I’ve assembled some recording tips for guitarists so fellow musicians don’t have to go through some of the painful experiences I have in the past little while.
Recording in a studio is something all musicians must do if they ever wish to get a real professional recording into the hands of their listeners. So why do so few musicians actually prepare to record in the studio? Maybe because most musicians think that their current skill level will suffice, that recording in a studio is no different than recording or playing at home. I’ll tell you it’s these musicians that will never get their careers where they want them to be simply because they are unaware of certain nuances and skills that separate an amateur from a professional.
What are these certain skills or techniques? Some are simple and common sense, taking only a visit to a guitar tech to achieve while others require a little more time to develop. Take each one of these ideas and apply every one to make your next recording sound better than ever!
Visit a guitar tech at your local music shop – Why? Because this man or woman is going to give your guitars the perfect tune-up they need to perform the best that they can. A guitar tech will make sure your intonation is set, the neck isn’t bent, the pickups are clean and in good shape, as well as having the neck cleaned, oiled, and much easier to play. There are a few other differences but I am not the guitar tech here, just the coach. So the week before you start recording, go in, spend the couple hundred bucks and have your baby shining and ready to rock all for the sake of quality. No body wants to hear the difference in tuning between you and the rhythm guitarist because ONE of you didn’t have your guitar examined.
Keep practicing your musicianship skills – There may be a certain technique you haven’t gotten down yet and just need a few more days to get it, or maybe you need to increase your speed by a few BPM to match the song. Whatever you are doing, remember to always practice every day to ensure your maximum potential is met.
Tune a few cents bellow standard – This one is kind of weird and I was thrown off when I first learned this but you should be detuning by about 3-6 cents depending on how hard you need to strum. This is to make sure you stay in tune with any “truetone” instruments like a keyboard that may be put on the track afterwards. The result is so minimal that even without detuning the song will still be in tune but you will feel like something, “just isn’t quite right.” Generally it is because something is slightly out of tune. When you pluck a guitar string you are slightly pulling it up or down and as it flex’s back to its return position, the sound will be slightly sharp if you haven’t detuned. Again, this is fine if you don’t plan on having any truetone instruments but it is highly recommended on the professional level, especially if you wish to become a recording artist.
Warm up AT LEAST 20 – 30 minutes before recording – You’ve most likely been doing this before every practice and playing session but it is noteworthy and fundamental enough to put on here. Make sure your hands are sufficiently warm and limber enough to deal with the next couple of hours of tracking you are going to be doing.
Practice your songs! – This seems fairly obvious but during the few weeks leading up to your recording date, put more and more time from your practice routine into practicing your songs. Practice that one riff that’s always given you some trouble. Take this time to practice a specific picking pattern that’s unique to one of the songs you will be playing. Maybe you are a bassist and have a tricky roll you have to get down. Whatever you play, if you put time into practicing your songs before recording, your band and your producer with thank you. An added bonus is that the less time you spend in the studio, and the less mistakes you make, result in money coming back to you in the form of your producer not having to fix your mistakes post-production.
Having your artwork done or at least in the making – This tip isn’t exactly about recording, but it REALLY helps to have your artwork already in the making as it takes a while and there can be a few problems and edits along the way. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared for a quick release.
As well as any list of do’s, there is a list of do not’s to ensure the success of my fellow musicians. Some DO NOT’S of recording include:
Walking into the studio with a freshly strung guitar – This will easily lead to a rescheduling and the loss of an entire day because someone decided to restring their guitar before they left for the studio. The strings will pull and flex, not maintaining tuning creating a nightmare for you and your producer. It is totally acceptable to have new strings on your guitar when you walk into the studio, as long as they have been stretching for a few days. I generally restring my guitar for recording right before I bring it to the guitar tech. He or she will re-tune it when it is all done and you give the strings 1-2 weeks to stretch and settle into their new groove.
Being super picky about your tone – unless you are Jack White and have an absolute definition of how you want your guitar to sound then I suggest leaving most tone decisions to be made by your selected professional producer. This can also save you the headache of exasperating your chosen professional and having him or her walk out on you because of your needy choices, leaving you to find a whole other studio to record in, setting you back hundreds to thousands of dollars.
As you can see, some of these tips are common sense but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to know them. This will put you light-years ahead of a lot of the other competition out there, especially if you insist on becoming a recording artist.