Hey there, soon-to-be recording artist! You just finished writing an album worth of songs. You've scheduled rehearsals with your bandmates to make your songs come alive.
Picture this...after weeks of practice, you decide to record your awesome new tracks. The band sounds great, and you can't wait to share your music with the world.
You're ready to get to the recording studio. But you're worried that you will waste time and money.
We get you.
Embarking on a new part of your musical journey is scary. Terrifying, even.
Recording sessions can be expensive and time-consuming. You want to go into it knowing that everything will be worth it.
But how do you guarantee success in the studio?
Well, you can't guarantee success.
You can, however, guarantee the best experience possible.
Some basic planning and preparation will save you hours of frustration when your recording session finally arrives.
Road To The Recording Studio
So you wrote a few songs. Maybe you even have a full album's worth of material. But how do you take those songs from the page to a recording?
That's where a recording studio comes in:
Now, you can set up your own home studio, but a professional studio will have more resources.
If this is your first time recording your music, you should do it in a recording studio.
Recording studios have one or more music producers or engineers who can help you get the best recording possible.
Who wouldn't want that?
When you go into a recording studio, you also get to focus on the music. If you chose to record at home, you would also have to worry about editing the audio.
Going to a recording studio can actually make the recording process easier for you.
Professional recording studios will also have more professional equipment like microphones. You don't have to worry about shelling out thousands of dollars to get your own gear.
Just bring your instruments, and use any gear that your studio has on hand.
But what if there are multiple recording studios in your area? How do you choose where to record your music?
Let's take a look at what you should consider when choosing a recording studio.
First things first
You wouldn't move into the first home you found, right? Well, you should treat your recording studio decision in a similar way.
Always remember this:
The first option you come across isn't always the best.
And if you're going to be spending hours or days recording your music, you want to be somewhere that feels like home.
If you live in a smaller city, you might only have a few recording studios to choose from. However, you should consider all of your options whether you have 2 choices or 200 choices.
You can start your search online. Look for recording studios in your city or nearby cities that you can drive to.
Ask other musicians in your area for recommendations. Musicians will have great insight into the recording experience from a performer's perspective.
Have a budget in mind, because recording studios can charge upwards of $100 per hour.
Read up on the different studios, and schedule a tour with any that really interest you.
On your tour, see if you can meet who would work with you. Along with price, you need to work with people who you trust.
But wait, you should also take a look at the gear they have. Make sure they have a good setup that you can work with.
As much as you may want to choose the studio with the flashiest gear, you should also prioritize your experience in the studio.
Therefore, you want to work with producers and engineers who make you feel comfortable and heard.
It doesn't matter if someone has tons of experience if they don't respect the artists they work with.
What to budget
So, we mentioned that some recording studios charge over $100 per hour of studio time. But, not everyone can afford that.
One of the things you should consider when you choose a recording studio is your budget.
The cost of recording studios varies by location and size. A large studio in Los Angeles is going to cost a lot more than a small studio in Dallas.
As if that's not enough, music towns like Nashville will also probably have more expensive recording studios. Being in a music city doesn't necessarily mean cheaper recording studios.
You can do a bit of research online and in person to see how much a particular studio is going to charge.
But what if a studio is perfect in all aspects except price?
Maybe your dream studio charges $100 for an hour of recording. But you can only afford $50 per hour. Do you go with a cheaper studio or opt for a shorter session at your dream studio?
That's something only you can decide.
However, you have to be clear about your budget. Many producers and engineers will work with you. So if you can only afford a few hours, they can help you make the most of those few hours.
Be upfront about your budget when you book a recording session.
Don't give in to marketing ploys from a studio. If they try to up-sell you, look elsewhere. Studios that just want to make a buck aren't going to care about you or your music.
Studio Fact: Recording studios are dedicated just for recording music and audio. Your garage isn't just for recording.
At The Recording Studio
You found the perfect recording studio. You booked the session. Now you're anxiously anticipating your big day.
Whether your session is one hour or one full day, you want to make it count. You start to worry that you'll let excitement get the best of you. That you won't get the best possible recording.
Those fears are completely normal. Your first studio experience is exactly that. It's a new experience.
But, that doesn't mean you can't go in ready to work.
Let's look at how you can make the most of your time at the recording studio.
Avoid this common mistake
You don't want to just record your songs over and over again. You want to make your studio time count.
