For most of us, going for the first time in recording studio is like a dream come true. It is one of the stepping stones in the life of a music producer, mix engineer or, in general, an artist.
Being in a professional recording studio inspires creative ideas, systematic workflow and access to quality recording studio gear and instruments. Also, it helps to refine your recordings and gives a polished finish to the final product.
But, before you go and book your slot in a professional recording studio, taking care of a few things can improve your experience.
Recording studio tips for first timers
Here are fifteen essential tips if it is your first time in recording studio.
1) Take a tour of Recording Studio
One of the most important things to do before booking a slot in the recording studio is to examine the place. For this, you can ask for a studio tour, which will help you get familiar with the overall environment & inspect the condition of recording gear and instruments.
Taking a tour of the studio will ensure that you make yourself familiar with the studio. Get to know the studio gear, instruments, recording booth, and the main mixing desk.
Also, check out the DAW that the respective studio is using. A common preference for DAW in a professional studio environment is mostly Pro Tools. Nonetheless, you can operate the DAW of your choice.
If you are going to record with a band, check the number of artists allowed in a studio. And if this is not specified, then take a rough estimate yourself.
The goal of this point is to carefully analyze multiple professional recording studios and pick the best one depending upon:
2) Prepare song sketches
One of the best practices to squeeze maximum output from your studio session is to create song sketches.
A song sketch is a part of the creative songwriting process that involves deciding song structures and arrangements.
Creating different song sketches is a great way to plan song arrangements. You can record song sections in the studio and arrange them per your sketches.
Save your crucial time by planning all the possible song arrangements you have in mind by creating different song sketches.
Later, when you are in the studio, you can quickly decide on the best form of your song.
3) Record scratch ideas
Recording scratch ideas before your studio session boost your creative process. Hundreds of famous artists do this step ahead of the recording studio sessions.
This step will be the birth of your new song or at least give you an idea of how you want your music to sound. You may also want to decide the emotion of your song and chord progressions.
Opening your DAW and stressing about the song details is not mandatory. Pick up any recording device, preferably a mobile phone, and start recording. It is as simple as that. Focus more on the creative side than the technical aspects of the production.
Grab your mobile phone’s microphone and record some scratch melodies and chord progressions or do some beatboxing.
Recording scratch song ideas like vocals or instruments will keep you motivated & anxiety-free ahead of your studio session.
4) Project Discussion with record engineer
Before your studio session, discussing your creative workflow, project ideas, plans, and expectations with your record producer, music producer, or co-artist is best.
If the two of you are not synced up, then the track will not come as a cohesive piece of work. Instead, it will sound multi-dimensional.
Discuss everything you need to discuss, starting with song emotion, structure, arrangement, sections, etc. Don’t shy away from opening up your project and setting the expectations.
Before heading to the studio, ensure you are on the same page as your record producer.
5) Pre-studio activities
Another thing to keep in mind if it is your first time going to a recording studio is the pre-activities. Or, in simple words, what you need to do before your studio slot starts.
As you are paying for your time in the studio, it is best to get the most out of your studio sessions. Let’s see a few essential studio pre-activities that you can follow.
- Do the vocal warmup, especially if you spend most time recording vocals.
- For instrumentalists, check if the studio has your preferred instrument; if not, bring one.
- If you have a project sketch on your laptop, carry it on a hard drive or take the device to the recording studio.
6) Ensure that the instruments are in proper shape
Taking your instruments to the studio is fun as they give you immense confidence while performing. Moreover, playing an instrument you have spent hours practicing during studio sessions is highly satisfying.
However, bad condition of your instruments can generate a lot of noise pickups in the recordings. For this, make sure your instruments are in good condition.
Since studio microphones are super sensitive to sound waves, ensure your instruments do not make any extra noise while playing.
For example, check your guitar strings; if they have seen better days, replace them before your studio session.
7) Solo vs Band performances
Another thing to consider is whether you are performing solo or are an active band member.
Recording with a band requires you to focus on different aspects like:
- band suggestions,
- performing as a single unit,
- respecting individual ideas,
- Integrity with other members.
However, when you are all by yourself, you need to analyze the style you are pursuing critically and whether you are deviating from it. The key here is to be self-aware while in a recording studio.
8) Adapt as per the studio session
In the studio, things will not go as 100% as you may have planned. There may be certain cases when you might get late, be or not be in the best possible singing or recording state. These situations are inevitable and can arise out of nowhere. Despite these external factors and chaos, it is best to try to find new ideas and inspirations.
