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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