DPP: Recording Studio Practice

For countless aspiring musicians, recording sessions are trying affairs.

All too often, when the recording gear switches on, artistic and technical fine points that they thought were under their control slip from their grasp.

The following eight practice tips, adapted from Chapter 11 of The Musician’s Way, help performers excel in the studio.

Eight Tips to Practice for Recording Sessions

1. Spruce Up Your Style

Practice your material deeply, refining your tone, rhythm, and interpretation. Also mitigate extraneous sounds such as shifting feet and loud breaths.

Photo of Zoom H4n Recorder

Zoom H4n Recorder

If you’re accustomed to performing live but not for recordings, bear in mind that rough edges that go unnoticed in live shows will sound crass in the studio. In your practice room, therefore, record yourself and listen back with the discriminating ears of a producer.

Recommended self-recording devices: Zoom H4n | Zoom H2n | Tascam DR-22WL

2. Maintain a Stable Position

When you record, the sound source and the microphones need to be in a steady relationship. Added to that, excessive body movements generate noise.

Keyboardists usually aren’t troubled by this issue, but, for many others, steady positioning can be tiring. Acclimate in practice to any positioning constraints, and you’ll be more at home in the studio.

3. Manage Your Beginnings and Endings

Use longer silent counts to launch each piece, and then extend your closing silences, framing every selection in stillness.

4. Solidify Tempos

Jot down metronome settings in practice and be a stickler for consistency of tempo. For editing purposes, all takes of a piece should be at identical tempos.

“Jot down metronome settings in practice and be a stickler for consistency of tempo.”

5. Plan the Length of TakesThe Musician's Way book cover

If you’re dividing pieces into sections and recording those sections individually, practice starting and ending each chunk.

6. Polish Intonation

Regularly refer to an electronic tuner, keyboard, or other pitch source to guarantee that your intonation is reliable.

7. Practice Performing

Above all, enlist a personal recorder and practice performing, employing the same deliberate protocol you’ll use in the studio.

That is, announce titles and take numbers (“Prelude, first section, take one”), create ample silence, maintain a stable position, and play or sing through errors. In general, execute complete takes, even when things get bumpy midway.

8. Ensure Quality

You or your engineer can edit your takes together to eliminate glitches, but you can’t turn a mediocre performance into a superior one.

Only schedule a recording session after your performance level reaches the benchmark of excellence.

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