That's why you need to make a plan. Before you head to the studio, make sure you know your songs like the back of your hand.
You don't want to be running through crazy licks the whole time. If you practice enough ahead of time, you won't have to worry about the difficult music.
But that's not all:
You should also decide how you want to record your songs.
There are two main ways you can do this.
First, you can record the band as a whole. This option is great if you want that live sound. However, you can also record each track separately. This makes editing certain parts a bit easier.
Isolation Station. Many recording studios have isolation booths. These booths let a single musician record a track without background noise or outside distractions.
Image via Pixabay
Are you a Rockafeller?
We already mentioned the importance of budgeting, but you should still think about it on the day of your session. After all, chances are you have a lot more time than money, and no one seems to have enough of either.
If your session runs long, can you afford that extra time? Maybe you would prefer to cut your time short in light of your budget.
Here's a tip:
Don't be afraid to remind your producer of your budget.
Yes, you will probably have a scheduled amount of time. But mentioning your budget will also help you structure the session.
If there are songs you really want to record, you can put those at the top of your list. Other songs can wait until a later session, or you can record them at home.
About all those recordings you already make...
Music can express thoughts and emotions in many ways that words can't. But as a musician, you probably already knew that.
But here's something you may not have considered:
If you have a vision for the end recordings, you want to make sure you can communicate that vision.
Bring any recordings you've done of the songs (even recordings on your smartphone). You should also bring recordings that you love and want to emulate.
Having recordings to play for your producer will make it much easier for you to communicate your vision. Your producer can listen to the recording and get a sense of what they need to do to fulfill your vision.
You obviously don't want to spend the entire time sharing recordings, but it can help save time on post-production.
The Secrets To Confidently Managing Your Time
Just as you don't want to waste time on playing recordings, you also don't want to have other distractions.
Turn off your smartphone, or put it on silent. Make sure you don't go out drinking the night before your session.
And leave your friends and family at home.
Sure, they'd love to cheer you on. But too many guests can be distracting. Not to mention that too many people can make an otherwise spacious studio feel claustrophobic.
Do you want to make the most of your recording session? Then bring your bandmates and maybe a couple of other musician colleagues.
Think of your session in the recording studio as a shift at work. You wouldn't show up drunk and with your entire family, right? Then don't do so at the recording studio.
Don't forget, life happens...
You could plan your recording studio experience down to the minute, but you still have to be flexible. Anything could happen from a broken microphone stand to a power outage.
Or maybe your chosen producer calls in sick for the day so you have to work with someone else.
The key here is to be flexible. You don't want to waste your time dwelling on everything that has gone wrong.
If a microphone stand breaks, find another one. If the power goes out, ask about rescheduling your session.
And if you have to record with a different producer than you thought, well, get to know them. They could turn out to be the perfect producer for you.
If something terrible happens, dwell on it for a second then move on.
Remember why you're at the studio:
You're there to record one or more of your own songs. How cool is that?
Choose The Right Gear
Once you've made it to the studio and you're ready to work, it's time to set up for your session.
You'll have to figure out how to mic everything and how to arrange you and your bandmates around the room. If you have a drum set, you'll have to set that up somewhere with enough space.
But don't worry:
The producer or engineer will be able to help you get the perfect setup for your recording session.
Now's the time to share any last minute concerns you have and to ask about studio gear. If your studio has multiple options for microphones, ask your producer for their opinion.
Your producer has worked in that space, so they can tell you what might or might not work for your instrumentation.
You should also share what kind of sound you want. A heavy metal band won't want the same setup as a folk musician.
So, how do you choose which gear to use?
Let's take a look:
About that mic
You can't forget the microphones.
In a live performance, microphones amplify your sound. However, in the recording studio, microphones pick up your sound.
Here's what that means for you:
You need to mic up all of your instruments properly.
Vocals will need a different type of microphones than instruments. Make sure there are enough microphones for each part of the drum kit.
If you have multiple vocalists, make sure you have enough vocal mics to pick up their voices.
Different types of microphones include:
Can handle louder volume and the fast attack of drums and amps. Less sensitive to the background noise. Great for live vocalists
Highly responsive to sound and characteristics of a voice or instrument. Require photom power. Used primarily for recording
Produces dark, smooth, warm sound. More fragile than condenser mics. Good for string/ reed instruments, drum room mics, guitar amps.
