Tips on preparing for the studio??

LukeKohler

Junior Member
Hey guys, my bands going into the studio next month to record our first ep.
I just want to know if there's any tips or tricks for preparing?
*not sure if there's already a thread on this subject*
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Basic stuff - be able to work with the engineer and producer to get the best possible sound - be willing to experiment with your recorded sound. Should be easy enough. And just be able to lay down your groove consistently - meaning there's no big dynamic fluctuations or strokes that are uneven. Have fun!
 

STXBob

Gold Member
Be early, not just on time. If you're using your own kit, you're the one with the most to set up and tune. If you're using the house kit, you'll still want to talk with the engineer about tuning - some engineers don't want you to touch their kits, and some don't mind different tuning. Sometimes you'll spend an hour tuning the house kit only to have the engineer look thoughtfully into the distance, say, "Nah," and stuff the comforter back into the bass drum. Trust them. They know how to get good sounds out of what might sound to the naked ear like hitting a pile of dogshit with a rubber mallet. I've heard it more than once.

Be prepared. Know the songs inside and out. The fewer takes you record, the less time spent. Time is money in the studio.

Don't argue with the person recording you. If they ask for something, do your best to give it. Yes, it's your music. But they've heard hundreds if not thousands of songs, and probably have a good idea of what goes into making a great song.

Deal with mic placement that moves your setup away from where you're accustomed to having it. If the engineer needs to move your toms or cymbals to put a mic in the best position to capture the sound, roll with it. It's to get the best sound, which is paramount. If that means you can't play your blazing 32nd note fills at 230bpm, GOOD. You probably need to slow down and simplify your music anyway. :p

Practice playing to a click track. You don't want your first experience hearing a click to be when the engineer hits "record." That's a recipe for disaster (at least it was for me!). Look up Benny Greb's lesson video on Drumeo's YouTube channel for awesome tips on practice methods to make playing to click seem perfectly normal.

Corollary: Be used to having headphones on for hours. I wasn't, my first time, and it harshed my mojo big time. Yeah, that was awesome - never wore headphones, never played to a click. It took HOURS to peel me off the ceiling and get good playing. Of course, because it's a recording studio, once "record" is pressed it never gets switched off. So those beginner tracks are still out there. My friend sometimes posts one to Facebook just to watch me flail helplessly to get him to take it down.

If I can think of any more, I'll add to the list. ;-) Now go in there and knock it out of the park!!!
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
Call the studio and ask them. They probably know.
Yep.

Talk to the person who is doing the recording and ask them how they like to record and have the drums set up.

You can tell them what type of sound you are aiming for and they will do their best to take your ideas into consideration for the recording.
 

Juniper

Gold Member
Practice the hell out of the songs ahead of going into the studio.

Practice to a click track so you're comfortable with one.
 

double_G

Silver Member
lately i almost think the biggest thing in a band / EP situation is to do as much pre production / rehearsal / drum sounds at home studio as possible. start this work as if you are tracking right at that moment w/ a critical ear, "does this add to the tune musically?". once you start tracking, all the pre work really pays off: you KNOW the tunes / form inside-and-out, you have already digested "your drum sound" and you are ready to be creative & make something happen that will translate in the EP.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Lots of great advice.

If you can afford it, buy fresh heads (maybe not so much for a kick unless you really need it and/or don't muffle at all). If you can't afford it, at least buy a fresh snare head, and buy the snare head you always use. This really isn't the time for experimentation.

Not only should YOU practice with a click, but your WHOLE BAND should practice with a click together. If you don't have a metronome, download one for free on your smart phone and run it through the PA during band practice.

Use a set of in-ears for monitoring if you can. This protects your hearing while your slamming drums in a possible closed-up space. Plus, if your overhead mics are hot, the click track can sometimes be picked up in the overheads. This also can happen if the sound tech doesn't have gates (but I'm sure he/she will).

Are you sick of the songs you're going to be recording yet? If not, practice them until you are tired of them. After you get really tired of them, practice them several more times.

Do your best to keep your energy up while playing the song multiple times in the studio. Be excited about those songs you got sick of in the last piece of advice.

Show up EARLY. You should show up a long time before the record button is pushed.

Treat that tech like he's your new best friend. Buy him food. Say nice things. Compliment the studio. Thank him for his time. Don't be a jerk. This way, when it comes time to mix down and you want the kick louder, he might be more likely oblige. Being nice and being humble will get you really far, and who knows...he might want you back for other session work!
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
If everyone is into it, try recording a few versions of songs. Start with a simple take, play it baseline correctly, don't improvise, just be solid. Then do it again, but this time go balls to the wall. Use the improvisations you come up with, let the music dictate some cool accents you've never done, really let loose. Then, depending on what you come up with, you may already like one or the other... If not play em back and decide what worked from both for your next go.

I suffered from "red light fever" for a long time and it's finally abating. It's really important to relax in the studio and not overthink what you're doing. It's music and you're good at it, so just lay it down.
 

ottog1979

Senior Member
Be prepared to be "toast" when you're finished. During my recent recording experience of several sessions last year, I was totally brain-mush after the 4-5 hour sessions. You don't really realize it at the time, but when laying down you best, you're concentrating/focusing tremendously.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
Having never done it before you'll have a great time!

I pack up and ditch by lunchtime because I get perturbed sitting around a control room all day.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
1. Learn your parts :)

2. Tune your drums :)

3. Find out what the process/logistics will be. For example:

Is the drum track going down first?
Will you have a scratch track/click?
Is everybody playing live (old school)?

If you are using a click and don't regularly play with one, spend some time working with one. It's not incredibly difficult and it's very useful.
 
