How To Prepare For Your Recording Session (For Artists)
I’ve always said that preparation is key. Like my grandpa always says, “plan your work; work your plan.” No matter what it is, being prepared can only make your process more efficient and more effective. When it comes to music, there’s also a bit of improvisation you want to catch the right mood and thrive creatively. However, you can still do things ahead of time to ensure your recording session goes smoothly and you get the most out of it. This is especially important when it comes to paying for studio time.
This may be a no-brainer, but make sure you know when your session is scheduled. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life, and the last thing you want to do is have a brain-lapse and forget you were scheduled. This may not be an issue for you if you aren’t booked very far out. Personally, I am booking about a month out. I recommend using whatever calendar app you prefer on your phone (I use Google Calendar). It’s also a good idea to request confirmation emails or calendar invites from your studio so that you have it saved somewhere.
Now, this may not apply to everyone, but you can save a lot of time by having your song completely written before heading into the booth. I know that some artists like to just go off vibe and freestyle their tracks (either completely or bar-by-bar). Though I recommend doing that at home (or your home studio) beforehand. Coming into the studio with your song already written will save time, and therefore money. Not only that, but maybe you come up with a line in the booth then a week later, when you’re listening back to the mix, you no longer like that line, so you have to go back in to fix it or just keep it. Again, I know not everyone prefers this method, but it WILL give your engineer more time to mix and save you money for the session.
Another big tip for saving time and money at the studio is being well-rehearsed. When a client comes in and knows their verse in and out, top to bottom, the recording process is MUCH faster. Not only does this provide the engineer more time to mix, but it gives you extra time to be creative. With the main verses and hook parts (and even ad libs) down quickly, you, your engineer, and/or your producer have time to be creative and explore new and different ideas. Someone may suggest another layer, another delivery, changing a word, adding a specific ad lib, adding a certain effect. As an engineer, when I have more time to mix, I can get the mix right with enough time left on the clock to start being creative with the mix. We can begin to experiment with effects and delays...beat drops, stutters, and more.
Whether you’re the type of artist that likes to come with your song completely fleshed out or the type of artist that likes to just come in with a beat and see what happens, file maintenance is important. Let’s first talk about quality. I work with a lot of artists that just pull beats from YouTube. Although I don’t recommend this at all, I get it. YouTube audio quality is never going to be great, but sometimes it can be awful. If you find something you like, you should definitely make sure that the audio quality is as good as it can be. Now, what I really recommend is purchasing the beat from the composer (whether from the beat-maker on Youtube, a beat-maker’s actual store, or a beat-maker that you know). YouTube producers often have links in the description that take you to the beat on their store.
When buying a beat, the BEST decision is to purchase the track-outs. This allows your engineer to do many things: easily fix any mix issues with the beat, adjust the structure if you want to move things around or create a new part, and ensure the quality of your song is the best it can be. I know budgets can be limiting, so the next best option is the WAV version. This type of file is lossless, so it’s very high quality. If you can only afford the MP3, or if you don’t plan on releasing the song in a way that brings much revenue. This isn’t the best quality, but at least you can get an untagged version and you own rights to release the track on major streaming platforms (iTunes, Spotify, etc).
Now that you have your beat, you want to make sure that your engineer can get them. First, save the file(s) in a safe place, either on a hard drive or in the cloud (like Google Drive). There’s a couple ways to get your file(s) to the engineer. You can either bring them on a flash drive, or send them via email or a file-transfer service. I recommend emailing them ahead of time, this way your engineer can download them and prepare your session ahead of time. This also is a good time/money-saving tactic.
One last thing; when sending files, be sure to correctly name things. Here are some things an engineer LOVES to see in file names:
-Song Title or Beat Title
-Accurate Track Titles (for track-outs)
All of the previous sections have provided tips to save time, with the goal of saving you money. So let’s talk about budget. Make sure you have enough in your wallet or bank account to cover the time you have booked. If you think you might go over, be prepared for that as well. The LAST thing you want to do is have to cancel your session last minute because of funding (and possibly be penalized by the studio)...or even worse, have your whole session then be unable to pay for the time and not even get to take home/receive your song or work that you did.
Just a few other tips to touch on….
If you plan on having other artists and/or producers in your session, make sure they are able to make it and stay in touch so they don’t cancel on you last minute. I always hate it when an artist comes to the studio, then our progress gets halted because his producer or featured artist isn’t able to make it.
Depending on the time, it may be wise to eat ahead of time...sometimes that’s not a good idea though (I’ll let you use your imagination).
It’s okay to bring drinks to your studio session, but be careful and know your limits. You don’t want to come in planning to party, then winding up with a bad song because you got too twisted.
Get yourself in a good mood. Positive energy is important in the studio. Do something to put yourself in a good, creative mindset before hitting the studio. The best product comes out of a positive, stress-free, fun environment.
I hope this article can help you in some way or another to save time and money, as well as help you creative a better record in the studio. If you REALLY wanna get the most out of your recording sessions, this is a great start. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up personally. I’d love to help!
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If you’d like book a session with me in Dayton, OH at Razdabar Sound and Management (Recording Studio), feel free to contact us, and be sure to ask about our availability!