Recording & Pre-Production Tips
For bands or musicians looking at recording in the near future please check out these
RECORDING & PRE-PRODUCTION TIPS. These tips are designed to give you the best possible result in the recording studio and after your recording, we would welcome any feedback on how MSC can improve the quality of our services.
Before entering the studio ensures smooth project sessions, saving you time, money, and results in better recordings. Pre-production involves working out all musical and vocal parts to each song prior to tracking (know your solos and backing vocals!).
1) Understand your goals for the recording. What is the recording for?
- Personal Enjoyment.
- Demo for Promoting, Booking Live Gigs/Clubs.
- Demo for Shopping Label Interest.
- CD Single for Radio Play.
- Album Project for Release, Selling, etc.
2) Knowing exactly what you want to achieve during your time in the studio, will ultimately reflect on how long you spend on certain parts of the recording process. A demo will obviously take less time (ie less processing) than an album release of the same amount of songs. Having a vision of the final outcome with your budget in mind, will give the engineer a clear indication of what they have to do to get you the result you envisage.
3) Record your songs or tunes at rehearsal. Even a simple cassette recording on a boom box may reveal weaker parts of a song in need of improvement. Record and review all your songs. Practice the songs over & over until everyone can play their parts.
4) If you can rehearse more songs than you plan on recording. It is often hard to know which songs will sound strong on the final mix. For example. If you plan to have a four song EP, prepare six songs just in case. Record the songs in the order of importance.
5) Record your best songs. Record songs that are fun to play and consider a variety of songs or tunes in different keys and rhythms.
6) Choose your method of recording: Recording live in the studio: Some bands prefer to track live in the studio and this helps capture the interaction between the musicians, and is the preferred way to record. However, some artists prefer to record starting with the drums with a guide vocal, a melody instrument (ie guitar), then adding bass, keys, to the recording. If you plan on recording to a click track make sure the drummer can play to one.
7) Determine your budget. Think “quality” not “quantity”. Let the engineer know in advance how much time you’ve allotted for each session. He or she can help keep the pace going to meet that deadline. Remember to budget time for Mixing and Mastering. A general rule of thumb: Mixing & Mastering of each song takes a little longer than the time it takes for tracking a song or tune.
8) Pre-session consultation with the Studio Engineer. Make sure he/she knows and understands your vision before the session starts. Know what you want to sound like. Bring in reference CDs and let the engineer know by example the sound you are looking for.
The Recording Session:
Communication is the key to a successful recording session. It will keep everyone comfortable during the recording process. An artist needs to feel comfortable in order to get a good performance. Emotion and feeling make the best song, not necessarily the best technical performance. Working on a part over and over trying to get it technically perfect can sometimes destroy the emotional aspect of the part. Always make the song the highest priority.
If you make a mistake while recording, don’t stop and start over. With multi-tracking, an engineer can “drop in” (edit) and correct simple mistakes. Sometimes a minor mistake can actually add to the performance’s honesty and emotion, so if a track has a few minor errors, but has a great feel, then it will always be kept. So here are a few suggestions for a successful recording session.
1) Please be on time. Late arrivals can disrupt a whole recording session.
2) Introduce all band members to the engineer. Discuss your floor plan for the session and the desired instrument/s set-up.
3) At the end of tracking a song, wait for all instruments; especially drum cymbals to fully decay before talking or moving. The engineer will let you know that the recording has ended, however, until instructed, please remain as quiet as possible.
4) All songs and tunes need a time signature. If you are not recording to a click track it is vital that the person in charge for counting in sets the tempo and counts in for the track to be recorded.
If the drummer counts the band or group in, he may wish to use his sticks which is often easy to hear. This practice also sets up the timing for any overdubs later on, which can easily be edited out during the mix-down process.
5) The best mixes are achieved by excellent recording. “Fix it in the mix” attitude will make it harder to get the final product right. Remember: A bad track will always stick out in the mix and the only way to fix it is to remove and re-record the track. However, a bad take is not the end of the world, so keep a positive attitude and try again. The luxury of recording gives you the ability to rewind and re-record.
6) Communicate with your engineer throughout the project. Be flexible to accommodate the occasional changes that occur while recording your project. Your engineer will work with you to keep things running smoothly.
7) Keep your recording levels at a modest level. The recording studio is a controlled environment allowing for instruments to be recorded and mixed for a powerful sound. Tracking volumes should be loud enough to capture pleasing tones, but not so loud that microphone bleed over or room compression becomes an issue.
8) Bring to the session only those people who are directly related to the recording process (band members, producers and engineers). A crowded session will cause distractions and in the long run cost you money is wasted studio time. Important: While in session, try not to carry on with conversations in the control room. This will distract the engineer who is working hard to concentrate on your music. The studio veranda is a great place to let loose.
9) Singers: Please warm up before you sing. Always drink room temperature water and don’t use ice! as ice will constrict your vocal chords. Hot tea with lemon work very well for vocal tracking. Make sure to provide emotion & feeling and let the engineer worry about the technical stuff.
10) Check your tuning often and studio “vibe”. There is no excuse for out of tune parts. You may bring your own tuners with fresh batteries or utilize the studio tuner or piano.
Also having a great vibe in a recording session is extremely important for laying down good takes. We know it can be hard to keep up a cheery and energetic vibe in a session, especially after long hours. So do yourself a faviour, have a few short breaks, work with the engineer and have fun.
Finally: Getting a good night’s sleep before a session is vital and it is hard to feel in the mood to record at your best if your over tired. So with that in mind, have a great session and best of luck. MCS Recording Studio.