7 things to consider before you enter the recording studio

By Pursehouse – follow me on twitter

Everyone loves a good ‘list post’ where the author sums up everything into X amount of handy succinct points to therefore make them easier to drink in and follow. Remember the ‘9 Twitter Tips for Artists’ or the ‘8 Tips On How To Make The Most Of Your Mailing List’? Or who could forget the classic* ‘Top 8 Things Unsigned/Independent Artists Do Wrong’?

*my definition of classic may radically differ from yours

Point made.

So you want to record your music? Of course you do, if you don’t record it then you can’t sell 300,000 copies of it and have the Edith Bowman voiceover say “The deluxe Über platinum edition of (insert title here) by (insert your name here) is now out for Christmas. Featuring (insert number 3 smash hit here), (insert over-achieving second single here which received loads of PR after your drummer slept with Kate Moss) and upcoming single (insert critically acclaimed debut single that disappointingly undersold here that you’re re-releasing)” on the prime time advertising slot you foolishly splashed out on after drunkenly agreeing to commit the marketing spend with the pretty blonde ITV advertising representative who got you drunk on Mojitos and complemented your skinny jeans/winkle picker combination.

So what do you need to consider? I asked a few of my friends, who either own, run or work in recording studios for their advice (referred to as ‘JD’ & ‘AG’) and the result was hence thus to fore hitherto:

(Note: whether you’re venturing into the studio for the first time or fifth time hopefully you’ll be able to take something from this).

1)      Are your songs actually ready?

Out of all the points I put forward to my chums this one received the most comment as it would appear you musician lot are just so bloody eager to get into the studio that you and/or your songs are often just not ready. Do you know your song part inside and out? Can you play it without a drummer or will you need a click track? Are the songs you want to record actually good enough? JD comments “Lots of time can be wasted in the studio if you don’t know your part or you’re trying to play something beyond your ability. Practice and be prepared and then more time can be spent in the studio creating and perfecting rather than doing endless takes of the same part in order to get enough bits to stick together to make it passable.” All in all AG sums this up very well; “Rehearsal time is an awful lot cheaper than recording time!

Amen to that.

2)      Do a bit of market research

What are these tracks actually for? Do you want to release them? Are they purely to demo your ‘new sound’ (in which case you might only need to do live recordings and therefore save yourself some cash)? Do you think you have a track that is potentially ‘sync-worthy’? Whatever your tracks are for will inevitably influence the time and money you spend on the process and also the style it’s recorded. I’ll never forget the time an artist sent us both instrumentals AND television backing track versions! Imagine that! (The difference I hear you ask? The drums are lower in the mix, no “ooh”’s and “ahh”’s and intruding middle eights are cut out).

This can all relate back to a post I wrote a short while ago entitled ‘Different People Have Different Ears For Different Needs’ have a read of that and consider the points raised.

3)      Budget, cash, moolah etc

You may have noticed there is a bit of a recession on at the moment, add to that the fact that the music industry was in its own mini recession before the world joined us in our recession (ever the trend setters that we are) and now we find ourselves in a freaky recession-squared situation. All I’m trying to say in a rather convoluted way is that frugality is the new sexy.

Thanks to points 1 & 2 you should now know how many songs you’re wanting to record and for what purpose. You should now think about how much time it takes to perform this recording wizardry as JD points out: “Long drawn out recording processes are often more problematic than booking a week/weekend and completing it all at once”. Doing it over a number of sessions leaves you too much time to think and just like your ex girlfriend, when you over analyse things you’ll inevitably pick flaws in them and end up wasting valuable time and therefore money. The wisdom continues as he points out “Don’t try and do as many tracks as possible in one session. One or two well recorded tracks is way stronger than ten sloppy ones.”

Amen to that.

4)      Choosing your location

Google is a wonderful thing, it’s the gateway to a better life. Although probably an awful thing to actually say rather than just think; I owe more to Google than I do some of my friends. It gives so much and asks for so little back. Google is your friend. In Google you should trust. So use it.

The key things to research  in choosing a location:

  • How much does it cost?
  • Who has recorded there before? Artists you respect? Artists whose music you like? Artists you could get in touch with and ask for their honest opinion?
  • Do you have a contact who can introduce you to the studio to potentially get a discounted rate?

Really do have a shop around, you never know what deals you just might bag. Due to the current state of the industry you might be able to get a rather high quality studio for cheaper than you think;

At the end of the day
A full studio at a reduced rate is better
Than an empty studio at full rate

That’s the worst haiku ever.

5)      Tracking, Mixing and Mastering

One of my pet hates is when people disregard the advice and opinions of those who know better about a certain subject then them. The prime example of this for myself is when someone ignores what a Doctor has told them. There is no real need for me to tell you this in the blog, but it winds me up to such an extent then maybe somehow someway that last sentence will help stop a singular moronic person doing it. If a sound engineer tells you that a certain aspect of your song isn’t right, then he/she is probably worth listening to. Let us remember that this is their job and before you walked, nay, strutted through those studio doors there were hundreds, if not thousands like you previously.

