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Studio Time/Recording

19StudioRecording_0Quite possibly the most vital -- and sometimes stressful -- aspect of a rock band's rise to the top, studio recording has changed quite a bit in recent years. And maybe the most important change of all is the fact that recording at a studio has become a choice, not a necessity; the rise of incredible sounding and cost effective home recording equipment has made it easy for bands to simply record themselves at home, or at another space of their choosing, without having to shell out the bucks for expensive studios and highly sought-after producers.

Of course, that's not to say studio recording doesn't have its merits. There exist times that bands will want to book studio time and use a producer instead of trying their hand at home recording. Those times, however, are different for every band, so this article will guide you through the benefits and drawbacks of studio recording and let you know what to expect when, and if, you decide to pursue the studio recording route.

The Benefits

The biggest benefit to booking studio time and using a producer is how easily it allows you to step away from your own thought process and hear your songs from a different perspective. A professional producer's job, after all, is to help you clean up songs and create the best record you possibly can; quite often, this means dramatically changing certain aspects of arrangement or construction that you'd never before questioned. Through the ears of a producer, you may suddenly understand why the chorus just wasn't working or how important it is for a certain verse to pop. And even if you've booked studio time without an official producer, decided to pursue recording at a studio simply because you're not all that technologically savvy, playing your songs in a room away from the practice area (and not with the big, booming sound of club PA's) can sometimes open up the air around you and let you hear which tiny details need the most extensive work.

It's important to remember, as well, that the people working with your studio recording are well-trained professionals. They're extremely proficient with recording techniques and know how to create the exact sound you hear in your head. And most importantly, they have the equipment to do it; all too often, bands buy home-recording equipment only to find that for just a little more money, they could have worked with a studio to create a sound 100 times more professional and clean, minus all the hassle of difficult programs and strange techniques. Let the studio concentrate on the sound. You stay focused on your songs.

The Drawbacks

The one aspect of studio recording that tends to send rock bands' blood pressure soaring is the time limit. Assuming that you don't have a huge disposable income or a gigantic major label backing your every whim, you'll for sure have only a limited number of hours in which to create your masterpiece. And if those hours run up without the album being completed, well, you've got a difficult decision to make: either release an album that's only partially finished and not anywhere as amazing as you'd hoped, or suck it up and shell out hundreds, maybe even thousands, more dollars to get the album sounding the way you want. And neither choice seems very good, does it?

Another problem that commonly plagues bands recording at a studio is how easy it is to clash with a producer or engineer. If you've chosen to work with someone recommended by the studio, someone you don't know very well, it's entirely possible that the both of you will have completely different visions for your record. Maybe you can work past them (lots of bands do), but if you decide that the differences are just too severe, you might have already paid tons of money and not be able to pack it up and move on to a different studio.

The Process

If you've decided once and for all that recording at a studio is definitely for you, there are a few things you need to keep in mind while planning your studio time.

Find a Match: Make sure to find a studio that works with bands similar to yours. Ask around your local music scene and see who your friends' bands are recording with. Some of those bands may even have their own home studio set-up!

Book Early: Regardless of whom you're recording with, it's vitally important that you book your slot as early as possible, anywhere from one and a half to three months in advance -- and if you're working with an especially sought-after producer, you may even need more than that! Talk to the studio and find out how early they book up, but never book less than a month in advance even if the space is open (unless, of course, that's the only open space for a year); you'll need the time to practice and get ready for your studio time.

Be Realistic: Though you may have dreams of completing your record in a long weekend, chances are good that it'll take much, much longer than that. It may be way more cost-effective to only book a few days of studio time, but you'll be so rushed and panicked that you'll settle for less than the best. It generally takes at least three weeks to make a decent full-length album, and even that's rushing it. Talk to your friends' bands and your studio and be realistic about how long you'll be recording at a studio, even if it means spending more money than you intended.

Practice, Practice, Practice: It's definitely tempting to go into your studio time unpracticed; after all, you can always go back and fix mistakes, right? Sure, if you want to end up hundreds of dollars over budget. Before even setting foot in the studio, get your songs down cold. Practice them as if you're about to play the biggest show of your career and fix any problems right there in the practice space. Knowing your songs backwards and forwards is the best way to streamline your studio recording experience -- and spend less money.

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