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Are you ready for your studio session?
(Page 1 of 4)
(c) 2002 Myles Wakeham

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For all musicians, there is a time to record their music. This time might be a recurring event for experienced, or professional musicians, or it might be that it is your first experience with recording studios. Whatever your situation, there are some basic steps that assist you in achieving the best result in the studio.

Why are you recording?

This is an important question to have a succinct answer to. When you eventually are in the recording studio, the engineer will need to have an idea of your expectations for the production. This is simply because he or she will need to know if there are any budget limitations, and what overall purpose you need the recording. There is a big difference between a "demo" recording and a "master" recording, and typically the cost factors are so different based on the amount of labor time involved, that you will want to make sure you have a defined purpose for your recording, or you will be disappointed.

There are so many activities that should pre-empt the recording process, and you need to understand the purpose of the recording sessions you are about to undertake, to ensure that you have done the right amount of preparation. Let's look at the variety of reasons why musicians end up in recording studios.

1. Demos

Let's say that you have just finished writing that killer tune and you want it recorded. Well if your goal is to record it for your own purposes, then I guess the amount of money you are willing to spend on its recording is the only limitation. Realistically, you probably want to get a good quality recording, but you are not looking for the ultimate in production in these circumstances. However if you are looking at recording it for other people, then you might need a "demo" of your music.

A demo represents a high quality recording, but predominately to demonstrate your ability to write and/or perform music. This demo typically represents a limited time in the recording studio, and varies depending on the experience of the artist and the experience of the engineer. Most demo sessions (which usually are based on recording 3 or so songs) take around the 15 hour mark (for a band). This would be the goal, assuming that the band is well rehearsed and ready for the recording.

2. Masters

If you are in the business of recording music for sale to the public, then you are more likely going to spend more time in the studio recording than on a simple demo. Its not to say that musicians don't sell their demos to the public - this happens quite a lot, but typically a CD release involves a greater level of attention, especially to the overall production aspects of the recording. The amount of time to budget on a master recording varies greatly. Typically a band or artist would have a producer involved in this process. The producer usually manages the studio time and ensures that the artist is as ready as they can be for the recording process. However in the case where a recording is going to be self-produced, then the budget is in the hands of the artist and its up to them on how they wish to achieve their recording. There are no guidelines when it comes to master recordings. Typically you stop when you are happy with the end result.

A master recording isn't typically finished until it has been honed after the recording sessions have completed. This honing is often referred to as "mastering" the recording. This mastering process involves sending the mixed recordings to a special mastering studio where the recordings are polished to ensure that they are at the best sonic fidelity, ready for duplication to CD.

Your Recording Budget

Once you have defined the goal of the recording process, you must first define a budget for the recording. Studio time varies greatly in cost. Typically it is cheapest in cities that have a great deal of music production activities going on. I guess this is so due to the number of studios in the area and the general competition that this creates. Studios typically charge either by the hour or by the day. You might be lucky enough to have a studio give you a fixed price for your project, but its unlikely. As you are recording artistic content, there are few rules on how you are going to best record it, and its almost impossible for studios to predict exactly how much time is going to be needed. So consequently you should assume you are going to be paying for time spent in the studio.

If you are recording a master recording, I would suggest that you locate not only the studio that you want to record your music, but also locate a mastering studio for its mastering. Normally these are two different studio facilities that you will need. You can find mastering studios by talking with collegues who have already gone through the recording process before, or through your local Yellow Pages. Most duplication houses can recommend good mastering facilities too.

Studio time also varies based on the equipment that they have available. With the advent of affordable digital recording (e.g. ADATs, Hard Disk Recording systems, etc.) you will find that many musicians may offer their recording studios to you for recording. This can be a very attractive way to get your music recorded, however be wary that the musicians may not be trained engineers in recording, and although they might have the basic equipment necessary to record your music, they are probably lacking in areas such as range of microphones, outboard effects equipment, quality recording console, computerization, etc. All of these factors are critical in making a decent sounding recording.



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