Crossroads Recording Studio: Guidelines and Tips
Have all songs written and parts figured out and assigned before coming into the studio. Don’t waste valuable studio time on things you can easily do at home or at your rehearsal space, such as guitar solos, harmonies, etc. This point cannot be stressed enough.
-Students will be responsible for providing their own CDs or flash drive media to copy their material from the recording session
- Make sufficient copies of lyric/lead sheets
- If you are sequencing tracks or using beats, have them ready to go on a CD or hard drive before coming in. Cross reference with engineer before the session on what file format is compatible in studio.
- Practice, practice, practice! The tighter your songs are, the smoother the recording of them will be and the better the end result.
- Tune your instruments
- Singers: Make sure you are warmed up and ready to go before the session starts.
- Come into the studio well rested, clear headed and ready to work. Recording is a physically and mentally demanding process. Bring plenty of water and food.
- Change guitar strings and drum heads (at least) the day before coming into the studio and bring extra sets of everything, including drumsticks. DO NOT put new strings on right before the recording session, as they will need to be played and stretched out before they stay in tune.
- Bring in your own rig. If you are a guitarist and want to capture the sound you get from the daisy chain of your guitar, pedals and amp then be sure to bring your entire setup in.
- Practice with a metronome and determine tempo of your songs, regardless of whether you use a click track while you are recording; practicing to a click or metronome will help your internal clock. Typically, a metronome or click track is fed through the headphones to help the musicians stay at a steady tempo while recording. It will be necessary to use a click track if sequenced material will be added later.
Some general rules for vocalists regarding food and drink:
- Eating before singing is not a good idea, but singing on an empty stomach is also not great either. Eat something about 2 hours before tracking vocals. This gives your throat time to relax after eating and also allows you to have more control over your diaphragm.
- Do not drink soda because it puts too much air in your stomach.
- Do not drink milk or other dairy products that create mucus in the throat.
- Do not drink citrus fruit drinks or alcohol; they dry the throat.
- Do not drink anything that is ice cold because it constrains the throat.
- Warm or room temperature liquids like tea and water are the best things to drink before and during singing.
- Discuss production ideas ahead of time and set aside reference CDs that serve as good examples of production styles you are striving for.
- Most musicians grossly underestimate the time it takes to record their project. A common mistake is to try and record too many songs in too short a time. Be realistic and realize that recording involves much more than the time it takes to run through the song.
- The Studio is providing a professional drum kit for recording. If you prefer to bring your own kit, then the drummer should arrive 2 hours before the rest of the band to allow for proper set up and undivided one on one between the drummer and the engineer. Good drum tone is crucial to a good sounding record.
- Stow all instrument cases and other items not needed for the session in an out of the way nook of the studio. Keep the floor space as uncluttered as possible, and set up allotting a comfortable amount of space between band members.
- Wait in the control room while each member sets up individually and is given their sound check. Keep talking to a minimum to allow the engineer to focus and hear everything that is going on in the soundcheck.
- After everybody has been soundchecked, a headphone soundcheck will be conducted. In a similar fashion, the engineer / producer will proceed one by one inquiring what each person needs in their headphone mix.
- Mentally block out all of the microphones and gear surrounding you. Stay relaxed and play naturally. Put emotion and feeling into your performance.
- If you mess up while recording, don't fret about it too much. Everyone makes mistakes, that's part of the process of recording: getting a good take!
- Stay focused. Refrain from drinking and other recreational activities. Don’t invite guests to your sessions – they will only serve as a distraction and may try to inject their opinions. Avoid unnecessary phone calls. Stay focused on the task at hand.
- Do more than one take of every song, but limit it to 5 takes. Odds are if you haven’t hit the performance you are looking for in 5 takes, you are not going to. Move onto another song and come back to that one if time allows.
- LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN! When you think you have a song in the can, come into the control room and listen to each take of it before moving on. Do not assume a take was good enough without listening to it just because “it felt right”. Get the sound and performance you are looking for. Don’t assume that you can fix things in the mix.
- Tune up in between each take.
- Consult with the engineer and producer before recording with effects.
- Defer to the engineer / producer in terms of recording process and performance quality. They are much more experienced in a studio setting than you are and have finely-tuned, objective ears that can hear things you may miss (i.e. flat notes, bad chords, tempo changes, etc.).
- Know Your Sound, But Be Realistic.
Make sure your producer and engineer understands what sound you want, but keep in mind, they can't exactly reproduce another album's recording conditions for you. Just because your favorite band's drum tracks sound a certain way doesn't mean yours can -- that is, unless you use the same drummer, same kit, same room, same mics, same everything. Bring some examples of styles you'd like to see reflected in your work to your producer/engineer ahead of time, and let them explain to you how they can split the difference to help your project come out as close to what you want, and remember: individuality IS a good thing!
Recording various instruments and voices on separate tracks (multi-tracking) provides flexibility, allowing one to re-do mistakes in one part without having to play all the other parts over again. If the bass player hits a wrong note, he can just replay that section by himself while listening to the other pre-recorded parts on headphones.
Overdubbing guitar solos, vocal harmonies, fixing mistakes, etc. are done after the basic tracks have been recorded.
The recordings that you buy in the stores (or download from the Internet) are not in a multi-track format. They are in a 2-track (stereo) format. Mixing is the art of blending multiple tracks down into 2 tracks.
Make sure you budget time to mix your project for proper levels, equalization and effects. The recording engineer can give you an estimate of how much time it will take to mix your specific project.
Mastering can be described as putting the "finish" on a recording. The final mix is smoothed by balancing the low, midrange, and high parts of its sound, making it ready for radio-play and pressing CDs. When producing an album, mastering also allows the songs to be placed in a specified order and balances the volumes of each song to make sure the listener of the final product does not have to turn the volume up and down while listening.
Once your project is mastered you may want to have your cd mass-produced. If you are releasing a CD this means that besides duplicating you need to think about printing an album cover, CD inserts, CD cases and possibly shrink wrapping.
The recording studio will not be providing mass duplication and graphics services. Students and faculty doing projects at the studio will be responsible for their own album art and also for mass duplication. The recording studio will provide a master copy that you can take to a duplication company for mass production.
KEEPING A BACK-UP COPY!!!
After we are done with your project YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING A COPY OF YOUR MASTER FILE. If you lose this master and you might want to do more work on the project at a later time, or if you want to make copies of your cd later, you will be out of luck! All the work we did in the studio will be lost. I would suggest that you make several copies of your master files and keep them in a safe place. The engineer will provide you with 2 master files. One will be the 2-track Master that you use for mass duplication or to make copies, the other will be a multitrack master that contains all the audio files and session data on DVD(s).