So you feel your band is at the place where it’s time to get into the studio and put down your stuff. That’s awesome. However, to make the most of your studio experience, there are a few things you want to and should know:
The most popular question I get asked is, “How long will it take to record a song?” That’s a bit of a loaded question, but here’s what I’ve learned:
It all depends on how well you know your stuff. If you guys know your stuff inside and out and can nail your performances each time, you are going to get the most value out of your studio time because you’re not having to play it 10 times to get a good take. A studio can and regularly do piece different takes together to capture the best stuff, but if they’re having to spend the time to piece it together because of mistakes, it’s more time for everyone.
It also helps to know the composition of your song inside and out. It’s time consuming to be trying to figure out your parts or what goes where in a song. Doing it in the studio isn’t always conducive to creativity because you’re on the clock and paying by the hour. If you have a record label that is paying for endless hours of studio time, it’s not so bad, but when each hour is coming out of your own pocket, there’s lots of pressure there. If you know your sound and your parts, things go much, much quicker. However, a good studio also does want to help you get the best sound. If you’re looking to bounce some ideas off of someone and hear how something fits when it’s recorded, that is more than ok. Just realize that before so your expectations are right in expecting the hours to add up here and there for that stuff.
Finally, it depends obviously on the number of instruments/tracks. It takes some time to get each instrument setup, tuned, get mics placed, listen to how that particular instrument sounds with the mic placement, adjust the mic placement a couple of times to nail the sound, then get recording. It’s usually anywhere from 5 (keyboard) to 60 (complex drums) minutes to get things setup and sounding right for the recording. Then just add on how many takes you need to nail a couple performances and listen to them to ensure they’re right.
These is how I generally approach a recording project, but it really depends on the band, their feel, and what they’re comfortable with. Other studios could be completely different.
Setup tempo track to appropriate speed(s) for recording
Lay down lead scratch track for other instruments/vocals to follow
Record keys/pads/sfx/other instruments
Other tips for recording:
Practice with a click track/metronome and know the tempo you want the song at. You will definitely want to record to a click track to keep everyone on the same page and it really helps to up your professionalism. It also makes it so much easier to edit and cleanup.
Know how to play your part without the rest of the band. We generally track each instrument separately (you’ll still have a scratch track of guitar and/or vocals or something else so you know where you’re at) but it’s good to know what you sound like and how to play when there isn’t everything else there. For guitarists or keyboard players or whoever is playing the lead role in a song, you need to know how the song goes without anything else playing.
Don’t sweat it. It’s intimidating recording. It’s a different experience that takes time to get good at. If it takes you 20 times to lay down that vocal track, that’s ok. You’ll learn, you’ll get better.