I understand your music is precious to you, but picture yourself as Demi Moore in Ghost and the studio engineer as Patrick Swayze…

Go with me on this…

Your music is the ball of damp bulbous clay and with the aid of the muscular engineers guiding hands you mould it into a beautiful piece of three and a half minutes audible delight in a no way erotic process.

There are three main processes in recording your works and be aware that not always the same person will provide all three services. Click on the following to learn about Tracking, Mixing and Mastering if you’re not clued up already and be sure to have a conversation about them with the studio before you book any time with them.

6)      Edits and Instrumentals

Pretty straight forward but an alarming amount of artists always forget this as they’re usually extremely giddy by the fact the recording process is done and they can’t wait to get a copy to their mum.

Is your song 5 minutes long? Then get yourself a nice little 3 and a half minute radio edit so the lovely people over at BBC Introducing won’t worry about allocating too much airtime to one artist.

And I’ve harped on about it plenty enough in the past; get instrumentals of everything you do as it helps people like me get your much on TV/adverts/games.

7)      Is your work ethic up to scratch?

Unless you’re prepared to work like your great granddad doing overtime in a coal mine then don’t even bother about booking studio time. This was an issue I was surprised even existed until JD informed me otherwise:

One last thing:  Work hard. Don’t be drinking beer and pissing about in the studio as you’ll just be wasting money. You can get pissed anywhere, anytime and drinking in the studio is like drinking in a shit bar that cost £400 a day to get into. Be prepared to play your parts over and over and to sing your songs many times. Don’t get impatient. Work hard, take your time and you’ll be a million times more pleased with the end result.

Amen to that.

(Follow JD and AG on twitter.)

So there you go. Follow that and you’ll be alright. If you are looking to record then here at Sentric we’re chums with the following lovely folk so if you’re a Sentric artist get in touch (info at sentricmusic.com) and I’ll introduce you for some preferential ‘mates rates’.

Miloco Studios – Home to 17 studios based all around the UK (and a couple in Europe), they have been home to some of the world’s most famous acts including The Arctic Monkeys, Sugababes, Slipknot, Chemical Brothers, Jamie T and the list goes on. In fact, I went on a tour of their studios just the other week and bumped into Chaka Khan and Lulu (who was wearing some awful shoes and therefore was referred to as ‘Bad Shulu’ for the rest of the tour).

Flesh & Bone Studios – To quote their blurb “Flesh and Bone is a collective of young, seasoned sound engineers and producers working in London. A collective that works with a common purpose for new artist development and the provision of a unique space in which to create.”

Sandhills Studios – To quote their blurb “Sandhills Studios are a 19th century converted cotton-cellar studio, housing a 4000sq/ft recording complex. Featuring a carefully tuned 1000sq/ft live room, adjoining stone reverb chamber, two isolation booths, and a Pro Tools HD equipped control room, the studio can accommodate a vast array of recording scenarios.  From full live tracking to overdubbing, and everywhere in between, Sandhills aims to create a unique environment for every session.”

The Animal Farm – To quote their blurb “The Animal Farm recording studio is in a converted 19th century biscuit factory minutes from the South Bank of River Thames. The studio is designed around classic Neve, SSL and state of the art Pro Tools. With three live areas, lots of natural light and an extensive equipment list The Animal Farm is a creative haven maxed out on the latest gizmos available.”

2Fly Studios – So cool they haven’t even got a website but check out the Alan Smythe’s Wikipedia page who is the brains behind the operation. Based in Sheffield, pretty much anyone who is anyone from South Yorkshire has recorded there at some point.

What I’m listening to this week – Kid Adrift and Little Comets

Oxytocin? Chemical Soup – Kid Adrift – Electro by sentricmusic

What I’m reading this week – We Are The Digital Kids Tumblr



~ by Sentric on November 10, 2009.

4 Responses to “7 things to consider before you enter the recording studio”

  1. […] You can find the post on the Sentric Music Blog. […]

  2. Thank you for the plug, my friends. Well written piece, should be mandatory reading for all concerned. One thing to add: ignore the importance of a widdly diddly guitar solo at your peril. A whammy bar dive at the end of the solo dots the i in “hit”. Oh yeah….
    Ville – The Animal Farm

  3. I just stumbled across your blog through a friend on Twitter and I am VERY impressed with this article! There was more value in your 7 points than I could wrap my head around. I particularly liked the first two points, first about making sure your songs are finished and the of course doing some market research to ensure you’ve picked the right material. Though there are many hobbyists now-a-days, that wouldn’t necessarily need to take this advice, I do agree that for those who ARE trying to create a sustainable living off of their music, it is important that they KNOW and not guess when recording an album. Be Sure that your existing fans will like the new recordings and make it accessible enough that new listeners can get the point quickly and will want to hear more as well.

    Thanks again for this excellent post – Ill be sure to spread it around on twitter! (@miccontrol)


  4. Couldn’t agree more with the article! Great information, you’d be surprised how many people don’t consider these things before setting out to the recording studio!

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