Anyone who’s been creating music long enough has probably had one or two bad studio experiences. In fact, it’s so common that it almost feels like a rite-of-passage. As if somehow it’s required to go through this shitty unfulfilling process to really appreciate when you actually get it right and have it good the next time.
Which is total BULLSHIT!
I for one, as a young, broke as a joke musician, always found this to be incredibly frustrating and never understood why it had to be this way. Fortunately for you however, I’ve already made the mistakes and learned how to avoid all this frustration as much as possible. Like the saying goes…
“We all learn from mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they have to be your own.”
The 5 Secrets
1.) Practice, practice, practice
Don’t take for granted the things that are actually within your own control, like practicing your songs to a click or developing some cool leads that will improve the quality of your songs. Prior to going in to the studio your bands main focus should be on ironing out and perfecting your songs for the record. This means, don’t get lazy or hard headed and piss off the rest of your band mates, don’t start writing any new songs, and DON’T book any last minute shows. Which just so happens to bring me to my next point.
2.) Book your studio time a month in advance
Setting deadlines is HUGE when it comes to reaching your goals. It helps give you purpose and allows you to assign priority to the tasks that are most important to accomplishing your deadline. It goes hand-in-hand with a concept called Parkinson’s Lawthat states,
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
In other words, if you’re telling yourself that you’ll go to the studio when your band is completely ready, you’re band will never be ready to go to the studio.
3.) Have your deposit ready
Producers and audio engineers are super busy people with typically a lot on their plates at once. They appreciate when a band takes the process seriously and know exactly what they want. What this means for you is, decide exactly how many songs you’ll be recording and have 50% of the total cost of your project ready as a deposit before you even contact the studio. This way, after you’ve booked your time, you’re ready to put down the payment and there doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation about how you’ll pay the deposit as soon as you can.
Now this may seem superficial to you, but if you want your studio recording to sound great, your engineer needs to be happy AND like you. Having this deposit ready demonstrates professionalism and shows a commitment to your work, which will in turn translate to the project being worth their time and gain you the respect and commitment of the engineer.
4.) Communication is key
I know this may sound lame and stereotypical, but it is so incredibly valid. Most bands never take the time to talk about how they want their record to sound and this leaves everyone on a different page. Discuss the kinds of albums that really stand out to you and what about the productions you like the most. This will collectively establish a vision of how you want your music to sound and guide your decision throughout the recording process. Additionally, pass this knowledge on to your engineer, because having that information and being able to reference your favorite albums will help influence the mixes they do for you in a positive way.
5.) Have realistic expectations
This one is tricky, because it sounds like I’m telling you to not expect the absolute best for your music, but what I’m really saying is just the opposite of that. Understand that perfection takes times and that the work producers and audio engineers do is as much an art form as the music its serving. There is no exact formula to getting it right and every song contains its own unique set of challenges.
With that said however, if you’ve followed all the others step I’ve listed for you up to this point, then chances are your recordings are going really well and its just a matter of patience now. When you get your first mixes back, refer back to Step 4 and offer the most constructive feedback possible without being too nit-picky over the little details that don’t actually benefit or help improve the songs.
Remember… the harder your work to set yourself up for success, the better the experience will be for everyone.