Therefore, it is best to stay adaptable to save time and stay efficient during your studio session. This will help you to get out of your head and be present in the moment.
Furthermore, discuss the next steps you can take in this situation with your record producer, mix engineer, or band members.
9) Be open to changes
It is best to approach the recording studio with an open mind. This becomes important, especially when it’s your first time in a recording studio. You may have different plans but act as per the reality and need of the hour.
Listen to your record producer or mix engineer, as they are much more experienced in suggesting the best recording and production techniques. If you are all by yourself, listen to your gut feeling or use ideas you may have before the recording studio sessions.
So, record in a different way, maybe, a higher or lower pitch, try new chord progression, instruments, or song emotions.
There are a lot of things that can pop into your mind during the recording session. My advice is to be brave enough to break the rules and try something out of your plans.
10) Analyse yourself
In flashy studios, it is typical to get swayed away by quality studio gear, dazzling synths, and comfortable furniture. Everything looks perfect as you might have dreamt or even better than that.
So, how do you get yourself to focus on your performance amidst a paradise?
A quick piece of advice here is that if you get distracted quite often, then take a break to declutter your mind. Taking a break allows you to introspect your performance and return to a suitable space of mind.
Discuss your part with other members if you are performing with a band. Adapt per band requirements and see what the entire band wants from your performance. Remember that in a band, it is all about team preference and less about individual choice.
Ask for constant feedback from your band members or record producer, especially if it is your first time in a recording studio.
11) Change the audio mix
Communicating efficiently with record producers, tracking, or mixing engineer is vital to squeeze maximum productivity from studio hours.
It is best to adjust the audio mix feeding into your headphones when you are in recording sessions. Look at your recording levels, and adjust the reverbs, delays, and other mixing effects that you may have inserted in the audio chain.
After each recording, suggest what you would like more in the audio mix. Give your record producer constant feedback, and do not forget to listen back.
If it is your first time in recording studio, experiment with recording with dry and wet signals. A wet signal means that the audio being recorded is fed into an effects chain like reverb, delays, compressions, etc. A dry signal, however, means that you record the audio without applying any effects.
Additionally, do not hesitate to share your effects chain for mixing either vocals or instruments. This way, the mix engineer can tweak certain elements to give a more refined and polished sound.
12) Keep an eye on the clock
While you are busy recording audio or mixing tracks and making your ideas come to life, remember that the clock is ticking. Especially if it is your first time in recording studio, having a proper plan helps.
For first-timers, I recommend planning everything you’d like to accomplish before stepping into the studio—Eg, recording vocals, backing melodies, instruments, band performances, or song ideas. Additionally, discuss it with your studio companion, e.g., a friend, fellow artist, or record producer.
Also, practice your art several times before the booked studio slot, like singing or playing instruments. It may help you get great recordings in fewer takes, saving your time in the studio.
Whatever it is that you would like to get done in a particular studio session, pen it down and try to get it complete. It is one of the best ways to track progress and stay efficient with your time.
13) Breaks are a must!
You must take breaks during a long studio recording or mixing sessions. Regular breaks after a long studio recording keep you productive and focused.
Breaks from recording and studio hours also keep you away from burning out your creative ideas, playing instruments and singing capacity.
Studies show that taking frequent breaks keeps you stress-free and helps to focus and inspire creative ideas. So, why not get up and talk a walk around.
Additionally, you can also try out the famous Pomodoro time management technique. It helps you stay focused and ignore distractions. After working for 25 minutes, you can take a 5-minute break; this is the core principle of Pomodoro.
14) Keep reference tracks
Reference tracks are a great way to ignite your creative ideas. These tracks can heavily inspire the mood of your song.
It also helps your record producer get the idea for your new project because sometimes reference tracks can speak louder than words.
Don’t shy away from implementing references into your vocal or instrument recordings, as even great artists always use references.
15) Don’t stress too much
Last but not least, do not rush into things. Stay calm and enjoy the process.
It is your first time in a professional recording environment, and things will sometimes fall apart. Besides those few dull moments, try to gain as much knowledge, productivity and experience from your first visit to the studio.
Furthermore, take notes of what you could have done better and implement those pitfalls into your studio sessions. You will make fewer mistakes as you spend more time in the studio.
As long as you are getting things done in the studio, you are good to go. Remember that good things take time to build. Similarly, your creative ideas will come together with time.
All in all, these were the fifteen tips I would give to you if it is your first time in recording studio.
More than anything, enjoy the process and the creative flow of the studio as not everyone gets to be there.