How to Prepare for a Recording Session
Recording can be one of a musician’s most memorable experiences if for no other reason than you can literally replay the sounds from that experience. On the other hand, it can be one of the most frustrating and disappointing experiences for a musician as well. It is often a disappointing experience because of a lack of understanding the recording process and how to plan for it.
I have been involved in all aspects of the recording process as an artist/musician, engineer, producer and sideman. I have gotten to record and work in a variety of studios with some big names and some no names. I now operate a small home studio that caters to smaller projects and many people recording for the first time. After seeing many of my clients make the same avoidable errors, I decided to create this brief guide. My hope is that you will prepare in advance to help insure it is one of those positive experiences I mentioned earlier. There are so many variables when recording, I can’t give you a sure fire method to insure a good recording session, but I can offer you some guidance. I hope you find it useful.
I have prepared this specifically for the person who is recording for the first time, but I am sure many others will find it a good reminder. Whether you are recording yourself in a home studio, or paying a professional, the process and planning are very similar. The real differences between “home” and “out of home” recording come in the process of going to some new and different place. The challenges of leaving home come as; packing up, being comfortable once you arrive, making the place feel welcoming etc. In fact the greatest benefit to home recording is that relaxed and comfortable environment. I have been to recording sessions where the equipment and facility was top notch, but the environment and cost contributed to stress in the musicians. The result? A very high quality, high cost professional recording, of stressed people trying to make music!
With the advent of computer recording, the gap in audio quality between “professional” and “home” studios becomes narrower with each day. In my experience, the humans involved in the process and their planning, abilities and experience become as important as the equipment and physical space.
Small home studios are excellent choice for “track by track” recording and smaller projects. They offer high quality, low cost and a more relaxed environment. More and more, big “professional” studios cater to larger projects. Full bands tracking all at once, and classical and jazz recording where the “room” and the “performance” are the focus of the session immediately come to mind. In these situations, there is little in the way of over-dubs and fixes. Also the sound and quality of acoustic pianos, and drum kits in a studio often become the reason for choosing a large studio. Finally, really big projects, film scores with orchestras, etc. require very special rooms and facilities.
For the average musician who would like to make a CD to sell at their shows or to release on a small label, the small home based studio makes a lot of sense both artistically and financially. For something like an audition tape or a quick demo, it is absolutely the best option. Some of my all time favorite recordings were recorded on simple machines in less than “professional” recording environments. Some are “live” recordings others are four track masterpieces. What makes these recordings great is the relaxed and real human element that was captured, not the quality of the microphone, recorder or the hourly rate.
Here is the reader’s digest version of this document: planning and communication reduce stress, which generally leads to better performances and better recordings!
If you would like to contribute to this document, please email me, there are many different aspects to preparing and recording and I am sure I have left a few out. It is intentionally short and more universal in scope. Enjoy, and good luck as you prepare to record!
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