Part I: About me and my studio.
An initial deposit is required to book the first session. This deposit will serve to book the days you want and lock the rates in (that way, if my rates do go up before we start working together, you’ll still benefit from the old rates).
I like to be accessible to everyone, and I often do sales, so keep your eye out! I am a very reasonable person, but know that if you want me to record, mix and master your band’s 12 songs for $150…
Be realistic. Recording music well takes time and once a band leaves the studio there is still a lot of time consuming work to be done before the material is ready.
Now, on to me, and my role in the studio. I am a french person, I am very critical and I am also somewhat of a perfectionist (this is why I’m paid!) so I tend to ask for takes to be done and re-done until I’m satisfied (or you tell me that you want to move on). My goal (and the one I think should be yours as well) is to make the best sounding EP/LP or whatever it is you’re doing and that starts with the performance. If everything is played poorly, regardless of the mixing engineer, this will be the result:
So, understand that the amount of time required to record your songs is entirely up to you, but if you decide to go for speed instead of quality, remember this simple rule: garbage in, garbage out.
As a musician and composer I can also help you add new layers to your music with harmonies, leads, or textures with electronic or orchestral ideas. Of course this only applies to certain bands that are looking for that kind of collaboration, my intent isn’t to mess with your music!
After the recording is done, I move on to the mixing stage. While you are more than welcome to come check out the mix in the studio and give me as many notes as you want (within reason) concerning the mix, you can’t attend mixing sessions.
After that, I take care of the mastering process, which includes the audio pre-mastering, track sequencing, adding the text info to your tracks and making a redbook CD and/or a DDP image. You can attend mastering sessions.
Part II: How to prepare for the studio
This might be painful.
Let me first preface this by saying that:
- I am not trying to sound pedantic or patronizing, I’m only trying to help save you a bit of money because the better you prepare, the more efficient you’ll be in the studio, and I guarantee you, the better the end product will be.
- I take music, including yours, seriously, and I absolutely do not believe that there’s any kind of music that can benefit from poor performances.
- All I’m giving you is advice, you are more than welcome to follow none of it.
Step 1: Practice.
Okay, that seems like an obvious one, but I can’t stress this enough, you need to have a comprehensive practice routine. Ideally, you all need to be able to hear clearly what everyone else is playing. For guitar players, that means turning the gain knob down a bit, getting a noise gate and also practicing just with the other guitar/bass players to make sure that they’re playing the same notes (at the same time). I can’t begin to tell you how many times this happens in the studio, everyone unknowingly playing the same riff differently.
Another thing you need to remember when practicing is that if you can’t play it slow, you can’t play it fast! There are NO exceptions (okay, fair enough, there probably are a few exceptions, but in all honesty, you’re most likely not part of the exceptions). Practice your songs at slower tempo first, you’ll understand the rhythmic intricacies better and you’ll be a lot tighter.
When practicing individually (and if you can, during band practice), you should always use a metronome (there are apps for that), a click track is essential for today’s music standards.
All (metal) drummers should watch Flo Mounier – 5 Tips To Improve Your Metal Drumming, it’s very insightful and has great advice.
Step 2: Writing your songs down.
Oh come on! It’s not that hard, and in this day and age it’s almost criminally negligent not to do it! Use a notation software, there are many software options out there, my personal favorite being guitar pro, it’s insanely easy, it’ll help you consolidate what everyone plays (including solos, drum fills, etc.), it’ll show everybody in the band what everyone else is doing, and it’ll make it really easy for you to mess with the structure of the song. It will also teach you a lot about rhythmic notation which helps tremendously with tightness!
You’ll also most likely be able to export the tempos of your songs that way, which will save you some time and money in the studio.
Alternatively, if you find writing your songs down too boring or too tedious, you could also just record a demo version of it, just so you can hear it back for some perspective. Obviously, that’ll require either booking a short amount in a studio (possibly mine?) or buying/owning and operating a DAW.
Step 3: Set up your instruments!
“My guitar makes strange noises sometimes because once, I got drunk and I peed on it, but it’s cool…”
Before going to the studio, you should have your instruments set up properly. That means new strings (yes, that includes bass guitars), new heads, tuning those (drums also require tuning!!), the intonation, the neck, the bridge and all that stuff. If you can’t do it yourself, go to a professional! If your volume knob makes noises, fix it or have it taken care of, or else it’ll end up on your music. Bring extra strings, picks, drumsticks, heads, batteries, etc.
