10 Things: Be The Best

Be The Best: 10 Things to do before you get to the studio

by Devlin Miles

  1. Practice your instrument – if you are planning on recording your own guitar parts or singing your lead/background tracks, you must practice and polish your tune with a metronome playing the expected tempo.
  2. Record roughs and find the problem parts of your song – what sticks out as a sore thumb in the recording will be, more than likely, a problem in the studio.  Take the time and fix it or perfect it before you get to the studio
  3. Make choices – in the studio I have been asked to make things 4/4 timing even if it is a vocal part that takes the song out of time for a minute.  In the past, I have bent to others wishes, not realizing that they are the unique parts of the song.  Know when you are making a choice to break form and stick to it, as it may be a unique choice of yours.  Also recognize when it is an error you have gotten used to and really should be addressed before studio time.
  4. Decide on tempos and keys whenever possible before getting to the studio, sometimes you might edit this a bit when you are in the studio, but have a good idea of the tempo you want, there is nothing worse than speeding a tune up so much that when you go to do vocals it has completely changed your phrasing and vocal inflections.
  5. Charts and Lyrics written out – Have the charts done and lyrics typed out and bring a copy for every musician, even if you sent them the material over the Internet.  There is always one person who forgets to bring their notes.  Best to be prepared.  Also if you don’t know how to write charts- find someone who can, it will save you aggravation in the studio and make notes right then when you change something on the fly or later you will be trying to figure out how they played that.
  6. Find the right musicians for your project– if you are recording a rock album, don’t hire a folk musician and vice versa.  We all have our strengths as musicians and even though someone might be an excellent player in their genre, they may not be versed in your genre.  Don’t be afraid to audition people- the musician may not be honest with you, that they are not the right person for the job.  Know what you want and find those that can help you deliver your product
  7. Write great songs – don’t stop when the song is ok and you know the bridge needs work, write another bridge.  Make the song as strong as possible and test them out on people – perform them live or pop into an open mic and try out new material.  Hey Jerry Seinfeld does this all the time to try out new material.  Remember if it is a great song, people will be excited to be a part of it.
  8. Be selective – don’t just write 12 songs and say we are ready to record an album, keep writing until you have great songs.  You’ll know when you are ready to record when you have gotten a great reaction from the live crowds and they are begging for a recording of the new stuff or when you are bursting at the seams to share them.  You also don’t have to record every song you write.  Make every track count!  Ask yourself –would a record company back this song?  You are the record company.
  9. Get a reference – find songs that have the feel and vibe you are going for – sure we are all unique in our own way, but we are also under the influence of others and it will be important to the others on the project to help bring what is in your head out.  People cannot read your mind and it is better to have a reference to bring people to your school of thought.
  10. Be organized – we all have our strengths and some people are inherently more organized than others, but it is crucial to the timeline of your project for you to be orderly.  Have each song in it’s own slip folder, so you can quickly reference it as you go along and make production notes every time you listen back, so you don’t forget.  When you are recording a whole album it is important to have every song have it’s own identity. Yes, tracks might have some similarity, but every song shouldn’t sound like the next.  If they are sounding similar the problem might be in the melody or in the chord structures, in which case you are not ready to record yet.  (See also Get It Together: 10 Things Indie Artists should bring to the studio)

Be The Best  PDF