Late in 2016, in my final interview with Micah Carli of Popside Recording, we discussed how musicians can get the best results when recording their music at a studio. It was a great discussion that started in the realm of Do’s and Don’t and ultimately became The Top 5 Habits You NEED For A Pro Recording Session!
Regardless of how recording technology changes or the music industry changes in the coming years, developing these 5 habits will help give you the best results possible!
1.) Practice! Practice! Practice!
The more rehearsed you are, the better things will go. If you don’t know your parts or can’t get through the song, you’re not ready to record yet. A little tinkering to fine tune vocal parts or other leads is totally understandable though.”
For most people, it’s hard to be at their best, creatively speaking, when there’s a lot of stress or tension harshing their musical vibe, and being at your best when you hit the studio should absolutely be your goal. Spending a little extra time to nail down that lead or tweak parts is well worth it, but your songs, and your skills, need to be pretty polished by the time you get to the studio so that tensions remain as low as possible. Knowing how to set up your gear quickly and efficiently, change strings, and check tunings are prime examples of processes that come only with rehearsal and being intimately familiar with your gear. These may seem like small things, but they can make a world of difference in the studio. If one member of a group or even the whole group hasn’t rehearsed often enough, the recording process can become pretty painful for everybody, both emotionally and financially, and that really can translate into your recording in a bad way.
2.) Play “With” Your Fellow Musicians-
It’s not like they’re doing anything wrong. They just never learned how to actually play together…There are subtle relationships between the players and (their) instruments. If you’re just worrying about your part and disregarding other parts, it doesn’t really sound good.”
For many musicians, this is a particularly subtle skill to grasp. It’s a learned skill that typically must develop over time, through improvisational jamming and writing with other musicians. You don’t want to play “over” the other parts so that those other parts are lost or don’t even match what you are playing. Even on parts as “over” the others as a guitar lead or vocal, there still has to be interplay between the melody and the rest of the parts so that each is distinguishable and yet they “fit” together. You can be a talented musician with regard to technical skill, but if you don’t learn how to play “with” other musicians, you may find yourself constantly on the search for new band mates or playing a lot of solo shows.
3. Keep Defining Your Overall Sound Vision –
Experienced musicians and songwriters know that songs change over time, but those changes can be amplified and occur more quickly when you get into the studio. Having solid ideas of what you’re trying to achieve with your recordings and being able to describe those ideas to the engineer, before you hit the studio, will help keep you on track for your overall goal(s) and your budget. You should have a rough outline ready of any background vocals, harmonies, and certain effects you can’t do in a live performance setting but want to include in your recording, and if there’s an overall feel or tone that you want all of your music to have, being able to describe those vibes to your engineer will give you the best chance of achieving your desired result.
4. Become Constantly Aware of Your Tuning –
Tuning is a big thing in the studio – more so than most people might believe. I’m almost militant about tuning, especially while playing an instrument. With guitar specifically, if you just fret or hit the strings harder, it can change the tuning, so you need to learn how to play in tune as well (as tuning before and after a song).”
The last thing you want is to come away from recording your music only to listen back and hear one or two notes that weren’t quite in key, so learning to become constantly aware of your tuning is crucial to achieving best results in the studio. Having to record a part multiple times to get the right tuning or worse, to have to go back in and tweak those notes after you’ve already left the studio, is expensive and won’t ever give you the same effect as if you’d played them right in the first place. Even drummers need to check their tuning to ensure it matches the other instruments, but the tunings of stringed instruments are much more fickle and can change multiple times during a song. Learning to be constantly aware of your tuning, not just before and after a song, will help you come away with the recording you want.
5. Treat Recording Sessions With the Mindset They Deserve–
Come in with the right mindset, … or it’s gonna be hard to get through. […] Most engineers are fine with a certain amount of partying, but you need to know your limits and recognize you’re here for a job.”
Treat your time in the studio as if you’re headed to the interview of a lifetime. You don’t want to come in with a bunch of negative feelings, or worse, sloshed out of your gourd, because that will not get the job done right. Usually, you’ll end up with just the opposite – a crappy recording. If there’s any friction within your group, that too will usually show itself pretty quickly when you’re under pressure in the studio. Identify issues of potential friction within your group such as personality differences or who’s conveying the overall vision while in the studio, and address them before you hit the studio. If you’re not giving your best, your engineer will feel the weird energy and won’t be able to give you their best either.
For more information on Micah Carli and Popside Recording in Troy, Ohio, check out these links:
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