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The SunDog

Guest
Depends on what kind of studio. Some guys have a handful of mics and and a "cyber" studio. If your going into a real studio the drums will be tracked first. If you're recording an EP it should take you less than an hour to do your takes (no, you won't be wearing headphones for hours). You need to finish your tracks in a couple takes each or less. Time is money and guitars and vocals take a lot longer. Ultimately you want the band to be done tracking as fast as possible because mixing takes the greatest amount of time and is extremely important. The more time you have for mixing, the better the final product will be. Focus on achieving and capturing the energy of the songs and don't worry too much about minor mistakes such as a missed snare note or clicking the rims during a fill. Every studio has corrective software that can fix such things, but less time spent correcting your slop will equal more time for mixing. Time, time, time! Get loaded in and set up, take gain signals, talk about what sound your trying to achieve, and then get to tracking. This isn't the place or time to be finding yourself. You rehearse material in practice. When the meter starts running you need to execute. And oh yeah, try to have fun with it :)
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Know your songs to the point you can almost one take them.

Make sure your drums are in tune. New heads are great but make sure to play them for a day before going in so they don't go out of tune fast.

!!!practice to a click track if you are recording to one.!!!

that last point is huge.. sooooooo many musicians go into a studio feeling comfortable with a song until they hear that click in their ear at a different tempo and it's a nightmare.

Bring extra your gear if you have it... I usually bring a few snares, back up kick pedal, extra sticks. Sometimes the engineer prefers one snare over another.

Bring water, some snacks. and be prepared to feel like you suck.. When they are on the other side of the glass they can pick things out such as hitting a rim in a fast fill, a stick click, something off time. and tell you to stop mid playing as to not wast time... When your on take 20 for a song you get frustrated but the end result is worth it.

With my band playing fast double kick and blast beats the speed of the songs just asks for mistakes. It's very taxing on the body to play extreme death metal for 8 hours so I end up taking a few breaks when we record.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Pace yourself. Be patient and save your energy for when you actually start tracking.

You're going to show up, load in, and set up as if for any other gig but you'll then be hanging around for hours while mics get placed on all the amps and drums. Then the engineer needs to gets sounds on everything. Amps tend to go fairly quickly but drums can take a while because they can be so tricky to capture, so you'll be hitting quarters on every drum, making tuning adjustments, adjusting mic placement, rinse & repeat. It takes time.

If you've beer-bonged an 18-wheeler of energy drinks on the way to the studio, you'll be a drained and frazzled shell of your former self by the time it's time to start tracking. Pace yourself. Be patient. Know this.

And as many others have already pointed out, know the material cold. And by that I don't mean just banging out the same habits so you can just do it on muscle memory; your parts also need to be right.

Record your band practices beforehand so you'll be able to hear that the cool beat you had set in stone for that one part, actually doesn't quite work the way you imagined it. Same goes for tempos, especially if you're not using a click. You might be consistently rushing or dragging through certain parts without realizing it. Scrutinizing practice room recordings lets you hear this and gives you time to correct those issues before hitting the record button.

The other piece to knowing your parts cold is that you really do want to get The take in as few takes as possible, not just because of time/money constraints, but because the quality of your performance may start to suffer after a half dozen attempts and this can have negative psychological effects. It saps your energy and enthusiasm.

I've learned these the hard way and have had sub-optimal sessions as a result.

Good luck!
 
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calan

Silver Member
everybody previous to me has mentioned very valid points, and i'm not going to be redundant.

what i am going to say if that this is your first time, be prepared that you're going to be out of your element, bewildered, and possibly frustrated. you can prepare all you want, but once you're actually tracking, you may find yourself struggling with even basic playing. it's a different environment, and a different kind of pressure, and not everybody can just slide into it.

if you're having trouble, try not to beat yourself up over it, because you're going to make it worse. time is money, but paying for a shitty project because you're having a rough time and trying to save a buck ends up being as much (or more) of a waste as being ill-prepared. if you need to take a break to get your head together, do so. if you need some people to not be there because they're being distracting or putting you in a negative headspace, get them out of there.

don't be afraid to simplify a part if pressure is getting to you. you can burn 30 minutes trying to nail a complex groove, or you can spend 2 nailing a simple version. if you have time/money, then whatever. don't be afraid to simplify or change a part because you thought it sounded good before you heard it coming back through monitors. basically, don't try to force something to work for an arbitrary reason. give it a shot, move on, don't get hung up on yourself or what your preconceived ideas are.

if things are taking longer and money/time is a concern, don't be afraid to record less material than you planned. it is more important to have a small selection of great material than it is to have a lot of crappy material.
 

vxla

Silver Member
Don't bring friends or anyone else but band members. Leave the significant other at home…they've probably got better things to do anyway.

Be able to play to a click as an ensemble before you get to the studio.

Listen to what the engineers tell you; they know sound better than you do.

Don't be a perfectionist if you don't have an unlimited budget. Keep it simple, groove, and leave the cool fills out if you can't do them to a click.
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
Know your parts inside and out.
Be comfortable playing the songs to a click if you're using one.
Put fresh heads on your drums.

I record a run through of the songs we're going to record a few days before the session so I can listen to my parts from a listeners perspective and see if anything should change.

Get to the session early especially if you're using your kit.
Have fun!
 

cornelius

Silver Member
Get there early - it’s been said already but coordinate a time with the studio when you can load in.

Don’t be afraid to spend some time with the engineer to get a mix that is just right for you in your headphones. Too much or too little of someone, or part of your kit can really affect how you’re going to play.

In preparation - Play the songs you’ll be recording from memory, or charts and record yourself. Listen back to how your parts are sounding.
 
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