the pilot track, each instrument is recorded separately. This means: everyone RAUS ! When one musician records, everyone else has to go outside!
• Don’t bring prying eyes! Leave friends, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, sweethearts, flames and mistresses at home!
• Keep your paws off alcohol and drugs. It may call it sex drugs & rock ‘n roll, but in that case the studio technician will kindly show you the door (and send the bill for the wasted hours)
• Send a checklist in advance which material you will use and how many musicians you are with. Then the studio technician already has an idea of how much space, connections and micros he needs
• Provide enough studio time. Don’t think of recording an entire album in 2 days… One song a day is already a lot of work
• Is the budget limited? Then record 3 songs well rather than 7 songs half-and-half
• All toys away from the recording room : Smartphone, iPod, iPad, laptops, watches (!). What, watches? Yes indeed, frustrating when you are editing a recording and in the guitar track suddenly hear the tapping of the second hand …
• Listen to the studio technician as if he were your dad! Start playing when he signs, and only stop when he gives a stop sign. For example, don’t start messing around or coughing after the last note of the song. Wait for the signal, usually about 5 seconds after the last note.
• Be honest with each other : when the guitarist is fumbling, say so. Don’t wait until he suddenly hears what he’s put out during the final mix, because then it’s too late
• If you want a good mix, provide enough time and budget. Good editing and mixing takes about 3x as long as the recording itself.
• Don’t fixate on those few wrong notes in your solo or anything like that. Listen to it as a whole: chances are that error won’t be audible in the final mix.
• Avoid Spinal Tap situations… search for that classic on YouTube
• Last but not least: music is fun, so keep it fun and stay friendly to each other!