Whether you are producing your next album release in the comfort of your own home or booking out time at a pro studio, nothing could be more important than making sure that you are ready to give your best performance possible once you’re rolling (in the red). Every recording project is different and every artist has a unique identity, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t common mistakes that endanger every recording project. As you prepare to record your next release, make sure to avoid these pitfalls so nothing gets between you and creating the best record possible.
Lack of Preparation
This is probably the single most common pitfall for musicians and artists when recording a song. It is vital that everyone show up prepared to create an inspiring performance of the song. Details like lyrics, arrangement, chords, parts, etc should be well-rehearsed so you can use the studio environment to vibe and listen to each other. Being tuned in to the rest of the performers is difficult when you’re concentrating on trying to remember whether the next chord is a C#minor or a Bsus.
“Fixing it in the Mix”
You may have heard it said that “you can’t polish a turd”. Well, the same rings true when you are in the studio. That it’s why it is absolutely necessary to get the best sound possible starting from the source (voice, instrument, etc). A great guitar sound starts at the instrument itself, so make sure it is in tune and ready to rock. For the singer this means warming up, selecting a microphone that fits there voice and song style, and positioning it correctly. Even as far as technology has come… there is no plug-in that exists that can turn an uninspiring performance into an inspiring one.
Using Unreliable or Unmaintained Gear
Nothing can kill momentum in a recording session like watching your guitar player try to figure out which of the 47 cables on his pedalboard has shorted out. In addition to wasting time (see previous tip), unreliable gear can negatively affect the quality of everyone’s performance not to mention add an extra unnecessary layer of stress to your time in the tracking room. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that everyone double-checks their equipment before the session to ensure that it is fully functioning. All guitars should be restrung and tuned so they can be stable for the session. Drum heads should be fresh. Cables should be checked and rechecked to make sure they pass signal. Finally, wherever possible it is HIGHLY recommended you bring backups of any equipment that you can to ensure that the session keeps on moving along.
Bringing Your Ego
If you’ve chosen the right team to come together and help you record your project, it means everyone in the room with you is going to be working together to create the best version of the song possible. Often this means that different people on the session – especially the producer – will be giving creative direction to try to coax everyone’s best performance out of them. It is hugely important that everyone has the humility to be able to listen to these creative opinions and incorporate them into their performance if possible. No one wants to see a drummer throwing a tantrum after being told that his epic quarter note triplet fill might not be the best choice for this pop track. Join together with your team to create the best creative work possible.
Chasing the “Perfect” Take
Say it with me… “It’s NEVER going to be perfect – it’s just going to be done”. That may sound uninspiring at first, but trust me when I say that the level of inspiration and authenticity can really take a nosedive when performers start chasing whatever ideal of “perfect take” exists in their mind. Not only can trying again and again at the same section of a song take up a TON of time in the studio, but it can also often leave everyone involved feeling frustrated, deflated, and exhausted. If you don’t nail it in the first 3 or so passes, my advice is that you should move on and try it again later with fresh ears.
In most cases, you’re going to want to record to a click track. Although some may say that this is a matter of preference, the fact of the matter is that nearly every song that you hear in popular music genres has been recorded to a click track – even if the song contains tempo changes. Recording to a metronome at a consistent tempo is important for many reasons. Firstly, it will make the editing process a lot easier. Punching in and out of sections and using alternate takes to ensure that you can arrive at the best possible performance is only practical when all of the recorded audio is rhythmically consistent. Additionally, it will give your song more of a professional feel. Most people can feel when a song speeds up and slows down – and while some tempo changes can feel natural, more often than not nonintentional changes in temp will give your song an amateurish feel. Finally, recording your song to the grid will also give you the flexibility to add in some more programmed post-production elements if that is appropriate for the sound you’re envisioning. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, using a click track ensures that your performance is consistent with the way that you have rehearsed it. It is likely that the energy of the studio may cause you or your band to speed up and perform the song at an unnaturally fast tempo without the structure that a click track provides. Record your song the way you wrote it by playing it at the right tempo.
Forgetting Why You’re There in the First Place
Let’s face it, oging into the studio can be distracting. Easy to focus on details and arrangements yadda yadd and forgetitng the point is to create something beautiful. Everything weve talked about should serve that goal. As long as everyone in the room is working toward that same end youll be goood to go.
Finally, once you’re done prepping the session, tuning the guitar, and getting all the levels right… let go and just make music. Don’t let the logistical details of recording get in the way of making your art. You have music to share with the world, so get it out there!