Studio Usage Tips
Tips on Using the Studio Effectively
Here's a little list of things that we've seen that seem to wrong a lot…
- Don't be intimidated by the high-tech, unfamiliar environment. Be comfortable and stay loose. You can't create while you're uncomfortable.
- Know what your project is and isn't. Is it an album, or a demo? If it's a demo then make sure you know what you are trying to demonstrate and plan accordingly. If you are demonstrating a song then make sure the vocal is well sung, up front in the mix; don't worry about a million keyboard overdubs or having the hottest guitar solo ever. In short, use some common sense and don't get bogged down on details which are not critical to the presentation of the song.
- Bring copies of the lyrics to your songs for the engineer.You can save yourself a great deal of time in communication with the engineer so when you say "Take me back to 'My baby left me' he doesn't have to ask you "Is that a verse or a chorus? Which one? The one after the solo? 1st time or 2nd?" you get the idea. This may sound trivial but if you ignore everything else we suggest on this page, don't blow this one off!!!
- Make sure your instruments are in good shape. Guitars should be able to play chords in tune up and down the neck, no matter which fret you are on. Put new strings on your guitar two days before the session so they have a chance to stretch out. Make sure you tune the guitar several times in those two days so that they get used to being at correct pitch. Check your 12th fret notes vs. harmonics and adjust your bridges accordingly.
- Basses should have new strings and drums should have new heads on snare and tom toms. Make sure the bass drum pedal does not squeak or rattle noisily when played.
- Don't bring people to the session who are not directly involved with the project. They will just serve as a distraction and will end up costing you money in the long run.
- If you have a home studio of any type, use it! Do your entire project (or as much as you can) on your equipment at home. Doing this will uncover a lot of unforeseen problems and will provide a good starting point for the engineer to hear where you are coming from when you get to the session. This is especially useful for background vocals, (see below).
- Know your music completely. The more prepared you can be, the more work you'll get done for the least amount of dollars. The studio is a very expensive rehearsal hall. Do your rehearsing at home. You can do a lot of recording in very few hours if you don't waste time by listening to playbacks of takes that are obviously not "keepers".
- Know your background vocals cold. Over the years we have seen many projects that are proceeding right on schedule get bogged down during background vocal recording. If you have people singing background vocals who do not sing any lead vocals at all, then special attention should be given to this area during rehearsal. The problem is this: what sounds perfectly acceptable on the gig through the stage monitors is all of a sudden exposed to the intense scrutiny of the recording studio. A lot of times things that always sounded fine now sound pretty ragged. The most common problem areas are intonation (singing in tune) and ensemble (singing as a unit instead of 3 or 4 individuals). Pay particular attention to group cut-offs at the end of long held notes. Designate someone (usually the lead singer) to direct the cutoffs via a hand or some other visual signal.
- If you will be working with synthesizers on your session, bring the owners manual; unless you are completely familiar with the all MIDI functions. Know what synth sound you are going to use for which part and make sure you know where they can be found in your synthesizer. You should be very familiar with the steps to assign your sounds to the various audio outputs, and how to turn off any reverb or other effects in the board. Making a list of these things before you get to the studio can mean big time savings.