20 Feb 2020

How To: Prepare for a Recording Session

The two things that separate wannabe musicians from those actually making it are playing gigs and recording sessions. Anyone can pick up a guitar and play a few chords alone in their room, in fact, that’s where almost everyone starts. But actually venturing out to play elsewhere should be the main goal.

Playing a gig can be thrilling and terrifying in equal amounts. You’re literally displaying your music live to an audience of critics. But there’s also something intoxicating about being able to say that you’re ‘in the studio’.

But making the transition takes a lot of hard work. Organising a gig is a whole process that you need to work up to, and hitting the studio should be just the same. ACM students benefit from the thousands of hours made available to them for free at Metropolis Studios and the campus studios. But even these are limited, so when booking a recording session, you should be properly prepared.

Write and Rehearse Ahead of Time

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Whether you’re heading into the studio alone or recording with your band, you need to make sure you know exactly what you’re going to be playing when you get there. While there are stories of bands recording whole albums in less than a day – the majority of The Beatles’ first album was recorded in just ten hours – don’t expect to play each song through just once.

There’s nothing more annoying to you, your band or your engineer than a musician turning up and having to learn what they’re recording on the fly. Before you head into the studio, make sure you’ve perfected your part.

Alongside this, you should make sure you have completed all the writing before you turn up to record. Of course, improvising and adding to tracks as you go are both parts of the artistic process, but you should have as much of the writing completed ahead of your recording session.

Go In With a Goal

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When you’re booking studio time, you should have an idea of what you want to get done during the session. This will depend on the amount of time you have in the studio. If you know that you have a certain budget available to record, look at what you want to get recorded with that money and how you can fit that into the time you have.

You should always be looking to focus on quality over quantity. You may have written twenty amazing songs, but will you have enough time to give them all the justice they deserve? A well-recorded, short EP will be much more effective in promoting your music than a hurried LP.

Make Sure Your Instruments Are In Tip Top Shape 

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Another key part of being prepared is making sure your instruments are in perfect working order. If you haven’t changed your strings in a while, head out and buy a fresh pack. If you’re a vocalist and you have a bad cold, see if you can reschedule your session for a time when your voice is the best it can be. If you know there could be an issue with your amp, get it serviced before you head to the studio. Hiring equipment can be expensive, and in the long run it’s better to have your own equipment that you are familiar with.

Do Your Research!

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There are literally hundreds of studios around the UK available every day. Do your research before you settle on booking one. Check out the gear they have available, look at the kinds of bands that have recorded in them before. ACM students have top-class engineers available to them at all of the Academy’s facilities, but if you’re not a student, or looking to record outside of one of ACM’s studios, the engineers you find may not have the same pedigree.

If some of your favourite albums have been recorded in a studio, it could be that that’s where you’ll get your best sound. But be warned – recording can be really expensive. Don’t pin your hopes on a recording studio before finding out whether it fits in your budget. It may be worth booking a studio that has less good equipment or staff, but will afford you much more time recording.

Keeping It Timely

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Most recording studios are in high demand, so booking time at your favourite one might be a bit difficult. This means you need to make sure that you use all of your time there as efficiently as possible. So arrive on time. In fact, no, arrive fifteen minutes early. Half an hour early. It’s better to be waiting around outside before you start, rather than rushing in a quarter of an hour late.

Before you book a recording session, you should already know how you’re going to get there. If you’re driving, check your route. With public transport, make sure you’re able to carry your equipment all the way there.

This may seem extremely obvious, but it cannot be stressed how important it is. You can’t do any recording if you don’t actually make it to the studio

If you are unprepared heading into the studio, it could very easily sour the whole process. If you end up hating the recording process, it will be a lot harder to appreciate the end product. So don’t feel shy about reaching out to bands to ask about their recording experience in specific studios. As intense and stressful as long recording sessions might be, overall, the process should be fun.


If you’d like to learn more about how we can help kick-start your music career, why not come along to one of ACM’s Open Days.

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