Going to the studio? Are you sure you are ready?
So you wanna record…
You’ve saved up the money, and set the date. Put it on facebook to share with your fans, and bought a new set of strings and sticks. Thats good and all, but are you really prepared? If you REALLY want your recordings to be the BEST they can be, you have to do more than just show up and get in the booth, turn on the amp, and set up the drums. Remember that YOU are ultimately responsible for how your recordings turn out. So here is what I am talking about.
Vocalists and rappers, make sure that you have your lyrical material well rehearsed and bring a copy of your lyrics with you. Write down any ideas that you have as far as effects or harmonies. The more organized you are, the more time (and ESPECIALLY, money), you can save. If you like to “freestyle” in the booth, that is fine too, but make sure you schedule enogh time to do so, and bring plenty of extra money. For singers it is also a good idea to bring a warm drink to help your vocal cords stay loose and ready. Vocal exercises are a great way to make sure your voice is in tip top shape for the session. I highly recommend them. Even if you are already a great singer, it cant hurt, but it can help your stamina and range.
Guitar players, when was the last time you had your guitar setup? I am still amazed at how many guitar players do not know what this means! Ok, so here is the deal; With a proper setup, there are two things that are generally adjusted: the action, and intonation. The action is the adjustment of the height of the strings off of the fret board, and or the amount of relief (intentional bow in the neck). Everyone has a personal taste to what height they like, but you may have been playing your strings too high without even knowing. You also don’t want your action too low, because this will cause frets to buzz. Keep in mind that you are also looking for a feel that is comfortable to you.
Ok, now for the intonation. Take a look at the bridge on your guitar, notice there are pieces with screws on them, these are called saddles. These saddles move back and forth as well as up and down. Some bridges, like the ones that are on a Gibson Les Paul, have screw posts on the sides that raise or lower it. The big picture of this whole operation is to make the guitar perfectly in tune. If you have your guitar and a tuner nearby, try this experiment. Tune a string to the correct pitch, it can be any string. Make sure that it is perfectly in the center. Now, play the 12th fret of that same string and see if it is exactly in tune. Do this for each string. If they are not exactly in tune, then you need an intonation. When your guitar is intonated, not only are the strings hitting the notes correctly no matter what fret you play, but the strings are then in tune with each other. It is crucially important for ALL guitars and basses that are used in the recording to be properly intonated. This will avoid guitars not matching up with each other in the mix, and it will make them sound very pleasing to the ear. Not to mention, how is your singer suppose to sing correctly in key if your instrument is not?
Beep…..Beep…..Beep…..Boop…..Beep…..Beep…..Beep…..Boop…..Beep…..Beep…..Beep…..Boop….. Yep that is my typed impression of a metronome. You absolutely need to 100% practice your parts to a metronome by yourself and with the rest of the band. Get a metronome and find out what the tempo of your songs should be, and write it down. If you don’t take anything else from this blog– Scratch that…….you need to take all of this advice. Why do I need to practice with a metronome? First and foremost, it makes you a more solid and consistent player. Once you have the parts written, practice them to a slower tempo until you get them perfect, then gradually increase the tempo (still playing the parts perfectly) ’til you get to the desired bpm of the actual song. Take it one more step and practice your parts faster than the tempo you will be recording at, and it will make it a lot easier for you to play in the studio, which will save you time and money. On top of that, if you have to do any edits (and you will), it is a hell of a lot easier to make your parts match up and sound like one continuous part. When you don’t play to a click track, and or you are playing way off time, it’s nearly impossible to get it to match. It can be done, but its gonna cost you in the back end when the engineer has to edit it! This is a perfect time to segway into my next topic…
Drums. When it comes to drums, there are a couple of things that work for the best sounds possible. Unless you are Everett from Indorphine (who is the only drummer that can make cymbals that are broken and beaten to hell sound good), you need to replace any broken, cracked cymbals before recording. Even if you have to wait until the day of recording to get them. Bad cymbals sound trashy and harsh. If that is the sound you are going for, then have at it! Otherwise NO BROKEN CYMBALS.
Also, when it comes to tuning drum heads, its a must. Put a new set of heads on the kit and run through a good rehearsal to break them in and stretch them out. There are many different ways to tune the heads depending on what type of sound you are looking to get. But if you dont know how to do it by listening alone, get yourself a drum dial. They help you guage the amount of tension on each lug, making it a very efficient tool. It also comes with a guide to help you figure out what type of sound you are looking for and how to achieve it.
Before I close up here, I want to re-touch on the metronome part one more time. METAL GUYS, if you are playing double bass, you have to be able to play it clean. One of the most recognizable mistakes on a recording is when the kick drum is played sloppy. Don’t be afraid to call each other out. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but if someone is playing the wrong part, it needs to be corrected.
So, to cap it all off: practice doesn’t make perfect, PERFECT practice makes perfect. Make sure your band is tight, and in tune. Here is the honest truth: great mix does nothing for you if you play like crap. However, if the mix is bad, and you play tight and in tune, people will be able to hear your talent.
I hope this has been insightful and inspiring. Push yourself to then next level. See you at Screamhouse soon!
By Shane Bryant
Editor – Benjamin Quiles
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