Since Labor day (and my desire for a vacation) interrupted our normal programming this week, instead of just jumping back into the normal routine, I’ve decided go a little off schedule. Fall is upon us (except here in SoCal where fall doesn’t really exist) and as the excitement of summer festivals and house-parties wane, many bands choose to go into the studio to record albums and EPs.
They have their songs chosen, rehearsed them a million times, saved up, and booked a studio. While those are the barebones necessities to go into the studio, there are many, many things that need to be done before going into the studio to make things run smoothly.
Things to do/Know BEFORE You Go Into the Studio….
- Be Your Own Accountant: Keep a VERY careful record of who pays for what. Chances are, if you are in the studio for the first or second time “the band” hasn’t made enough money (through shows/merch) to pay all, or any, of the recording costs and it’s coming out of someone’s pocket. That person/band-member/company needs to be paid back. Especially if the money is coming from one or more of the band members, it is very easy to lose track of how much money is being spent. Budget ahead of time and keep track of all expenses. This not only includes the actual studio time but also if someone goes and buys something you forgot (an extra pack of guitar picks, some throat coat tea). Have an envelope for receipts, or if you have an outside person there with you in the studio, have them keep a record of all expenses and who paid for them. It may not seem like a big deal now, but money issues escalate quickly and learning to book keep now will benefit you in the long run (especially since bands are prone being ripped off and keeping your own books reduces that risk).
- Contracts: More than once a band has gone into the studio, spent their hard-earned money and time recording all of their best songs, come out with something beautiful only to never be able to release it because one band member split and took his song rights with him. Decide ahead of time who owns which parts of the songs, and what happens if they leave. If your guitarist leaves, what happens to all of the guitar tracks? Decide ahead of time and sign agreements so that if the worst happens, the rest of you don’t lose all of that time and money.
- Research Your Studio: It isn’t so much a matter of WHO recorded there, as it is WHAT they recorded there. Find musicians who have recorded with your producer and listen to their music. Does it sound like what you want to sound like? If not, you may need to find someone else to work with.
- Scout the Area: Load up everyone in a car and drive around the area your studio is in. Look for the best parking so you can load in easily. Make sure your cars/equip is going to be safe in the area. Find the nearest grocery store so when you’re starving you can go pick up some essentials instead of having to hunt around for fast food everyone likes.
- Talk to Your Producer Ahead of Time: He or she will be able to tell you what to expect and what you need to be prepared for. Talk about your time, he/she can tell you how many songs you can realistically expect to record in your allotted time.
- Practice with a Metronome: If you haven’t had a metronome going during your band practices, the click track during recording can easily throw you off and make you waste time and money trying to readjust to playing with it.
- Decide Your Recording Order Based on Different Scenarios: You not only have to decide which songs you want to record, but also what order you want to record them in. You may go in wanting to record 8 songs for an EP but only end up having time for 4. If you are only limited to 4 songs, which do you want on that EP? Record those first. Figure this out long before you set foot into the studio, figuring it out in the middle of recording gives everyone a headache.
Being in the studio can be a great time or a huge hassle, depending on how you prepare. Making sure you have everything squared away ahead of time gives you the best chance of making the most of your studio experience.