Updated: May 26, 2018
Recording in a professional recording studio for the first time can be pretty intimidating. It’s the exact opposite experience of playing live and puts everything you do under a giant microscope. Add to this the fact that you and your band are often coming into a room or facility you’ve never been in before and feel precious little comfort in. You are also often working with a recording engineer you probably just met that day who will be handling the technical aspects of your session and who you have no choice but to trust to lead you through this thing. All of this can be a bit much for virginal studio cats and it’s very easy to arrive overconfident, under-prepared, and full of stupid mistakes.
I am here today to help you avoid the stupid and to give you the benefit of my decades of studio experience. The studio is really a great place to be, once you get used to it and know how to prepare for it. It can be just as much fun as playing live if you’re ready but it can also be a season in Hell if you’re not. Here are the stupid mistakes you want to avoid:
Stupid Mistake #1 – Don’t prepare your instrument!
This is one of the worst yet most common mistakes made by newly-recording musicians, especially guitar players. Ideally, you want your guitar in as perfect shape as possible for a session, not looking and sounding like you just finished a month of touring. Dead strings, bad intonation, dirty electronics, and clanky frets are not what we want here. Get a setup done. An hour of time on the bench of a good tech will have your main instrument walking tall and sounding like it should. You’re going under the microscope, remember? Prepare to be scrutinized.
Stupid Mistake #2 – Don’t know your material!
The first time you record in a real studio, you will probably be doing it with your regular band and not as a hired gun on someone else’s session. This means there is no excuse for not having the songs you’re gonna record fully memorized and locked down. This is one area where it pays to over-prepare. Studio time is billed by the hour and you don’t want to be rehearsing while on the clock. Plus, too many takes or mistakes can really unnerve a greenhorn band and fully crash the session, turning it into one big argument. Know your stuff and keep the peace.
Stupid Mistake #3 – Struggle with playing in time!
Most recording in the modern era is done to a click track. This is essentially a metronome that the whole band plays to and, if you are syncing any electronics to your live takes, is impossible to do without. Even without a click track, your song will sound like trash if the band is drastically speeding up or slowing down or struggling to play in time with each other. Record a few rehearsals before going into the studio and get some idea of what you all sound like. If you have time/groove problems, fix them now!
Stupid Mistake #4 – Lose focus on your session!
A recording session is not a party. It’s a pretty intense experience, in fact, if you are new to the game. Try not get too intoxicated or distracted while you’re working. If you’re green at tracking, it’s probably an extraordinarily bad idea to get loaded, high, or into a texting fight with your spouse while at the studio. This is going to take all your skills and creative power, so play it straight and your results will be better. Some folks only learn this the hard way. Studio time is just time reserved and good outcomes are not guaranteed. Either way, you still have to pay the bill.
Stupid Mistake #5 – Don’t listen to the advice of your recording engineer!
This is always a mind-blower. What, as a newbie recorder, do you stand to gain from ignoring the advice of the person behind the mixing desk who has done this stuff daily for a couple of decades? Now is not the time to pretend you know more than you really do or to try to impress anyone with knowledge you don’t have. Check your ego at the door. The engineer on your session is the best chance you’ve got of having this come out even close to how you’d like it to be, so mouth shut and ears open is a good way to move forward. Lean on the experience of your engineer, don’t fight it. If you’re told to do something, it’s for a reason. Don’t be a diva.
Stupid Mistake #6 – Expect the engineer to fix your bad sound and playing!
Recording engineers are wonderful people who solve problems we don’t even know we have in ways most of us would not understand. That said, they are not magicians. There’s only so much studio trickery that can be used to fix a bad performance and the best way to sound good on the session is to sound good going in. Practice. A lot. Get your guitar setup done. Learn to use your amps and pedals so you can quickly dial in good tones. The better you play and sound, the better your studio day will go. If you think you can show up drunk, out of tune, and sounding bad and the engineer will be able to ‘fix’ it all somehow, you are in for a rude awakening.
Written By: Darrel Gil
For more information contact RaMed Studios Tel: (646) 818-5731
Located at 92-22 Guy R Brewer Blvd, Jamaica Avenue 11433. (Jamaica Queens NY)