Being in the recording studio should be an exciting and creative experience. From my time in recording studios and running sessions, I would always suggest that you do a few things ahead of your studio session to ensure that you not only have a great time but also complete what you set out to achieve.
Creating records is, of course, a great way to spend your time, but you have to work hard to ensure that everything goes smoothly, because things don’t happen by accident. Just turning up and expecting everything to go perfectly isn’t going to happen. Although there is an expectation from engineer/producer to run the session and to do their job, you as an artist also have a responsibility to ensure that the session runs smoothly, and to work collaboratively with the engineer/producer.
Here are some of my top tips as a film and TV composer that I will ensure you have a great and productive time.
Make a plan and discuss this ahead of time with the producer/engineer
Turning up to a session without a plan is the number one reason why things that will go wrong will.
Lean on the experience of the engineer/producer, share ideas, and discuss with them exactly what you want to achieve. Not only are paying for the studio time, but you will also be paying for their experience, so make the most of it.
From the perspective of the engineer/producer, this is extremely helpful because you are working with them. As its a collaborative process, building relationships and trust are essential, so do it. Sharing your expectations will also help them plan, set up equipment, and studio space ahead of the session, which saves time.
The planning time is a valuable time to share demos and discuss studio rules and expectations that you’ll have of each other.
Money and time are almost always a big factor to consider when it comes to making a record. Showing up prepared will go a long way towards a smoother studio experience for everyone.
Having your songs nailed will often mean fewer takes, which means you can get more done in less time and have more time to experiment with your song. So practice, ensure that everything is tight, and if you’re using your gear, make sure it’s in good shape.
Bring in some of your recordings
If you’ve been experimenting with ideas or demos, and have recorded them (on anything), bring them with you. If they can be used on the tracks, then this saves time in the studio.
Some artists feel pressure when recording in the studio, so if that killer guitar line or amazing vocal can be captured at home without the pressure of being in the studio, then do it there.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to create a mood or after a specific type of production, bring some reference tracks to share. Often putting thoughts into words can be hard to express, and this helps to everyone.
You should not only be sharing these ahead of the session, but you should also have them with you at the session for the engineer/producer.
Don’t try and live the rock and roll lifestyle
Alright, I get it, you’re in a rock band, and the music industry is known for drug and alcohol use. Don’t sit in the studio and get smashed, you and everyone else have jobs to do. But, let’s be honest it’s a pretty dull cliché.
Studio engineers and producers are not babysitters, and they don’t want to spend their time protecting their equipment and clearing up after you! There is nothing wrong with have a few beers to get lubricated, but to render yourself complete useless isn’t helpful.
Finish your track and then party once you’ve finished something worth celebrating.
Don’t let your session get too crowded
Having people around can be great for support, but the reality is that making a record takes concentration and focus.
Having an entourage of people making loads of noise can often be very distracting for everyone. So be mindful of who you bring with you, and always being as few people as possible.
Go with the flow
Making a record isn’t always a simple process, and there are a lot of things that can go wrong, so happily embrace mishaps and plan for these things ahead of time.
Ensure that your gear is in working condition, and always ensure you have spare strings and batteries. If you prepare this will limit things that can go wrong, and if they do, you have a solution.
There are times that you feel frustrated, but don’t let them get you down and remain calm and positive. You’ll always make better decisions when you are in the best frame of mind.
Remain calm, encourage your bandmates, and listen to other peoples advice. Making records is a team effort, and everyone has to work together – so don’t be a tyrant!
And always, always bring some snacks!