Before you get started…
Decide what the purpose of your studio session is. If you’re part of a band, make sure all members are in agreement. Are you making a recording for enjoyment, or do you want a demo CD to help you secure gigs or a record deal? Having a clear idea of your objectives will help you and us to make the right decisions during your session.
How many songs should I record?
Think about this before the session starts, as we’ve seen this discussion kill studio time! If you’re unsure how many songs you will or can record, call for advice. We’ve hosted thousands of recording sessions, so we have a good idea of what is achievable.
Quality or quantity?
We know from experience that quality is always better than quantity. In fact most bookers, agents, publishing and record companies will probably only listen to the first minute of each song and they won’t even get past the fourth song! They will be judging you on the song writing, production, level of musicianship and the quality of the recording. So it’s important to focus on getting your track right before rushing on to the next one.
How long does mixing last?
It depends on so many factors – like the amount of track editing that’s required, whether you want to alter the sound of any tracks using other effects, and whether you have a clear idea of how the finished track should sound. We find that the more time you can devote to mixing, the more likely you are to come out with something that you’re really pleased with. As a very rough guide, we would suggest planning to spend 20% of your session time on mixing. This is an estimate and can be less or more – call if you need advice.
When do we mix?
We recommend that you don’t mix straight after recording because you will be tired. Ideally, we recommend giving yourselves at least a week between the recording and the final mixing session, as this will enable you to come back with fresh ears and fresh ideas about the songs you recorded. Of course, we understand that this is often not practical. Call if you need advice.
What is mastering?
This is the process of preparing and transferring your recording to a format that can be duplicated on CD. During mastering, the final stereo mix is processed to even out the highs and lows, boost the overall volume, and make it sound more consistent across different formats and playback systems. We recommend that it be done only when you are completely satisfied with your final mix.
Tips for your session:
- Arrangements. Rehearse your songs thoroughly and make sure all band members know all their parts to each song.
- Instrumentation, Scores and Lyric sheets. Please make sure that your scores and lyric sheets are written up and brought to your sessions. Think about different vocal parts, like backing vocals and harmony parts, before sessions. Also think about any string arrangements or percussion that might be needed – and let us know if you want extra support in the form of musicians or vocalists.
- Less is More. Your recording is not the time to try out or show off. A simple part, played well, tends to be more effective than a self-indulgent solo. Harsh but true! Remember the song is the most important thing, not your playing.
- Equipment. To make the most of your session, turn up on time with your equipment checked and ready. We’ll be there getting set up so you can start punctually. Bring everything that you will or even MIGHT need: spare strings, plectrums, batteries, leads, etc. Otherwise, you can guarantee that the item you forget will be the one thing you need. Test all your gear the day before.
- Click Track. We highly recommend that you play to a click track, as this keeps the tempo even through the song and also makes the over-dubbing process more straightforward. It means that track editing is easier and more accurate. We cannot, for example, take a bass phrase recorded during the first verse and copy it to the last second verse if the song speeds up, so playing to a click gives you more flexibility at the production stage – simply, things can be achieved faster.
- Mixing. Once all the recording is done, the next stage is the mixing. Mixing is where we apply EQ (equalisation) and dynamic effects (e.g. compressors, expanders, noise gates) to each track, and set the correct track volume relative to all the other tracks. We also decide where each track should be panned in the stereo mix for the arrangement to gel and to highlight certain aspects of the arrangement.
- Enjoy your session. There’s a lot to think about, but one of the most important things – if not THE most important – is to arrive ready to enjoy your session and have fun.