How To Record 6 Songs In 2 Days

2010 Apr 12, 2010

So I just got back from a brief recording session up in Richmond, VA over the weekend. There’s an amazing church there with a stellar worship band. These guys wanted to record an EP of some of their original music and had been kicking the idea around for a while. When they called me in for the job, I was immediately excited because I knew it would be a great project from the beginning.

Via Mike Bitzenhofer Flickr

But here was the catch…they wanted to record 6 songs full band (including keys and viola!) in just 2 days. Additionally we were recording in the lead guitarists house, not a “studio”, so there would inevitably be acoustic challenges. In the end it was a fast paced weekend that proved to be highly successful and a ton of fun. Here a few lessons that solidified in my mind from this project about how to get a lot of productivity in a short amount of time…in addition to keeping the coffee brewing!

Know Your Music

The guys (and gals) in the band knew their music. Many of the songs were freshly written and sparsely played at that point, but each member had their parts down and were aware of the entire arrangement and desired vibe for each track. This is the number one reason we were able to get so much done in 48 hours.

If you want to have a great recording session, make sure you come to play. If you have your parts down then you can focus more on tone and performance. This will help tremendously when you go to push “Record”. Plus the final product just sounds that much more intentional.

Know Your Band Mates

If you are recording with a band or with other studio musicians, things will roll a lot faster and smoother if you have a solid rapport with everyone. These guys loved and appreciated everyone in the band to the point that they were constantly encouraging each other and pushing one another to deliver their absolute best when the red light went on. This made my job as a producer much easier as there was built in motivation for every person in the room.

Know Your Limits

The recording process is unique, as every element of your playing and singing ability is put on display and like a microscope you are analyzed from top to bottom, with perfection as the usual goal. It tends to make people at best nervous, and at worst petrified to the point of being rendered useless. One huge hurdle to overcome is humility about your ability. Know the limits of what you can and can’t do.

If you are a rhythm guitar player who can’t really play lead, don’t try to be a lead guitarist. If you can’t rock a double kick drum pedal, then forget about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever stretch yourself. What I am saying however, is that having some realistic awareness of what you bring to the recording will save everyone a lot of time and frustration. Just get in there and do what you do best. That’s all that is required of you.

Know What You Want

At the end of the day, the only way to be productive in the studio is to have a vision in your head for what you want as a musician (or band) and then to work diligently to that end. I asked the singer (and leader) of the band this weekend to prioritize the songs in order of importance should we run out of time to record all six songs. He knew exactly what order to go in and what elements to focus on. This helped us stay on task and just keep moving.

If we were just winging it and trying things for the sake of being creative in the studio, we probably would have only completed 2 or 3 songs. Not a horrible thing, but not the best case scenario either. In the end, these guys came in ready to make a six song EP a reality, despite the odds not looking in our favor. Things panned out quite nicely!

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