Find the right studio for you
First things first, call studios in your area, schedule tours, and talk to their engineers. You are preparing to make a big commitment with your time and money, so make sure you’ve found the right match for you and your project needs. If you don’t vibe with the space you plan to record in there’s a good chance you’ll leave unsatisfied.
Know thy gear
Come to the studio with a tonal palette in mind and bring the gear that defines your sound. If Fender cleans are what you’re after, then make sure the studio you’re working with has that particular kind of amplifier at their disposal or find a way to get one yourself. Similarly, if you’re looking for some killer low end for your hip-hop or electronic productions, then make sure the studio has the hardware synths or plug-ins you need.
Sweat the small stuff! Don’t forget to bring extra picks, strings, patch cables, and drumsticks. These seemingly small details are easily overlooked, yet contribute in a major way to your tone and comfort in the studio.
Be organized and well rehearsed
You can never be over prepared. The recording studio is a blank canvas with infinite possibilities. Unfortunately, your time there is limited. The artists who walk in the studio with a game plan are the ones that walk out with finished tracks.
Be well rehearsed and have your arrangements clearly defined before stepping into your session. Try your best to make demo recordings of your material before hitting the studio. This will help you to discern what you need to practice and get you in the right headspace for your upcoming session.
Commit to as many practice hours as you need to ensure that you feel like you can nail your performances on the first take. Pressure has a way of compounding in the studio. Vocal or instrumental passages that seemed easy at home can prove daunting when your focus drifts toward the clock and away from your performance.
Label your tracks clearly if you're bringing in sessions that you started at home or another studio. Nothing will slow down your engineer more than having to decipher through poorly organized stems and playlists.
We strongly discourage the practice of using the studio as a writing environment. This is a risky move artistically and the easiest way to burn through your valuable studio time.
Clients often think they’ll be able to breeze through recording six tracks a day without thinking about how much time goes into each step of the process. We don’t recommend trying to tackle more than two songs a day unless your project is tracking entirely live.
We often suggest separating the recording and mixing process into separate sessions. You can grind it all out from start to finish in one day, but we find that artists make the most informed decisions when they return to their music with rested ears and a fresh cup of coffee.
Communicating effectively with your band and engineer is crucial to your success in the studio. Do your best to cultivate a positive atmosphere in your session and encourage the musicians you are working with. You know you’re on the right track when you can ask bandmates to try another take without hurting their feelings.
Don’t be afraid to ask the engineer for what you need or stress out about expressing concerns about something not sounding right. The engineer wants you to succeed and leave with music you’re proud of and most issues can be addressed with simple solutions.
Time Management and Priorities
Tackle the most time demanding and studio specific aspects of your recording project early on in the session. Recording a drum kit or a grand piano can be a difficult or totally impossible task at home, so make a list of what you absolutely need to get done in the time you booked and hold yourself accountable to it. We love to see bands who have done their homework and break out the whiteboard in the studio.
Don’t let yourself get too carried away with gadgets in the studio. Refining the tonal details in your track is best left handled at the end of the session or by setting aside dedicated time for sonic exploration. Tone-quests will always be an appealing distraction, but it’s generally the performance and not the celestial reverb patch that leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
Remember to relax. You have the incredible opportunity to do what you love and share it with the world. Breathe deep, think about how awesome that is, and put it all into the music.
Pulp was built from the ground up with some of the nicest gear in the world, but none of that matters if you’re feeling anxious about the process. Feel free to contact us with any questions and we’ll make sure that you walk into the studio feeling confident and prepared.
By Steven Head