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  • Writer's pictureBen Gibbons

How To Prepare For A Recording Studio Session

So, you’ve written a killer song. That’s awesome! But, unfortunately, no one’s going to come to your bedroom to hear you play it live. It’s time to lay it down professionally, allow the song to become the best version of itself, and get it ready for release!

Research Local Studios

If you’re not familiar with high-end audio equipment, that’s absolutely fine - all you really need to do is listen to a few tracks from each studio and pick the one that you think best fits your sound. If you do know a bit about audio equipment, most studios also have this information available on their websites. Producers and engineers are generally capable of working with a range of genres and styles, but picking somewhere that specialises in your genre will allow the engineer to trust their instincts and make the most of their years of experience!

“Think about your studio session as your most important gig to date”

Ben Gibbons - Musician and Producer

You’ve found a studio that suits your sound? Now, time for the boring bit... practice, practice, practice! It’s best to think about your studio session as your most important gig to date - a gig that will forever dictate the way your song sounds to the rest of the world. You really want to be proud of the performance you give, and the only way to do that consistently is with meticulous practice. Also, it’s common for engineers to charge by the hour, and you really don’t want your studio time to become an overpriced practice session. There are a few things in studios that can throw you off on the day, the room will be acoustically treated which can make your voice/instrument sound different, or the engineer might want you to try the part on a new instrument altogether! Practice will make you feel a lot more comfortable despite everything else that’s going on.

Communication Is Key

Did I mention that Audio Engineers are people too? I know, it’s crazy --- but true! They are able to make the song appear in real life as it does in your head, but only if you are able to articulate what it is you want. Get a playlist of reference tracks together, sit there with some headphones on, and really think about what it is that makes this song great, how it’s similar to your track, and also how it’s not. Is it the drums? What about the drums - the way the sound, or the beat that they’re playing? You don’t need to know technical terms and musical jargon - if you know what you like, use any descriptive words that come to mind and I’m sure you’ll get the point across.

“It’s always helpful when clients send through references, inspirations and demos in advance; I can really immerse myself in the feeling of the track, which tends to help things flow once we get in the studio”

Solomon Crook - Artist and Producer

“It’s really tough working with bands that don’t communicate well. There’s no such thing as a bad idea, and while you can sit there for hours going back and forth about whether or not something will work, the only way to know for sure is to give it a try! If you don’t foster an open environment, you might just miss out on the best ideas from your most introverted bandmate.”

Toby Lloyd - Music Producer (Tiny Triumph)

Record A Guide Track

Now’s a good time to pick a song tempo (measured in Beats Per Minute) and record a guide track. A guide-track usually just consists of a single-take singing and playing the song on guitar or piano, played to the tempo that you have set. This can be as simple as recording on your smartphone whilst listening to a metronome in your headphones. There’s a good chance your drummer (if you’re using live drums) will be up first to record, and drummers are accustomed to taking cues from other bandmates for structure and dynamics.

A guide track will really help them out in that regard. Now’s also the time to nail down the structure of your song - which sections go where, and how much energy you put into each bit. It may be that when you get in the studio, your producer will have an idea for the structure and you’ll end up recording another guide track, but it certainly can’t hurt to have something ready to go when you arrive!

Give Your Instrument(s) Some TLC

The other side of the practice is preparation. Particularly if you are an instrumentalist, give your instrument(s) some TLC before heading into the studio. New guitar strings and drum heads are the bare minimum, but now’s as good a time as any to get your instrument set up correctly, by a professional if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Often times studio time is spent dealing with buzzes and other nasty sounds that are likely avoidable by simply getting your instrument prepared in advance.

"Make sure the drummer has good drum heads and get your guitar serviced!"

Toby Lloyd - Music Producer (Tiny Triumph)

Remember, You’re #1

You walk into the studio and (hopefully) it looks and feels really fun and inspiring! This is by design, to make you feel like you’re #1, because, well, you are! However, if there’s something you don’t like, it’s always totally appropriate (and encouraged) to say something to the engineer. If the engineer and the studio assistant are standing there gawking at you while you sing, making you uncomfortable, tell them! Is there’s a light shining in your face? Is it too hot? If anything other than the music is on your mind, it’s a good idea to get it sorted out ASAP.

Your engineer will also create a custom headphone mix for you to listen to as you play, and it can make or break a performance. If you don’t like how things sound in your headphones, it’s well worth spending the time asking your engineer to turn certain elements up or down until the balance is just right.

"Remember to take breaks. Clear the ears, clear your head, loosen up yer limbs."

Now, no one likes to be bossed around, so it’s always good to be polite and patient, but there’s certainly no need to be shy. You are the artist, and the engineer is there to help your vision come to life - they want to make a killer track just as much as you do, and great performances come from people that are comfortable and present in that moment. A full stomach, a good night’s sleep, and early arrival at the studio will all help you to feel relaxed and in control.

About Ben

Ben Gibbons is a musician/producer that operates a home studio in Poneke, NZ. Having graduated from the New Zealand School of Music in 2018, Ben has been very active in the NZ music scene with his band DOONS and solo project Benji's Palace. Ben is also one of our Audio-specialist salespeople here at Rubber Monkey!


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