Tuesday, October 18, 2011

5 Tips For Saving Money In The Studio: Tip #4

This week, I will be bringing you my top 5 tips on saving money in the recording studio. Each day for the next five days, I will present a new tip that is based directly on my observations and experiences with the many artists I have worked with in the studio over the years. Hopefully these suggestions will help make your next recording experience as fruitful and cost-efficient as possible.

Tip #4 - Be Prepared

In my career, I have rarely found anything to be of more value than preparation. I firmly believe that it is the key to success, even more important than talent and certainly more important than luck. Few things can bring a recording session to a screeching halt faster than a lack of preparation. I've seen something as small as a broken guitar string or a busted drum head sideline an entire project for hours or even days, and that just should not happen. One of the most important things you can do to save money in the studio is to spend a little time thinking ahead. Below is a list of simple things that you can do in advance that could save you lots of time, money and grief.

  • Make sure that any instruments, amps, cables, pedals, etc. that you will be bringing with you are in good working condition. For bass players and guitarists, that means putting new strings on your guitars and taking them in for a setup if they need it, putting fresh batteries in your stomp boxes and replacing any blown tubes in your amps. Drummers should tune their kit and replace any old drum heads, oil squeaky pedals or stands, and check your cymbals for cracks. You should also have someone move around your kit while you play, listening for any rattles or buzzes. These will show up loud and clear through the sensitive microphones used in studios, so chasing them down and fixing them is a must. If you don't do it, your engineer will.
  • Bring a spare everything. Things like guitar strings, drum heads, amplifier tubes, guitar cables, drum sticks, picks and batteries will always break or wear out. You don't want that to happen during your session and not have a replacement readily available.
  • Make a list of everything you will need in the session, and check each item off as you load up your equipment so that you don't forget anything.
  • Bring plenty of snacks and drinks. Recording sessions can often be long and exhausting, so having some snacks and drinks with you is important to help you stay fresh and alert throughout the day.
  • Bring copies of your song charts and lyrics for everyone, including the engineer and the producer. Charts quite literally help keep everyone on the same page during tracking. Sessions tend to run much smoother when everyone in the studio knows exactly where they are in the song at all times.
  • Decide ahead of time who will speak for the band before and during the session. An engineer having to field general questions or concerns from 5 or 6 different people is guaranteed to introduce chaos and slow down your session. Consider holding a band meeting before the session where everyone is given a chance to voice their concerns. The band spokesperson should take note of these so that he or she can present them to the engineer in an organized way.
  • Know what songs you want to record and in what order. The studio is no place to stand around asking each other "What should we play now?" 
  • Work out backing vocals, solos and secondary instrument parts ahead of time. This is definitely optional, since many artists prefer to lay down the basic rhythm and lead vocal tracks and then experiment with different sounds and ideas in the studio to find something that works. But it is still useful to have at least some general idea of what you want to do. Try drawing up a song map charting out the various instruments that will appear in each section of your song. You may end up only using some of these ideas, but it's much better than starting with no ideas at all.
  • Be on time. Most recording studios begin charging you from the time the session is scheduled to start, not when you actually show up. There is no bigger waste of your money than paying an engineer to watch television while you are stuck in traffic. So coordinate your schedule with everyone involved in the project, and make sure that they know where to be and at what time, and make sure everyone has a copy of the driving directions to the studio.

Check back tomorrow for Tip #3.

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