Recording Tips

Here are some tips to follow whenever you record in a studio... any studio. Following these tips will ensure that you get the most for your effort and money.

Be Prepared

The best way to keep the cost of recording as low as possible is to be prepared. There are multiple levels of recording preparedness.

First, decide which song or songs will be recorded. If there is disagreement, it is best not to resolve it while paying for studio time.

Secondly, make sure you know the arrangement you want to use. Arranging music means deciding two things: the instruments used and the structure of the piece. For example, will the rhythm guitar part be doubled or will there be just one? Will the harmony be two part or three part? Will there be a real drummer or will you use a drum machine? Will the structure of the song be Verse - Chorus - Verse - Chorus - Bridge - Chorus? Or will it be Intro - Verse - Verse - Chorus - Verse - Chorus? How many bars are in the Intro? Where is the guitar solo? Will there be a definite ending or will the song fade out? All these decisions should be made well in advance.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, rehearse! If you are well rehearsed, then decisions on material and arrangements have probably already fallen into place. If everyone knows their part well, you can be done quickly.

Don't Bring Friends

"Going into the studio" may seem exciting, and it certainly is exciting. However, recording, especially if you aren't as prepared as you should be, can be tedious and frustrating, and that's if you're participating. Imagine having to watch while keeping absolutely still! If you have friends who aren't involved in the recording, do them and yourself a favor and leave them at home.

Take Breaks

It is often better to take a 10 minute break and return to the project refreshed than to spend an hour forcing a performance.

Abstain From Ceremonial Chemicals

Most people aren't able to play as well intoxicated as sober. Consider going for a drink after your session. Smoking isn't permitted in the studio because particulate matter in cigarette smoke settles in the equipment and can build up enough to damage it. If you're old enough to smoke, you may do so outside. Illegal drugs and underage drinking are not permitted at North Shore Recorders. We're cool, but we're not cool with having our gear and facilities impounded as "evidence".

Mix Another Day

Of course, you will probably want to leave the session with something tangible, and it's always fine to get a rough mix. However, the end of a recording session is the worst possible time to do serious mixdowns. Your sense of hearing becomes fatigued and you cannot listen objectively to music you've just heard repeated many times. You'll be much more satisfied with the results of your recording session if you approach mixdown with a fresh set of ears.

There Is No Need To Be Nervous

Take a musician or singer who's used to performing in front of a large crowd, put her or him in a studio for the first time and I'll show you a nervous wreck. I've never understood that. The great thing about the studio is, if you mess up, you can try again and nobody will boo you or throw things at you. So relax! It's not uncommon to burn up a hundred takes to get a part just right. Engineers aren't judging your songwriting or musicianship because they're concentrating on avoiding their own mistakes!

Take The Time To Get It Right

Signal processors and editing tools are totally amazing, but they can only do so much. Remember that editing can be a tedious, time-consuming process. If we spend two hours fixing the tempo on a mediocre bass part, think of how much better the part could have been if we did another couple takes to get it right. Some (but not all) mistakes and unwanted noises can be edited out, and EQ can only enhance a frequency that is already in the recording. This is why preparation is so important. Know your material. Rehearse your material. Make sure you've got quality, well-prepared gear. To help you prepare, please refer to our instrument-by-instrument checklist.

Make Sure Your Cell Phone Is Off (Not just silenced... Off)

That seems obvious, but certainly bears mentioning. Cell phones have a way of spoiling recordings because they are constantly checking in with the mother ship, so it's not just ringing that can be a problem. The signals emitted from cell phones can cause weird line noise and interference in recording equipment. Unlike the airlines, we'll let you turn it on and check for messages during flight (i.e. between takes). But warn family and friends that you'll be mostly incommunicado during the session.