How to have a Stellar Recording Studio Experience

Recording studios at USC during GRAMMY Camp.

Recording studios at USC during GRAMMY Camp.

Having a recording session go smoothly results in a great sounding record and a great experience. A bad recording experience can be a hectic nightmare that could cause you to lose valuable time and money. On the artist’s end, there are a few things you can do to make your recording experience a rewarding, fun time that results in some great tracks.

Be prepared

This should go without saying, but it needs to be said. Have all of your lyric sheets, have all of your lead sheets and music written out, extra picks, extra strings, extra cables, the whole nine yards. You don’t want your session held up because you pop a string or a cable stops working. Studios will sometimes have some of those items on hand, but don’t count on them having extras lying around. Plus, you know for a fact that your own equipment is functional.

Be sure to set aside practice time in the weeks leading up to your session to make sure that you have all of your songs worked out and you know them backwards and forwards. Being well versed in your own songs will also help your comfort level when it comes time to record.

Have realistic expectations

Don’t put too much on your plate. Recording 10 complete songs in 6 hours might sound doable in your head, especially if some are more simple tracks, but once you start tracking, one song might take up 3 hours of your time. During your preparation stage, work out what songs will be the easiest and which songs will be more of a challenge, and pick out a good selection proportional to your booked studio time.

Recording times vary depending on the studio, the engineer, and their equipment. I’ve personally recorded 3 tracks with a small group in 3 hours, but I’ve also spent 6 hours tracking one song. 2-3 songs in a 3 hour block is usually pretty doable for semi-pro/advanced engineers, but be sure to communicate your wants and needs with the engineer to make sure they’re comfortable with the work you want to do together.

Ask questions, stay informed

Don’t know why your drum kit has so many mics? Want an estimate on how long setup will take? Want to know the advantages of double tracking your guitar with a DI box and an amplifier? Ask your engineer! Most engineers won’t mind a quick explanation of what they’re doing to make you feel more comfortable. They’ll also appreciate an artist who wants to be actively involved in the recording process.

Eva Frishberg listens to her last guitar take at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

Eva Frishberg listens to her last guitar take at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

Speak up

If something isn’t working out for you, let the engineer know so that it can be corrected. If you have a producer present, let them know if one part is giving you a particularly hard time so that they can work with you to figure out how to fix it. If you hear something that doesn’t quite feel right, don’t just gloss over it, speak out so that it can be addressed and corrected.

Have fun

Wrapping up a studio session and being able to hear your hard work pay off is very rewarding and you should be proud of yourself for taking the step to record your music! You work hard on your music, and having some recorded content to show for your work is exhilarating. Approach your studio session with some air of seriousness, but try not to let yourself get bogged down with details and worrying about getting it all right. You can have fun in the studio between songs to let yourself relax and keep the atmosphere light. Allow yourself time for breaks to stay relaxed and focused.

USC recording studios during GRAMMY Camp.

USC recording studios during GRAMMY Camp.

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4 Tips for Artists Managing their own Facebook Pages

Facebook Blur

When young artists are just starting out, many don’t have a team or the money to hire someone to manage their social media, so the task of managing that online presence often falls to the artist. This isn’t a bad thing; it just means that the artist has to be aware of how to use social media to best engage their fans. Here are some tips to making your Facebook page really shine and reach as many of your fans as possible.

Post Great Photos
Photo posts engage Facebook users more than any other kind of post, and users also share more photos than any other kind of post. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you want a lot of fan interaction on your page, you should be sharing photos the most. If you have a gig coming up, share a flyer for the event. Get a friend or part of your crew to take a photo of you while you’re performing to post later. Post photos of yourself working on music to fill the lull that a page can fall into between music releases. You don’t even have to be an amazing photographer, and there are some great resources out there to help you take the best photos that you can. Instagram is a fantastic tool for creating great looking photos, and there are plenty of good basic phone photography tutorials out there.

Having a great collection of photos on Instagram makes your page look active and colorful.

Having a great collection of photos on Instagram makes your page look active and colorful.

