Guitarapalooza 'zine
Issue 2, Autumn 1998

10 Ways to Save Time & Money in the Studio

Hey all, Ron here... Right now I am locked away in a studio in France producing an album, and I felt suddenly inspired to write an article for guitarists planning to record. So, here are 10 "Dos and Don'ts" to help make it a more productive experience. Enjoy...

Don't be late - it implies that you don't value other people's time and sometimes it pisses off engineers. Others are content taking your money for time you reserved and didn't show up for, but being prompt is the first message you'll give to the studio that you take this recording seriously, and expect the same from them.

If you're leaving the studio to get food or a drink during a session, ask the engineer if they need anything. The engineer must stay by the mixing board and remain attentive for everything from beginning to end so what you can do to help is a) don't treat the engineer like an invisible slave - if you're getting something for the band, offer to get something for them to; b) don't look at your watch every time he or she has to go to the bathroom or take a phone call, unless it's abnormally excessive; c) ASK if the engineer can go overtime, but don't expect it - engineers have lives and other responsibilities and can only live for you during the time that's scheduled.

Be concerned about engineers that alter their mental state while on the job. Question: would you want a doctor operating on you while doped up? Of course not, so why would you want an engineer operating on your music while mentally impaired?

Engineers sometimes need to be reminded that THEY work for YOU, and it's their job to give you what YOU want (within reason). To avoid a tense situation, you may want to clear with the engineer exactly how much input you prefer from them at the beginning of the session. It can be anything from "Will you produce us?" to "Stay quiet and turn the knobs." The second you get resistance from an engineer about an effect you want or a level in a mix, find a tactful way of letting them know that this is your show - not theirs.

Make sure your equipment is in good condition: guitars intonated, new strings, no excess hum from an improper ground, no pots that spit out little clicking noises, no input jacks that have a loose contact, etc. If your amp has problems such as excess noise or random volume changes, bring a different amp to the studio.

If your drummer uses a click track, don't play to the click once the drums are on tape - play to the drums. Whether or not the drums stray from the click, it's important that you are tight with the drums, wherever they go. After all, the click won't be in the final mix of your song so it's irrelevant if you match the click, whereas it's imperative that you match what will be heard. The only time you'll need the click as a reference would be in parts where there is no rhythmic foundation being supplied by the drums (for example: when the guitar riff starts off the song).

DON'T MIX LOUD! You'll exhaust your eardrums and end up going home with a mix that sounds nothing like what you think it does. If an engineer keeps it cranked too loud, ask them to turn it down so you can hear what it REALLY sounds like. If it sounds right at a low volume, it'll sound right at a loud volume - NOT vice versa.

If your guitar's volume knob isn't on 10, try not to touch it or change it until the part you're recording is finished and permanent. DON'T make adjustments to your amplifier during a part that isn't complete. If you need a punch-in on that track to fix a mistake, you'll kill a lot of time trying to match the sound you had.

Make sure you have all the parts worked out; know your song arrangements! While you're at it, make sure everyone else in the band knows the arrangements, including where the accents in the rhythms occur so the band is in sync, and make sure that the song is fully written. You'll waste valuable recording time if you have to write parts of the song on the clock or spend hours on trial-and-error takes.

STAY FOCUSED. Don't get bent out of shape if you make a mistake; you can always do another take. On the other hand, don't spend hours on just one riff - stick to recording what you're capable of doing instead of wasting time trying to play things you haven't gotten down yet. Remember: you only need to be good enough to play your own songs.

Best of luck!

~ Ron Thal

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