Sorting Yourself Out; A Musician’s Guide To Studio Prep
Despite my best efforts, I remember a proverb that my dad and his generation liked to rehearse almost daily: The seven (or was it six?) P’s of preparation. ‘Prior-Preparation-Prevents-Poor-Performance’. No, it was ‘Piss-Poor-Performance’ now that I think about it, but that’s not important: What’s important is that the answer was six and if you show up to a studio unprepared you’re going to have a bad time. Not to discount pure ‘lightning-strike’ inspiration, but it’ll save you not only the classic time and/or money to prepare beforehand, but the clear mental space needed for imagination. You’re not going to feel particularly inspired if you left your tuner at home, or your guitar strings need replacing. 1. Keep Your Sound Guy In The Loop Write yourself a list of goals you need to achieve before the end of your session(s), in order of their importance, right down to the fun stuff you want to play around with. If it’s not just you putting the sound together, be sure to include everyone as they will more than likely have some valuable input. When you’re done, show your producer: This will help them prepare for your session more fully, and skip any unnecessary confusion. 2. Wizards Aren’t Real Coming up with some good lyrics is usually a lot of fun, but if you show up to the studio with a word salad scrawled in an old notebook you have to realise that you are presenting your work the same way as a conspiracy theorist, and it’ll make about the same amount of sense. Your sound engineer is not magic. Not quite. Go over your lyrics with a mental comb, play it in your head. Does it sound finished? Can you hear how you want it to sound, roughly? Is that section a verse, or is it a chorus? Any notes you write down will help immensely when you’re thinking about ten different things in the studio. 3. Know How Long You’ll Need If you’re not sure how long your session will take, why not set up a mock recording session outside of the studio? Remember that each instrument is usually recorded separately, so if you have four bandmates and your song runs at four minutes you’ll need to allow sixteen minutes for that track at the very least. Get together and time everything on your own time, and save yourself the headache: It won’t hurt to get some practice in beforehand anyway.
4. Click Tracks A great way to control your tempo throughout your sessions is through the use of a click track. This tempo control tool plays lightly in your headphones to help keep you on track and helps you to avoid wasting any time re-recording. Another way to speed up the process is to practice with a click track before you come in, as once you find the right click tempo you’ll know the BPM of your track. Click tracks make it easier to handle other things post production wise as well, allowing you to tweak your sound hassle-free.
5. Enjoy yourself. Now that you’ve removed any potential obstacles, loosen up and let the inspiration come to you and add that extra layer to your sound.