Jeremy G. Koeries
So you’ve visualised your end game, understand the recording process, drafted your plans, booked and paid the studio. What’s next?
Step Six: Prepare Yourself and Your Songs.
Make sure that you and your featured artist(s) are fully prepared to deliver in studio.
While different genres and artists require different kinds of preparation, this step is always vital. Overlooking this step leads to poor recordings, high costs, serious frustration and great disappointment.
Ideally, you want your songs prepared even before taking Step One of this journey, but it’s always helpful to come back to your work and polish it before stepping into the recording studio.
It’s important to remember that certain genres and/or artists take longer than others to record. For example, rap recordings should typically not take very long, because there are usually no notes to sing. Its all spoken word. But this still means that the artist must be well-rehearsed BEFORE they come to studio. It is not wise to use studio time to write and arrange rap lyrics, especially if you’re paying by the HOUR. This should be done with the beat/track in private rehearsals, unless the producer/engineer is also one of your writers/arrangers. The point is, the better rehearsed the artist is, the more confident and productive they will be in studio. The same applies, obviously, to a band with vocalists, or a solo singer, or a choir, etc
Alternatively, if you have the budget, you’re always welcome to spend as much time songwriting and arranging in studio, especially if the studio environment inspires you artistically.
If on the other hand, the artist is performing lyrics that someone else has composed for them, these lyrics and demo recordings (aka scratch tracks) should be sent to the artist before they book studio time, so that they are equally well prepared to “own the lyric and melody” – to bring their personal artistic expression to a song that was composed by someone else.
Also, when a songwriter is inexperienced in, or unable to arrange their own lyrics and melodies to a piece of music, extra time should be taken to get these songs arranged outside of recording/studio time (or within studio time, if the artist so prefers and can afford this approach). Alternatively, many songwriters these days prefer to write to an instrumental piece or a “beat” that suits their style. This usually allows for a better fit between music, melody and lyrics.
I call all of the above the “songwriting phase”. Again, this should precede all the other steps but should be revisited just before recording, otherwise the project will take much longer. Its crucial to bear this stage or phase in mind.
Step Seven: Get In The Booth
Once ready for studio time, go ahead and dive right in. Here are a few general tips for vocalists:
– Make sure you bring your lyrics with you.
– Drink tea and eat bananas to prepare your vocals chords.
– Drink room temperature water during the session.
– Avoid coffee and smoking during sessions – it will dry up your vocal chords.
– Warm up your vocals with some weird sounding exercises – it works!!
– Don’t record when you’re sick, tired, or sick-and-tired! Your physical and emotional state will transfer onto the recording.
– Don’t hit the studio without a music and/or vocal producer to help you deliver your best performance
– Develop some sort of rapport/trust with your producer BEFOREHAND going to studio to enhance your working relationship on studio.
Some other studio tips:
– When recording to backtracks, make sure you get your music files to the engineer in the correct format BEFORE the session
– As vocalist, be familiar with the layout, arrangement and flow of the song, not just the words and melodies
– As a band, come to the studio in agreement on the song arrangement. Have an MD (musical director/band leader), and follow them, but be respectful of the producer’s and/or the engineer’s direction and input.
Step Eight: Non-Audio Issues
Remember, things like artwork, design, photography, styling and credits is not contigent on the studio production work (doesn’t need to be done first). Once they have their tracklisting and credits sorted, artists should get the ball rolling in this department in the meantime, even if the audio is not done yet.
Step Nine: Post Production
Ideally, artists should get someone other than the producer to mix, and in the same way, someone else to master. It helps for picking up creative and technical issue that folk further up in the supply chain may have missed. More objectivity means a higher quality end product. This calls for artistic humility!
Step 10: Have Fun
Don’t forget! On your musical journey, through each and every step, don’t forget to have the time of your life. These steps should not be chores! It’s work, but it’s joyful work. Don’t stress over the little things! See the big picture! You’re living your passion! Enjoy it to the full!
You can follow Jeremy Koeries on Twitter: @JeremyKoeries