First Recording Session
Copyright 2007 by
Jeff Wheaton, Blue
Used by Permission.
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You've finally reached the point where you are ready to enter a real studio and
lay down your music. It sounds easy, right?
Most musicians get a real
eye-opening experience the first time they work with a professional studio.
Although an experienced producer and engineer can ease the transition for
inexperienced musicians, there are still many things to overcome.
What can you do to streamline the session and get the most of
The more prepared you are the first time you enter a professional
studio, the more productive the session will be, the more confidence you'll
gain, and the more impressed the studio staff will be with your session. Not to
mention how much money you'll save! Practice your craft, know your stuff, and be
ready to rock the socks off of the engineers!
- Tempo. Learn about tempo. Decide the right tempo for your
songs. Practice your songs at that tempo. Get a metronome and practice along
with it. Learn to feel when you are speeding up or slowing down so that you can
naturally stay on tempo. Most professional engineers will recommend, if not
demand, that you record to a click track. If you've never practiced with a
metronome or listened to a click track in the headphones, your first experience
may be a bit unnerving. Be ready.
- Song Beginnings and Endings. Determine ahead of time how
your songs will start and end. Will the song start with the entire band, or with
one or two instruments? Will the song end abruptly, have a big crash bang boom
finish, or fade out? Fade outs can be handled during mix-down, but practice
starting and ending your songs before getting in the studio.
- Headphones. If you've never played with headphones, get
used to it in advance of your session. While a pro studio can provide each
member of your band with a custom mix, hearing yourself for the first time in
headphones can throw you off. Your guitar may sound too dry, or the drums may
sound too boxy. All of these things can be tweaked, but you don't want to waste
valuable time trying to acclimate your hearing to a foreign sound. While you are
adjusting to wearing headphones, try to get accustomed to keeping the volume in
the headphones turned down. Loud headphones will bleed into the microphone and
cause unwanted noise in the mix.
- Guitar Tones. Try to have an idea of the type of guitar
tones you want for each song. Don't worry too much about special effects.
Instead, focus on the overall tone. Do you want a bright, clean sound, or a fat
crunchy wall of heavy distortion? Practice your songs with those sounds. Be open
to ideas from the producer. Again, the first time you hear your guitar through
headphones may surprise you, so if possible, try to achieve this before you
enter the studio. If you absolutely need tons of effects in your sound to
inspire your playing, talk to the engineer about how to get those effects
through your headphones without recording them. Most professionals do not want
to be committed to a certain effect during tracking; they would rather have the
option of trying different effects at mix-down to get the optimal sound for your
- Know Your Parts. Know your part to every song. Be able to
play it without relying on the rest of the band. Be ready to play your part over
and over and over and over until it is perfect. Drummers must really be
prepared, since they lay the foundation for the rest of the musicians. Although
most studios have the ability to record scratch tracks of the entire band
together while keeping the drum tracks for the final mix, it makes the process
much easier if the drummer really knows each song - from the intro to the
arrangement, breaks, solos and ending, and can record the entire song without
the band. This allows the other musicians to relax, and limits the amount of
bleedover that may occur on drum mics from other ambient scratch recordings.
Jeff Wheaton has been playing guitar, writing, performing and recording
for over 20 years. He currently produces music on his independent label,
Stream Records. You can e-mail him at
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