How much to prepare before jumping in the studio?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Absumone, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. Absumone


    Nov 20, 2012
    We are preparing to go record our first EP with our band, and we're preparing to do so by fixing some details in our songs we want to record, but how much do we have to prepare our songs before going over to recording?

    In some documentaries and video's I've seen a lot of bands that don't have their song completely finished before they record. They come up with some extra's on the spot and sometimes lyrics haven't even been written either. But compared to how we are preparing it's more like we're rehearsing for gigs instead of for recording as we're trying to play everything perfectly.

    The way we're going to record is first play to click track all together, then -> drums -> bass -> guitars -> vocals -> backing vocals -> final effects & fixes. How much do we prepare? How prepared do we have to be?
  2. What is your budget?

    If you have infinite resources, then you can be as unprepared as you like. :)
  3. Absumone


    Nov 20, 2012
    Our recording has a fixed cost price, no matter the time we spend. It's a friend of us that works at a professional recording studio that will record it with us. But then again, we want to play like we want to be cost effective, just not to be lazy in recording.
  4. Eric66


    Sep 23, 2013
    The Netherlands
    Looks like you are ready. The method works fine. If every musician can play his part perfectly in one or two attempts, it is ok. Listen closely to a recorded rehearsal, and judge if the vocals are in tune. Recording in a studio can be very confronting. And vocals are hardest in my experience. Think about additional instruments you can add, i.e. Percussion, additional backing vocals, a friend who can play sax or keys..... That is mainly it.
  5. SunnBass

    SunnBass All these blankets saved my life.

    Aug 31, 2010
    Columbia, Mo
    Knowing your material is about as prepared as you can get.
    But I must add: Click tracks are gross. And can create a very static, stagnant product.
    Remember …. Music is NOT a steady beat … it has a pulse or rhythm with enormous variations in tempo … swelling and slowing sometimes and then an instant later, sparkling with speed and energy. Emotion is its heart and fuel. But that PULSE …. the RHYTHM is what holds it together. And that is the pattern of stresses … NOT the mere repeated beats. Counting out loud is the answer. And then your heart and breath will inform your hands and you will make music. Not just sounds.
  6. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    If you want to pay $tudio dollar$ to write your songs, well, it's gonna cost you a fortune to make the EP. Unless you have deep pockets it's best to have everything set and rehearsed till it's perfect before stepping foot in the studio. You're on the right track in trying to develop that kind of discipline (even tho you aren't paying for studio time right now).
  7. sadowskyguy


    Dec 24, 2011
    Greenville NC
    IME , recording the song on a cheap recorder while in practice and listening to it can be very revealing (especially for vocals). I know it seems obvious, but bands that don't do that can run the risk of wasting time in the studio because that was the first time they actually heard themselves together, or first time hearing that song at least.

    I think there is a degree of "on the spot" magic while in the studio as well. However, I don't think u can be too prepared. Good luck with the recording!
  8. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    Two good pieces of advice to consider before entering a studio.
  9. Ender_rpm


    Apr 18, 2004
    St. Louis MO
    What really helped us was dropping a couple hundred on a home recording solution, and video taping our shows. Got everyone used to how their recorded sounds would be different to what they thought they were hearing live, and exposed where parts needed to be modified to not over lap or bury others.

    But I have to disagree about the click track. If your drummer can't groove to a click, they're not very good. But I will also agree that most of the best music wasn't made with a click, so what do I know? :)
  10. marko138


    May 24, 2013
    Perry County PA
    Record to a click. Usually if people don't want to record to a click it's because they can't. I've played drums on 2 EPs, both with a click. Everything is magnified in the studio. Get tight with that click.

    If you guys are comfortable, and know your material you'll still be able to jam and have good feel with the click.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I hate click tracks, and I think they only exist so producers can cut up your music against your wishes and turn it into something revolting. I once got into a big argument in the studio with a drummer I was working with when we had this song that I thought was much better speeding up as the song went on. I ended up getting outvoted and we did it with the click, and it sucked. No feeling whatsoever.
  12. ddhm


    Mar 18, 2011
    Memphis Tn USA
    IMHO, you should know that you are ready to record before you go in. Have your game tight and comfortable so it translates to tape. Recordings are capturing a moment in time... if the energy is there, the tape will capture it.

    I must respectfully disagree in the "click tracks are gross" statement. It's true, they can make grid editing possible and soooooo much easier. I at least like my drummer to hear click in a recording situation (and practice to them too). A drummer knows how to play around a click... of course, a bassist should too.

    If you aren't used to working with them, they can make a recording "sterile" certainly. If you are used to working with them, delay times are true, grid editing works (opens up entire worlds), you can tell very easily when and who is dragging or pushing and pretty well everything happens much easier. Clicks are also programmable these days. YMMV
  13. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    With clicks as with rehearsing the arrangements—you're ready when you get beyond just playing it without mistakes, and instead get to the place where you can play it while playing with it. Music ought to sound like play, not like fear of screwing up.

    If your drummer can't play with a click without feeling blocked, then she either needs to rehearse with a click a lot more or else record without one. But it's not the click's fault if your drummer gets tense.
  14. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    Pre production includes rough recordings you make with cheap gear. This can expose issues early before you are paying for time. I believe in practicing with a click and performing without it. If the band rehearses with a click you can feel it even when it's gone.
  15. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
  16. Itzayana


    Aug 15, 2012
    Oakland Ca
    I hate that too.
    Music can often be made much more interesting with dynamic meter. IMHO using dynamics in meter is very effective in bringing more feeling to a composition and helps influence the listeners experience.
    I say, "Let it breath."

    To answer the OPs question. I prep to the nth degree before going into studio. I make sure that I know my parts so well that I could play them in my sleep... or dead drunk.
    I feel a great sense of personal responsibility NOT to be the guy who causes the band to do another take and spend everyone's money because I don't have my act together.
  17. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Be as prepared as possible. You said you were paying on a fixed cost basis.

    Be kind to the studio's staff. Don't take advantage of their time.

    Get your tunes recorded in a timely professional manner, click track or not.
  18. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    Be very prepared, you should be recording on something for virtually every rehearsal and don't go into the studio thinking magic will happen there - it's usually the black magic of studio time chewing up hundreds of dollars, tracks not getting any better after multiple takes, people getting stressed, small mysterious instrument failures. Unless the material is particularly complex you shouldn't have to be punched in on yor part more than once/twice every other song or better.
    Fixed cost basis - you really better have your parts down, fixed cost is not unlimited time. I would hope the studio told you that means no more than X amount of time per song. You burn through that and the sound engineer's attitude will probably suffer, along with your music.
    I am not a fan of click tracks but sometimes one for first few seconds ensure correct velocity is there from the get-go. I practice to one at home since we write down the tempo of all our songs on our set list for times when drummer isn't there. Then we use the click and miss our drummer much.
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Also, if the band is not used to playing with headphones, practice with them - very different.

    And as others have said, you cannot be TOO prepared. The more you are ready, the more likely youcan take advantage of that "flash of brilliance", rather than recording take 22 of a backing track because you aren't in synch on a break.
  20. SBsoundguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Time is money. Have it as clean as possible.