Plugs directly to computer via USB. Does not require an audio interface. Great for mobile recording, podcasting
Some microphones can pick up sounds in different ways.
Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound from all directions.
Cardioid microphones pick up sound from the front of the microphone.
Bi-directional (or figure 8) mics can pick up sound from the front and back of the microphone but not the sides.
Why software really matters
You should ask your producer about their audio engineering software. There are tons of digital audio workstations (DAWs) on the market.
That being said:
Not all of them are created equal. The chosen DAW could have an impact on the outcome of your recordings.
So you want to make sure that your music will sound good with whatever software your producer uses.
Pros And Cons Of A Recording Studio
You're probably wondering why you should use a recording studio when there are plenty of ways to record your music at home.
We totally get it.
The rise of the internet has made it possible to learn just about anything. And there are tons of free programs you can use to record your own music.
Maybe you're afraid that you'll waste your money if you go to a studio. We've been there.
Investing in a recording session can be scary. And we'll be honest, there are some cons to recording in a studio.
But (hopefully) the pros will outweigh the cons.
So, let's look at some of the pros and cons of recording your music in a recording studio:
There are many benefits to recording in a studio. You have help from experts, and you can collaborate with others during the creative process.
Here are a few benefits to recording in a studio:
As with most things, there are a few cons to recording music in a studio. While many of the pros should outweigh the disadvantages, we think the negatives are worth mentioning.
If any of these things matter to you, you can do some searching to find a studio that minimizes these cons.
I am a rock, I am an island...
When you record your music at home, you're on your own. You have to find the best software and gear. Then you have to edit your recording.
On the other hand:
If you head into the recording studio, you'll have one or more producers or engineers to help you.
You'll have expert help with setting up your gear, and you don't have to worry about choosing the right (or wrong) recording software.
It's all about the money, money, money
Recording studios can (and do) charge a pretty penny for their services.
And there's a reason:
You get to use their equipment and their staff, and they deserve compensation for those resources.
Some recording studios can charge over $100 for an hour or recording time. So if you're strapped for cash, it can be tempting to record at home.
However, you can avoid the expensive studios if you make a stick to a budget.
Let's face it...
Unless you're a producer yourself, you probably don't have the same kind of equipment as a professional recording studio.
You certainly don't need all of that gear.
Having professional tools can make the recording process much easier. If you record your music in a studio, you can take advantage of all of their gear and equipment.
While a recording studio will have someone to help you get the best recording, you do give up a bit of control.
You have to let the professionals do their job.
That's not a bad thing, but it does mean that you won't always have the final say over the final product.
If you can't bear giving up control, look for a studio that will collaborate with you. Also, make sure you bring some of your favorite recordings so that the producer has some inspiration.
Need for speed
If you want to get your music out there fast, you don't want to spend hours, days, or weeks finalizing your recording. A producer can mix and edit your music in less time.
Recording in a studio also means you won't have to spend as much time recording. Producers and engineers will have a good idea about the ideal setup for recording.
You won't have to waste time experimenting with putting the drums in one corner and the guitar in another. You can get right down to business.
About that speed you need...
If you choose to work with a busy recording studio, they might have a limited schedule to record your music.
Here's what that means:
You might have to record at odd hours. Or maybe you won't get the best recording space at the studio.
Recording in a studio means you might have to abide by their schedule. However, you can (and should) mention your personal schedule when you book a session.
To each their own
You're a musician and a songwriter (or composer). That's where your skills lie. But you're probably not as skilled at recording and editing music.
There are professionals for a reason.
Just as you wouldn't repair your own car, you shouldn't record your own music. You simply won't get the best results without a professional.
If you take your music to a recording studio, the producers and engineers can give you a final product that you can be proud of.
Best Audio Ever! Recording studios have the right design and acoustic setup to provide you with the best recording you can get. Try getting those results in your basement!
Just imagine booking your first recording session in your dream studio.
You found the perfect place to record your music. The producer understands your vision for your album. And the studio gear is top of the line.
What could go wrong?
While you can't control what happens in the studio, you can prepare so that you can get the most out of your time recording.
If you have a plan of attack but can be flexible, you're already halfway to the best recording session of your life.
Do you have any other tips for making sure you have the best recording experience possible? We would love to hear them! Tell us all about it in the comments!
Featured Image: CC0 via Pixabay