Getting the Most Out of Your Studio Time

We often get calls from potential clients who want to cut a CD in one session (about 8 hours).   While I’ve seen this done with an acoustic guitar player / singer, it is unrealistic for most projects.  A typical project (drummer, bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals and possibly sax) will require a few hours to setup and mic the drums and another hour to setup and mic the guitar, bass and keyboards, and scratch mics for the vocals and sax.  Then there’s another hour spent getting warmed up, accustomed to the studio situation and mixing the headphones.  There goes 4 hours before anything has been recorded.  At this point, the rhythm tracks can be laid down.  This usually takes about a half hour per song.  At the end of the session there might be solid rhythm takes for six to eight song with scratch vocals. 

Follow on sessions are typically shorter (2 hours each) and consist of punch-ins over mistakes and replacing scratch vocals and solos with final takes.  Not all of the band members need to be there at the same time, they can come in at their own convenience.  Backup vocals are done after the lead vocals are finalized.  The final session is devoted to mixing.

This brings us our advice for maximizing the value of your sessions:

1. Know your parts ahead of time is essential.  Make sure the songs you plan to record have been rehearsed with the band.

2.  Practice with a click track in the headphones, especially the drummer.  Recording the songs without one is asking for trouble.

3.  Be on time or slightly early and leave the guests and groupies home.  Send the drummer ahead of time the first session.

4.  Change your strings and drum heads ahead of time.  Make sure they are stretched accordingly and tune regularly. 

5.  Don’t use gear you are not familiar with.

6.  Make sure the session is saved after every take and the project is backed up.  At Real-2-Reel Productions we do that for you.

7.  Playback should occur at comfortable volumes to prevent ear fatigue.

8.  Record tracks clean (or a parallel track with effects.  Once the effect is printed, it can’t be modified).

9.  Take a mix home after every session and review it for errors.  Listen to the mix in the car and on you home stereo to get a better perspective.  Headphones can also be helpful.

10.  Listen to the advice from the engineer, they usually have much more experience than you.  For example, I often find that the singer may want the vocals too hot in the mix.  This mistake is obvious to the engineer but will take a few sessions for the vocalist to realize this.