Preparing Your Band For The Studio

Most messages I receive from people looking to book into the studio frequently contain the same question:

How much would it be to record {X number of songs}…

To my mind, the only person(s) that can really answer this question is you / the band!

I can give you the daily rate for my studio, I can give you a discount for booking 3 days for your E.P. but I can only advise on how long it could / should take us to get through the work required to bring your record to completion.

If your band is not studio ready however it could take us a week to record 2 songs.

There are a number of things you can do however that will ensure you get the most from your time and hopefully give you a clearer idea of how much time you may need before you spend a cent in the studio!

Know Your Song

Seems obvious I know, but despite its extreme importance this can be an often-undervalued thought.

Tempo: Ideally, you should know what tempo your song(s) are to be played at and hopefully you’ve practiced to a click track a number of times beforehand!

  • With the Tempo, be sure to try playing the song slightly faster and slower (2 – 5 bpm from where you think is the right tempo) in practices.

  • Slowing it down might give you more openness and space to play with, whereas speeding it up a little might give you more energy and drive (You may have tried to achieve this already with more distortion or just playing louder).

Meter: For most instances you’re probably playing in standard 4/4 meter, but if not you should work out exactly what you’re playing… especially if you have a meter change in the song(s)!

So much time can be taken up in the studio if we need to figure out the best way to program your click track to follow your prog-jazz improv shenanigans!

Key: What key is your song in? Very helpful to know if you want to add in parts later on (either overdubbing or using MIDI synths), if there’s something clashing harmonically and we need to figure out why or if we need to add a little tuning to a vocal, be it corrective or creative!

Know your own parts: Every band member should know their own parts like the back of their hand!!

Ideally we should be looking at about 3 takes max per instrument to get the song done.

If we don’t get it in one take, the next 2 are for improvement!

…the 4th, 5th and 6th takes are just chasing a good performance… and by then we’re into the Law of Diminishing Returns.

Of course we can drop in on any small remaining sections we still feel could be tightened up but after 2 or 3 takes the bulk of THE take should be there.

Know your band members parts: Each band member should also know what every other member of the band is doing with their parts, at least to a degree of confidence that if there are any surprises it will be minuscule.

Nobody wants to get one take of bass done before delving into a 20-minute discussion of:

“Dude, you’ve NEVER played that before / Yes I have all the time / well it doesn’t work / but it did all the other times / I never HEARD it then!”

Make sure your gear is up to the job

Make sure you’ve got the right gear for your song(s) and make sure it’s in top working order! If you’re playing a Squire or an Epiphone, ask your friends if you can borrow their Fender or Gibson. Borrow amps if you need them too!

Guitars and Basses – I hope you have new strings on! (Put new strings on the night before a session and give them a stretch & play, and then leave them to settle).

Play through the guitar / bass neck and make sure there’s no fret buzz!

Into a tuner play an open string, then play a note on the 12th fret of that string… if there’s a big difference in pitch between the two notes (which there should not be) you need to get your intonation adjusted!

Plugged into the amp (without pedals)… hear any loud buzzing (when you’re not facing the amp)?

Move around… hear any crackling with the lead when you play?

Any issues need to be addressed long before entering the studio!

Pedal boards – So much time can be wasted going through adding pedal after pedal in the search for the noisy culprit! And then when you find it, it’s always the pedal you need most!

Check them in the days before your session, if you find one causing a problem (Noisey, buzzy, signal dropping etc) beg, steal and borrow from your friends to get a replacement for the day!

Drums – If you’re bringing your kit to the studio, make sure you’ve got fresh heads and make sure you can tune your drums!

(If you can’t, hire someone to come in and tune them in the studio. It’s an extra expense but will be a big big help to the sound of your recording).

Budget your own studio time

You’re in the band. You play the parts. You know what you can and need to do and roughly how long it will take you, so prepare your own timetable for how you want to spend your time in the studio. Send it to your producer / engineer in advance of the session. This way they can review it and let you know if there’s any issues that may need addressing, and it allows them a glimpse of the session and bands expectations through your eyes.

When you book a day in the studio also, it's not a case of recording from 10am until 6pm... there's setup time at the start and tidy up time at the end of the day. We also need time for edits and mixing let's not forget so budgeting your time is really important!

I'm more than happy to work with bands on their timeframe in the studio with me to make sure they get everything they want from their session.

Remember that time is money… your money!

And with that in mind…

Work out your Solos and Vocal Harmonies BEFORE entering the studio

Creativity is not a talent… it’s a way of operating”.

If you play 9 completely different guitar solos I’m going to go with the most recent one! That’s it!

You shouldn’t have time to waste creating some monstrous Franken-solo!

As for vocal harmonies… well, are you going to double or triple track? Will the chorus have octave vocals to the sides, will there be harmonies following the main melody but at a higher interval, will they have their own counter melodies, do you want a “group” vocal sound… the possibilities are many.

Figure it out in rehearsals, where it’s not costing you money.

This is just a number of ways you can prepare your band/music to give you an idea of how long you'll need, to ensure you’re as productive as possible and to get the most you can out of your time in the studio!

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