Step 4: Pre-Production
It might seem like luxury to you, but even at a very very “low tech” level (meaning even recorded with dirt cheap equipment in questionable conditions), pre-production is essential and can reveal a myriad of problems within your songs (especially if you’ve skipped step 2!). It can reveal all the parts that sound too busy, sloppy, messy, etc. It can also improve the self-awareness you have of your own skills. Being able to hear back what you played can be quite the experience, I remember the first time I heard myself playing guitar, it was depressingly humbling.
You quickly realize that there is something inherently unpleasant about hearing music that’s beyond the performer’s skills. Obviously, the wider the gap between the person’s skills and the complexity of the music they’re trying to play, the more cringe worthy it gets. Inversely, someone whose abilities are well beyond what the music calls for will be more likely to deliver stellar performances more often. Ultimately, I think simple and well played trumps complex and poorly performed every time!
- Practice the fuck out of your songs!
- Use a metronome whenever possible!
- Figure out the tempos of your songs!
- Write down your songs!
- Set up your instruments!
- Bring extra everything!
- Leave your ego at home!
- Don’t be scared to simplify!
- And finally… More Cowbell!
Part III: Mixing Notes & How to Give Them
Here are, according to me, a few rules that will lead to good and understandable mixing notes:
- Make them concise.
Conciseness is key to get your point across. I understand it’s not always easy, or in certain cases, not even appropriate to be concise, but generally speaking it’s a good rule to follow. If you find yourself typing paragraphs for each note you are most likely doing something wrong.
- Timestamps! Timestamps everywhere!!
Listening for a keyword in the lyrics, or counting how many choruses have already played is a great waste of time, having timestamps with your notes makes things so much easier.
- Have the entire band review the mix & organize your notes per song.
It’s incredibly frustrating and time consuming to go through individual band member’s notes, especially if they haven’t even discussed this as a band previously – you’ll get, for instance, the guitar player who wants the bass brought down and the bass player asking for the exact opposite. Notes are always more cohesive when the entire band meets to discuss the mix as a whole. Organizing your notes per song will also make my job a lot easier (have a “general” category for notes that apply to all songs).
Part IV: FAQ & Pet Peeves
Do you do live recording? (like the whole band plays together, at the same time).
Absolutely not. I don’t have the facility, the equipment, nor do I have the desire to work that way.
How long is a recording day?
My hours are 9am-7pm. That is it. I’ll keep pushing if we are close to finishing a song, or close to a milestone. Similarly, if it’s 6:45 and we just finished a song (or just completed a milestone), we’ll most likely call it a day.
Can we record without a click?
Yes you can, but that greatly limits my ability to fix any mistakes you might make, and it also greatly limits any post-production FX you might be thinking of. Recording to a click is ALWAYS better.
What should we bring to the studio?
You’re free to bring whatever piece of equipment you want. I have everything that most bands would need to record here, but if you want to record with your amp, your drumkit, etc… You’re more than welcome to do so.
How much of a deposit do you need?
This will depend on the project length, but in most cases, a whole day will suffice as a deposit.
How long is it gonna take us to record our songs?
I don’t know. If you are well prepared, it should be a breeze. If you’re not, it’s gonna be rough, but there is no way for me to know accurately how many days you should book, although I’ll usually be able to give you an average range.
I don’t like the sound of triggers.
Okay, well, that’s not really a question, but I’ll tackle it anyway… This is a strange one that keeps coming back, mostly from drummers (obviously!). There are NO (valid) reasons to ask not to use triggers, unless you just want to limit my tools (and why would you do such a thing!?). And I can hear some of you yell:
But, triggers are cheating!
Triggers are cheating in the same way that recording anything other than the first take is cheating. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not cheating.
But, triggers sound like ass!
That they do… But then again, raw trigger sounds are never (ever) used!
But, you’re gonna use triggers to replace all my drum sounds!
I might, if replacing drum sounds ends up being the better choice, but I really don’t need triggers to do that anyway.
So, why do I care about triggers?
Alright, that’s it… for now.
Kevin – the damage room.
PS: Remember, be nice to your audio/mixing/mastering engineers. We spend a lot of time, in windowless spaces, recording, mixing and mastering your music because we love doing it… We’re good people!