By Jon Moody
You did it, you finally did it! You booked recording time in a studio, filled out all the pre-production forms and possibly even sent in a deposit (if required) and your album is getting recorded. Or, maybe you just finally confirmed a date when you’re going into a friend’s basement to lay down some solid tunes for a demo and have them work their ProTools magic to make you sound great, and get you gigs.
That was me, over a week ago as I finally bit the bullet and booked time for my solo album. Years of hemming and hawing about when was the “right” time, gigging like crazy, etc.. were all gone. There was a date; March 17. It’s going to happen. But, as quickly as my euphoria over this event came, it was replaced with dread.
Now what? What happens if everything sucks and I’m left with paid studio time that resulted in nothing more than a couple Instagram pics? How can I set myself up for the most success in the studio? Thankfully, if you’re in the same position, there are a number of things you can do right now to prepare.
Have A Plan
This is your time, and it’s time you’re paying for. No one likes wasting money, so having a solid plan of action will not only help you focus before you get in the studio, but will serve as a checklist to keep you on track as you go through the day recording. This can be as simple as something that resembles a setlist, or as intricate as what parts get tracked, who is playing what, what specific instrument(s) are needed for the session, etc..
This really should be a given, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard horror stories. Practice as a group relentlessly. Practice by yourself to ensure that your part is as precise and tight as it can be. Make sure your part blends in with everyone else flawlessly. Play everything until you’re completely sick of it, and you start saying “I’ll bet this is what Paul McCartney feels like every time he gets up to play ‘Hey Jude.'”
And then repeat the process.
Check Your Gear
You’ve been putting off getting that buzzing fixed on your guitar, because they can’t hear it live? You’ve been meaning to get that bass set up, because with the changing seasons the action is a mess? Or maybe you’ve been putting off replacing that instrument cable, because it works “okay, I guess.” Do it now. As in, right now. Little things tend to become gigantic when they’re in the studio, especially if they’re something that can impede your playing ability.
Also, make a mental (or physical) list of the gear that you’re going to need and plan accordingly. No one likes to be the guy that says “Hey, can I borrow one of your instrument cables? I left mine at home.” And make sure you have a fresh battery or working power supply for your pedals (like the Studio Bass Compressor).
This is the biggest one that I see and hear about. When egos collide in the studio, time is wasted. And it’s your time, not the engineer’s, because they get paid regardless. And realistically, mic’ing up an amp and getting a fantastic guitar tone is the engineer’s job, right? Make your tonal wants and needs known, but then allow the engineer a bit of leeway as they do their job to get you there. And if, bychance, they have an idea that may work out better, if you have the time to give it a shot, do it. You might wind up with something even better than intended.
Clear Your Schedule The Night Before
Personally, I can’t stress this one enough, especially if you’re planning on spending a good deal of time in the studio the next day. Clear your schedule from everything, and plan on relaxing, doing a final review of what you need, and get some rest. That’s right, go to bed. Early if possible, so you can be as awake and alert as possible when you’re in the studio, spending your money.
With a little planning, and a whole lot of practicing, you can walk into the studio, set up quickly and succeed quickly and easily, saving you money and maybe also making you one of those groups that the engineer holds everyone else to, in terms of being professional and ready to go.