Something that is most often overlooked by bands coming into the studio for the first time is preparation. Having a solid game plan before you step foot into a recording studio will save you money, time, and most importantly, your sanity! Here are a few steps to help you be ready the next time you go to record an album!
Whether you’re a solo artist or a 9 piece band, always go in to the studio with a plan! Unless you have an unlimited budget or are just spending money to have fun, putting together a plan of attack will help you stay on track and allow for more creative freedom. Sit down a make a list of the songs you would like to record. Next, list out which instruments you would like featured on each song. Are there harmony vocals? What about instrument solos? Having songs mapped out and ready gives you a roadmap to success. This also leaves you the ability to make easy adjustments on the fly. Want to extend a solo? Easy! Maybe you want to cut the intro out after listening to it? Simple! If you walk in to the studio without a vision for the structure of your songs, you will spend your time re-writing, adjusting tempo, song structure, etc. instead of spending that time being creative with tones.
There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a session only to be told you need to put more money down to continue. Having a realistic view of the cost and keeping yourself on track can be difficult, but it will help you in the long run. While this will also depend on the pricing the studio has set, you have control over how much money you invest into your project. First, give yourself a realistic budget. If you have put your practice and planning in place, the cost should be lessened considerably. Having to re-record parts over and over because the vocalist wants to “try some harmonies” or the lead guitarist, “isn’t happy with the solo” can lead to hours and dollars wasted. To be fair, a little wiggle room is nice for those “let try something new moments” but don’t get carried away. Also, know when to walk away from parts! If you’ve tried to hit something three of four times, but still can’t get it, walk away. Try again another day. Remember to also leave budget for mastering and distribution if you decide to have physical copies for release. It is not uncommon to budget $6000-$10,000 for the whole process. Sometimes upwards of $30,000! Be aware of the costs the studio you decide to go with has for the entire process.
Speaking of costs and budget, we should talk about shopping for a studio. While we all want to work and record in the Abbey Roads and Blackbird Studios in the world, it likely isn’t cost effective or reasonable for your project. It may be on your bucket list for the future, but you should keep your focus on where you are in skill and budget. No amount of gear or iconic space will make you sound like a musical god, only you can do that. So, what should you look for in a studio then? First, I would look for the “vibe”. How does the studio and those that run it make you feel? Are you comfortable with the space? Does the engineer make you feel at ease? Do they take the time explain their services? Are they friendly? Remember, you are basically baring your soul, making yourself vulnerable, expressing emotion while creating art. If you don’t feel comfortable in the space or with the people, don’t do it! The engineer should be invested in your music as well, doing what they can to make it the best it can be. Second, ask around to other artists you like and trust in your area. Where have they gone and what were their experiences? While you should always trust your gut, getting reviews from peers can go a long way to helping you make an informed decision. While not all studios starting will have a huge repertoire, ask them if there is anything they have done recently you can listen to. Last, you should consider the cost. Different studios will charge depending on their overhead business costs and skill level. Does that mean the most expensive is the best? Not necessarily, and neither will the cheapest be the worst. Even if a studio may seem out of your budget, talk to them about what you have in mind. A lot of engineers will do their best to work with you, especially if they like your music. Be honest, up front, and professional. Coming across like a “edgy artist” usually won’t net you anything.
In the end, its your project so make the most of your time creating music!