Limit Personal Posting from Artist Page
Some things are better left on your personal page. If you are crossposting everything from your personal Facebook page, you may want to pay closer attention to what you’re saying. The most recent example I can think of is an artist posted a long status that involved a story about witnessing a late night fight in a Waffle House. Was it a funny personal anecdote? Sure. Was it fitting with their brand and appropriate for their artist page? Not so much. If there were a Venn diagram made of your personal posts and your professional posts, there would be a very small overlap in the middle. Just like in a good movie where every shot should progress the story, every post you make to your professional page should move you forward and relate to your music.

Master the Business Casual Tone
While personal posts to a professional page should be limited, that doesn’t mean that every post has to feel stiff and formal. Correct spelling, grammar, working links, and limited use of emoticons can really go a long way in making the words on your page appear more professional. When interacting directly with fans, you want to be friendly and informative, but not overly casual or “robotic.” Every interaction you have with your fans has the potential to be a business transaction down the road, so you should always strive to put your best foot forward.

Fill Out Your “About” Tab
It can be easy to neglect a simple bio, but by filling our your About tab, you give your fans a landing page with your basic information, should they ever need or want to find it. You can be making great posts, but if your About tab is completely devoid of content, your fans will have to piece together your story from your posts. Having a bio on file is good anyway, because you can use in it in your press kit and press releases. The task can seem daunting, because while we all like talking about ourselves, it can be harder to put it into words. To get around that, see if you can recruit a friend or a member of your crew to sit down with you to piece together a bio. You tell your friend what you want included, and your friend can write it all down for you to break down that “writing about yourself” barrier. UndercoverRecruiter has a great breakdown of how to write a good bio for your page.

Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, and it is also a powerful tool for your music career. Having a polished, professional Facebook page is a big first step to rounding our your artist branding. Half of the battle is filling our your artist info, and after that, it will just take some time to figure out what to post and how to post it. Keeping a professional but light tone and posting great visual content helps your page retain current fans and attract new ones.

Value Your Work and Others Will Too

Edgehill Rocks - Taken by Erin Levins

Artists, musical or otherwise, are often told they have a gift, a calling, a muse. Sometimes that sentiment is followed up with a “do you think you could play a free show? It’ll be great exposure” or “can you design a poster for me? I can’t pay you but I just love your work.” It can be easy to want to be “the good guy” and help a friend out, but artists of the world, if your skill is clearly so valuable to others, don’t you think you should get something out of it other than “exposure”?

It can be difficult for artists to put a price tag on something that they feel comes naturally or is just plain fun. They can feel like since they love doing their art so much, that asking to be paid for it isn’t fair or right. That’s one of the first hurdles to get past when one wants to start exploiting their art, or when they start to reach a larger audience.

One thing that artists can feel and express is that they’re just happy for the exposure, and to an extent, doing jobs or giving music away can help you reach the right audience. People that are very into the artistic side of music creation can feel this way, but there has to be a balance with the love to create and the need to be compensated for your skillset and time. Remember: when you play a show or sell a track, you’re not just being paid for your current time and effort; you’re being paid for all of the time and effort you have put into honing your skillset.

An hour-long gig at a venue isn’t just paying you for your time that night. They’re also paying you for the hours you spent at music lessons to master your instrument, the cost of your instrument itself, practice time, and the time you spent practicing for this show.

A single that you sell isn’t just that track, it’s the computer you recorded, mixed and mastered it on, it’s the time you spent learning your DAW, it’s the hours you spent tweaking settings on a synth or nudging your notes up and down a few cents in Melodyne to make a polished sounding record. It’s your nights of staying up until 3 a.m. getting that perfect vocal take.

Taking a confident stance on your work having value on social media can go a long way too. Try not to degrade or tear down your work to make yourself seem humble or unassuming. You work hard for your art, and artists will always be their own worst critics, but presenting your work in a favorable light to others is important. If you post a link to a video with the introduction of “hey guys, check out my new track, it’s not the best, but I hope you like it” doesn’t really make others want to look at it. You don’t have to oversell or be arrogant, but you shouldn’t degrade your product right off the bat. You wouldn’t buy a TV if the first thing the salesman said to you was “there’s this TV right here, it’s not the best but I hope you like it,” would you?

Your time and particular skill set have inherent value, and you have to feel that for your works. Even if your endgame isn’t to be rich or famous, having the mindset of “What I do has value. My time is valuable. My art is valuable.” is one of the first steps you have to take to ensure that you won’t be taken advantage of. If you value your work, or even just pretend to, it will be easier for other people to see that value.