It’s been a while since I talked about work on here, probably because it’s been fairly standard stuff I’ve been doing – some spoken-word recordings, a few voice-overs and the odd band wanting to do a song or two for demo tapes, singles or EPs. Most of the music I record these days is for established or signed bands, so they know what they’re doing. My job is basically to set up the kit, man the desk and just make sure everything’s working okay, leaving them to play and record as they like. Sometimes, especially with signed bands, they’ll even bring their own sound man, so all I have to do is sit back and watch!
I’ve had a band in this week however who are new to the game. I think the drummer’s mum paid for the studio time – two days to record a three-track demo. I like doing these jobs occasionally – it’s nice to see some enthusiasm and work with the next generation of musicians and (hopefully) music stars, but I’m not sure they got what they wanted from their sessions. They ended up with about one and a half tracks finished before they ran out of time. I’ve been thinking about where they went wrong and thought I’d put down a few tips for new bands coming into a recording studio for the first time, to help you get the most from your time and money.
- Make a plan. It’s fine to just turn up and work it out if you’ve got endless time and money but most of us don’t so you really need to arrive knowing what you’re planning to record, so you can just set up and get on with it.
- Make a plan B. Any band or musician knows that sometimes, on the day, things just don’t work. If you’re planning to record three songs and one of them just isn’t happening for you that day, you need to be able to give another one a go without a second thought.
- Prepare your kit. This week’s band wasted a good two hours sorting their kit out, looking for things they’d lost, untangling wires, replacing batteries and hunting around in their car for lost accessories. Time in a studio can go really quickly and costs a lot of money, so come prepared.
- Make yourselves at home. Feeling comfortable in your surroundings is so important if you want your recordings to sound as good as possible. If possible, visit the studio before you book it to make sure you like the place, and take anything with you that makes you feel more comfortable – I’ve had people bringing rugs, candles and even wall hangings into my studio. The vocals on the first track we recorded this week weren’t right and only after recording them the singer said he really likes to sing in bare feet. “Why didn’t you then?” I asked. “Because I didn’t think it was allowed,” he said. You need to remember that a recording studio is a creative place, not a technical bunker for the sound engineer.
- Do what works for you. If you like playing as a band and want to record a fully-live sound, then do that. The feeling and emotion of the music will come through on the recording and make up for any elements of the quality that aren’t quite perfect. This week’s band assumed we’d be recording all their parts separately, in sound-proof booths with headphones on, and were a little nervous about that. Once I’d got them set up and recording as a live band they were a lot more comfortable, but unfortunately we ran out of time to do everything they wanted.
They were nice kids though and did have a lot of talent so I’ve said I’ll do them one more day, for free, to get their three-track demo finished off. You never know, one day they could be really big and I’d be kicking myself for not helping them out.