Here's some helpful tips to best prepare your music and yourselves for your studio session.
Preparation is key when you’re about to head into the studio. Even the most well-prepared musicians can find the studio process frustrating, expensive, and downright stressful at times, but it can also be the most rewarding when things flow.
To keep the stress levels low and ensure you get the most out of your studio session (as well as your performance), knowing exactly what you want to achieve before stepping into the studio space is the ultimate key.
The last thing you need is any unwanted surprises... unless they’re the kind of magical moments that grace you with a special sauce that spices up your music! Either way, you should have a solid plan. Here’s a few tips that will help you prepare for your studio session, leaving you in the right frame of mind when stepping through those musical doors.
Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!
The oldest rule in the book! You wouldn’t jump onto a stage without knowing what you need to play right? None of your parts should be a challenge for you to perform, so practise, practise, practise! The studio environment can be overwhelming at times; from the listening setup, to the producer/engineer sitting at the console; all these things can add butterflies to the stomach of the situation, and you don’t want to be adding to that stress by trying to remember parts, praying to the musical gods that you should have prepared more. This can snowball into a fright-train of stress... and it’s really easy to prevent. Just practice.
Record Your Rehearsals.
When rehearsing, especially as a group, get out your voice-memo app on your phone, or any other recording device, and record your rehearsals. This allows you to pin-point which parts need work and where each player needs to tighten up. Recording your practices also allow you to work on the arrangement, ensuring each part flows nicely into the next. Listen to your rehearsals back as a group, and make adjustments based on what you hear. Is the drummer too heavy on the cymbals? Are the guitar parts too busy? Is the vocal range working? Should you potentially change the song key? Is it too fast? Is it too slow? Maybe you don’t need those extra choruses at the end... The list of possible tweaks can be endless. So try it and be open to do what is right for your song. What do you want to hear when listening back? A great preparation tool for any muso wanting to better their performance.
Rehearse without vocals (and other configurations)
It can be very humbling hearing your songs without the singer, as well as other band member configurations. For example, only drums and bass together, or only bass and keys together, etc. It may seem weird and time wasting, but this technique will get each member to focus on the interplay of each of the instrumental parts, and how the overall sound works stripped back. This not only gives you a lot of space to hear how things are working together, but it will force you learn the songs so well that you won’t get lost when tracking in the studio. A huge advantage for the efficient musician.
Don’t be surprised if you have to track individually
Obviously if you’re prepared, this may not be necessary. Tracking live, with all musical elements together, can really create magic. A feeling that you can only get when performing live. However this does takes practice. Don’t count on live tracking if you are unprepared. Your producer/engineer might steer towards tracking the elements individually, allowing for plenty of isolation in case someone can’t nail their parts. For the producer/engineer, sometimes this is an easier workflow, allowing each element to be edited without interference from other instrumentation. So practice on your own, and be ready for your solo moment in the iso booth.
To Click or not to Click? That is the question
To metronome or not? Some songs completely benefit by recording to a click, and some completely fail, which can cause a lot of frustration. It’s a fight between human feeling and metronomic accuracy. This may be new to you and you might not know which way to steer the ship, but you will need to decide which approach is best for what you want to achieve. We suggest you rehearse every single song with a metronome and without, and find what feels best for your aesthetic.