Updated: Jun 21, 2021
As a busy engineer handling sessions on a daily basis, a few ideas and suggestions have been developed for artists to prepare before their next recording session. Everyone is different and it is understood that all styles, techniques and methods are far from universal. So let's establish some helpful guidelines to make the most out of your sessions.
1. Write and Rehearse
There have been more than a few times when artists have scheduled a session and entered without anything more than an instrumental on YouTube. The YouTube dilemma will be discussed later. This puts them at a few disadvantages which can lead to an expensive bill in the end. For starters, they are spending their hard-earned money on studio time only to use a lot of that time to write. We put the beat/track on loop, push play and listen over and over agin until the artists has his or her part ready to go. Then they step up to the microphone with very little practice of the song they had just written. This will lead them to a less-than-stellar performance. Well, sometimes. There are always exceptions to this and some artists are seasoned in their craft with the ability to handle these sorts of time constraints. But generally speaking, we as humans perform far better when we've taken the time to really get the parts down. The last thing any of us want is for an artist to leave unsatisfied with their product. This goes for any artist whether they are vocalists or instrumentalists. It's probably true that Sam Smith, Beyonce or Michael Jackson have gone into every studio session with at least a sufficient amount of rehearsal beforehand. This sin't to say that you as an artist won't want to change what you have previously written and practiced after you hear it on record. A situation like that is very typical and welcomed at any recording session. However, some preparedness is key.
2. Instrumentals, Tracks, Beats
As stated earlier, there is a dilemma with the "Free YouTube Beat" usage. For one, they're not always supposed to be free. But with advent of sites that allow any YouTube video to be converted to MP3, this leaves the door wide open for "free" downloads which causes a number of concerns from the engineer's standpoint. Firstly, the quality of MP3 is far less superior to that of WAV. And that doesn't count converting an MP3 to WAV. Once an audio file is converted to MP3 (a means of compressing a sound sequence into a very small file, to enable digital storage and transmission) there is no bringing back the quality lost during compression. Think of it like this, after the engineer exports or bounces your song, the WAV file is Lexus and MP3 is Toyota. No offense to any Toyota owners out there! But the point is clear. To remedy this is simple, BUY YOUR INSTRUMENTALS! Even the purchased MP3 files are going to hold a lot more quality than one that has been uploaded to YouTube because YouTube's uploader will compress the file even further. That is also why it is important to upload your completed song to any platform using the highest quality file (WAV). But I digress... Purchasing your beats may also grant you the option of having the instrumental tracked out with WAV files allowing the engineer access to individual instruments from the original production. We love this because anything can be altered to the mix. For example, if the producer used a snare that just doesn't fit with the frequencies of the artists voice, we can manipulate that sound to work with your voice using various tools or even replacing the sample (sound) entirely. This is a perfect segue into my next point...
3. Bring Your Beats or Instrumentals
As in point #1, time is crucial while in the studio. Last night I handled a session and the first 15-20 minutes were spent just trying to locate and download the instrumental. This could have easily been avoided if the artist had simply downloaded the track beforehand and brought it with them on a hard drive, emailed it or uploaded it to a cloud. Believe me when I say that we as Engineers love it when the artist enters with their beat ready to to be pulled directly into the session file. The exception to this, however, is artists that are new to their craft and still need assistance with obtaining their tracks. Some have produced beats on their phones, for example, and are unsure of how to transfer them out. In which case, we are always happy to help. We understand the complexities and limitations of technology and want to make sure that you as the artist are not only comfortable asking for help, but that you will also have a strong understanding of how to move forward with your music or production for future growth.
4. For The Instrumentalists
This point is easy... Make sure your instruments are tuned, strung and in working order. Also, sure that your effects processors and electric instruments have all the appropriate power supplies and cables. If not, that's ok! Vocal Ink Production has an amazing collection of guitars, guitar effects processors, keyboards and a house drum kit ready to use.
In conclusion, we still welcome anyone to talk with us regardless of any of the above points made. We are happy to consult you on your project and help you enter with the utmost confidence as possible. These are all merely suggestions to make your experience as pleasant as possible. After all, we're making music. It's supposed to be fun! Please contact us to chat about your next project!