It is becoming increasingly likely, due to the growing influence of technology in music, that more musicians than ever before will want to control and create as much of their creative output as possible.
You might be playing with your first band, writing your first song; or maybe you want to collaborate on something completely new. The time has come where you want turn all of those ideas into tangible recordings. But how do you go about that? What does it involve? Scary, huh?
Well, it doesn’t have to be! Below you will find MGR Music's Leigh Fuge's five top tips for what you can do before you even step into a recording session:
1. Know Your Parts
This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how many recording sessions are derailed by musicians not being fully ready to perform their parts. Before you even step foot in the studio, know your parts and arrangements inside out. Learn it and play it over and over so you can’t possibly get it wrong.
2. Rehearse and Make Decisions
Chances are, you’re going into your first studio session with your band or earliest collaborators. Ideally, you have already made your decisions on song arrangements. For example, if you have two guitar players: be sure both players know what they are doing and exactly what they are expected to play. Pre-studio rehearsals are a great way to analyse your songs and make any important tweaks before you begin the recording process. You can do this in the studio, but you’ll be eating into valuable time that is best used actually recording.
Find out more about studying Rockschool's Music Production syllabus...
3. Practise to a Metronome
This is something everyone involved should be individually, so that when you work in a recording session collectively, it’s as smooth as humanly possible. The days of a band recording live in a room are gone and most small studios aren’t set up for this anyway. The modern studio methods are those of recording instrument by instrument to a click-track. Work out your tempos in your rehearsals using a metronome app with tap tempo. This will help you get used to playing the track at an even tempo without speeding up or slowing down, which you might do when playing with a drummer in the room without even noticing. Rockschool has always produced backing tracks with and without click-tracks, just for this reason.
4. Look at Your Arrangements
Are your songs arranged in a way that serves them well? Do you really need to loop that riff 16 times before the verse kicks in? These discussions can help you look objectively at your track and consider if there is anything you can trim, or add, to enhance or streamline the arrangement of a song. A really helpful exercise is to compare your song arrangements to similar artists/songs, in order to get a clear idea of what has worked successfully before. You don’t have to copy verbatim, but as a student of music you should always take the opportunity to learn from work you connect with.
5. Prepare Your Instruments
If you’re a guitarist or bassist, restring your guitar, stretch the strings and check the intonation. (don’t forget to take a tuner with you!). Drummers, remember to tune your drums and reskin your kit if needed. Be sure to break in the new skins before you record. Vocalists, warm up your vocal chords with some prepared exercises that work for you. Whatever your instrument, you can and should be fully prepared. Take a few amps, a few guitars, a few pedals and spare cables, strings and other parts/kit you might want to use. You will (probably) need a range of tones available to you to make your recording session sound huge so go in prepared for all eventualities.
Most of all: enjoy your session! Recording is a lot of fun if you’re ready to go from the start, which is why preparation is everything. The producers and engineers at the studio are there to make your visit easy, so you can get through as much as possible in the time you have available. The more prepared you are, the smoother the session will run, after all, time is money.
The upcoming Rockschool Music Production exam entry deadline is fast approaching. Get your entries in by 12th June!
About the Author:
This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MGR Music by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh's pieces relating to Rockschool here...