So you are heading off to your first recording session. What tips can help you achieve a great recording? Even if you are just having fun recording yourself in your bedroom, hopefully, the following tips will help.
Before the recording session
• If this is your first time being recorded, if you can, visit the studio so as to get familiar with the vocal booth setup to help you relax. Even just looking at the photos on the studio website will help.
• If you are recording a vocal, get familiar with the words, ideally, memorise them and bring a copy to help the producer follow for accuracy as you record.
• When you rehearse, check that you only take breaths at the end of sentences to avoid spoiling the flow of the phrases.
• Focus on your performance. What does the song mean to you? Can you “feel” the emotion as you perform?
• Head to the session wearing loose clothing that feels comfortable and gives you confidence. Remember to remove any jewellery or coins that could be picked up by the microphones and make sure all mobile phones and electronic gadgets are switched off.
During the recording session
• The first take will only be a rough one used to check settings and adjust recording levels so it’s a great chance to just go for it and get rid of some of those nerves!
• Make sure you are happy with the volume in your “cans” (headphones) and the balance between your microphone and the backing track is appropriate.
• Some people like to have both “cans” of the headphones on their ears when they record and others prefer just one so that they can hear some of the live sound in one ear as well as the recorded sound in the other. It’s worth trying both methods to see which is best for you.
• Be prepared to sing at least three takes so that the producer can have a choose when editing to choose the best versions of phrases, words and even syllables.
• Step further away from the microphone if you intend to sing or play a louder passage. This will help to avoid distortion. Also, for the preservation of the producers ears, cough away from the microphone between takes!!!
• Try to relax and enjoy yourself! This will really come across on the final recording. If it’s a happy song – smile! You can hear a smile in a recording!
After the recording session
• This is the moment when you get to rest for a moment as the producer gets to work to polish your recording and give it a shine! Help the producer do their job by sitting quietly but also feel free to ask the odd question and offer suggestions.
• Typical vocal treatments are: pitch and timing correction, adding warmth and sparkle with analog tape simulation, tone shaping through equalisation (EQ), volume control through compression, de-essing to remove excessive “s” sounds, reverb to simulate the vocal being recorded in another space like a concert hall, expensive studio, cathedral etc, delay to add echos and fader automation to “sit” the vocal perfectly in the mix.
The art of recording is great fun and can really drive home the strengths and weaknesses of your technique and performance. It serves as an excellent teaching method and highly recommended for all musicians and especially students. It also provides a wonderful showcase for gigging musicians and a way to preserve a “snapshot” for future prosperity.