Written By James Murphy
So the time has come. You’re ready to record, but how do you prepare for working in a professional studio environment, and also working with an audio engineer or producer, who’s essentially going to rip your performance apart and analyse it from every angle ready for recording. It’s such a big step to be recording professionally and involving other parties to have an opinion on your music. Rest assured this can actually be a good thing for any artist or band.
Most songwriters realise soon after writing a couple of songs that they can keep writing songs, which means you generally become more open to collaboration as you write more and have more ideas. However, the dreaded topic of artistic differences always comes up.
What a new band has to remember is that they have nothing to lose, and as long as the artist differences are not huge between themselves and a producer or engineer, (and go totally against the way the artist wants to sound), they should go for it. Below is a list of tips for an independent artist or bands to help prepare for working with a producer or engineer and recording professionally.
- Choose your producer or audio engineer; find someone you click with personally and musically. This just makes things much easier in the long run.
- When choosing a studio, make sure you would feel comfortable recording there, and that it has the necessary gear for you to achieve what you want.
- Tips 1 & 2 often go together, so try to compromise the both, and find a studio with a producer or audio engineer you like, in an environment you would like to make music in. Compromise is the key here, but don’t be afraid to shop around.
- If you can, before recording, send your producer or audio engineer some demos so they can get an idea of the songs. This can help get a dialog going between you and the producer and a vision for your sound.
- Have your music equipment in top-notch condition. This can make recording a lot easier and faster if all equipment is in good working order. Get your instruments tuned before recording, as this goes a long way to a better sounding record.
- Practice, practice, and practice your parts. It’s important you know all your parts inside and out, and can play them at a drop of a hat. This will save you time and money.
- Budget out your recording. This can be done before you start looking for a producer, so you have a good idea about where you can start looking, or you can go ahead and get quotes from studios and go from there with your decision. Once you have studio prices and producer prices, you can enter into negotiation on certain projects.
- Remember to think about mixing and mastering costs. In regards to mixing, this is generally done in the studio you have chosen to work in and with the engineer you have chosen, however you can choose to have a recording engineer and a mixing engineer, and keep these separate. Costs vary, but there are some great prices for online mixing services these days. To gain the best results, it is a smart idea to get your tracks mastered professionally; many studios around the world offer these services either online, places like LANDR, or in person at very reasonable prices. Even the greats are available to independent musicians now.
- Give the audio engineer or the producer some references to listen to. For example, ‘I love the guitar sounds that The Beatles got on Revolver, especially on the song “Taxman”.’ Or give them mixing references – ‘So I love the way Quincy Jones mixed Michael Jackson’s voice on “Beat It”.’ Giving these sorts of references to the audio engineer or producer can be great for them, as it helps them understand you better as an artist and musician. Also a playlist with your inspirations on them can help, too.
- Finally, decide on what sort of recording you would like, whether it be a multi-tracked recording or a live recording. Both are very different and have different requirements. If you are planning on multi-tracking, practising parts, (like I mentioned earlier in this article), is the one of the best things you can do. If you are recording live, on your own or as a band, the performance has to be tight, have feeling, express mood, and have all the players and parts organised and rehearsed before hitting the studio. Unless of course you are planning on recording a ‘jam’ type of recording.
Always remember recording your music is supposed to be a fun and exciting experience. Listening to your creations come from nothing to fruition is a great thing, and a feeling some musicians and artist find very hard to explain, and can only express this emotionally most of time, or by writing new songs on these feelings. I hope finding the right studio, audio engineer or producer is an easy task, and the this article has helped and inspired you to hit the studio as soon as possible. You’ll only find yourself getting better, challenging your goals as an artist, and experiencing new feelings. Go for it.