Sound Engineer / Music Producer - Left Of Elephant Sound
Go into a studio knowing exactly what you're going to do. Exactly what songs you're going to do, and what overdubs you'd like to do. The more you have worked out what you want to record, the more studio time you'll have to actually record.
It's also really good to schedule the day. The more scheduling and pre-planning you can do, the better – because it may leave you with an extra hour or two at the end to experiment.
Basically, if a song is written well, performed well and recorded well, there's no reason why it shouldn’t sound good.
Some good recording software to consider may be Reaper, which is free (with an option to pay) that you can get online. Reaper is really good because it can also operate with a whole lot of different interfaces. GarageBand is cool for songwriting and scratch recordings, and flows well into Logic X.
Also these days you can buy a second-hand version of Pro Tools for a bargain. The new versions of Pro Tools – Pro Tools 11 and 12 can be used with almost any hardware, but a lot of people are selling the older versions of Pro Tools with the accompanying hardware. For a couple of hundred bucks you can get an M-Box and an older version of Pro Tools.
There are some basic things that you can do at home to improve your recordings and options – like if you're recording vocals at home and you're in a room that’s really echo-y, or reverberant, you can create a little booth out of mattresses and blankets to deaden that sound. Even if you want to experiment with echo-y vocals, the thing about recording the vocals and other instruments ‘dry’ is that you can always add that effect on there afterwards, whereas you can’t get rid of recorded reverb or echos later.
Then again, the complete opposite may also be true. You may commit earlier to that reverb or echo you have recorded and it may even influence the rest of your song. If it works in the song, it works.
It’s customary for lots of artists to do a mixture of home recordings and studio sessions as it's economical and at home, you have the luxury of your own time. A lot of bands will now come to studios and just record the drums because that’s a particular thing that studios are good at, using 10 or 12 microphones on a drum kit to give you a good variation of mixing sounds. So you might do some beds – or foundation tracks – at home, like guitar or voice, then you might go to the studio and put drums on there and then go back home and retweak it and mix it and then come back to the studio.
When you bring your home-recorded stuff to the studio, it’s really good to consolidate all your tracks so there’s a complete audio file from the beginning to the end for each individual track you have recorded in your session. That can save time and prevents your music from becoming out of time!
It's a good idea to record in the highest resolution possible, and bring in those high-resolution recordings to the studio.
It can be useful to rehearse with a click-track. With some bands it works and some bands it doesn't, but if you can feel the steady pulse of the song, it will sound more together and more cohesive. When you come into the studio, note the tempo of each song. You don't have to record with the click-track – although you can – but if a band needs to play along to a click track then they'll tend to sound tighter, and it means the recording may be edited if necessary more quickly and more accurately because it's to a set tempo and it's all relatively on the grid. Some musicians love them, some do not.
It's really good to give the sound engineer a breakdown of the song and the lyrics. The quicker the engineer feels like they know the song, the easier it is to communicate the parts.
Bring in different sorts of stuff to describe how you want your music to sound. You can bring in some recordings by bands you really like or are inspired by, ideas for cover art that automatically give someone an idea of the tone of the music, whether it’s moody or fun.