While the list can be extensive (it can range from a technique flaw, tuning (or lack of), to un-prepared equipment or vocal, etc) – here are a starting 9 things that I would suggest to look out for.
1. Instruments: Old strings, reeds, etc really affect the sound captured. Old strings will sound dull and lacklustre compared to a new set. Make sure you put on a new set of strings a couple/few days before recording (allowing them to settle in to stay in tune for at least a song length) and check tuning in between every take. Old reeds can let more air in, soften and diffuse the sound, flutter unnecessarily, etc. Make sure you have new reeds in place (and in both cases, as in any consumable that can be damaged, bring spares in case of breakage during the session).
2. Guitar: The plectrum hitting the lower edge of the tone hole just below the strings. This makes a clicking sound that is very strong when a guitar is miked correctly. Sometimes changing the angle you hold the guitar or just changing your stroke a little can fix this.
3. Vocals: Short, seemingly unimportant notes sung out of tune.
4. Vocals: A lack of contrast in the vocal performance. Live sound systems don’t have as much detail as professional studio microphones and gear. In a recording studio, sometimes the microphone alone costs more than the PA system used in the local venue. Good microphones pick up the smallest details in the vocal and this can be both good (and bad). Don’t be afraid to sing really softly in a studio. Soft sounds can sound huge and warm on a recording, but may be completely lost on stage. It’s still fine to sing loud also, but just when it’s most needed.
5. Vocals: Dwelling on -s’s and other sharp consonants can cause issues Regardless what your singing teacher may have told you (and while pronunciation and diction is definitely important), you do not have to dwell on, or emphasis your -s’s in the studio….especially if multiple singers, As with ‘hard -t’s or emphasised -b’s and -p’s– most engineer would prefer hard consonants be minimised. They can cause major issues (even clipping in some cases) and can cost time (and therefore more of your money) to correct in post production so everything sits together in the mix. As mentioned already, good studio microphones capture detail and so soft or minimised consonants will be picked up –concentrate on the vowels.
6. Guitar: intonation is causing chords to sound out of tune, especially as you move up the neck..
7. Guitar: Fret buzzes. Some are OK, but if you allow the strings to buzz a lot, then the tone of the guitar is compromised.
8. Too much movement from the guitarist or the singer can limit the miking choices in a studio. If you need to move to play/sing in your style, that’s OK, but it’s a good idea to also practice keeping quite still either sitting or standing.
9. To save money, record to a ‘click’ (and make sure you have the right tempo and time signature set (at least for the basic structure tracks). How does this save money? A recording made to a click that is generated on the right bpm and time signature can be used further down the track. If the If you’ve made a great vocal and now want a band, there’s no need to re-record the vocals – the band can play to the click! Also, if any midi or virtual instrumentation is to be used, loops to be incorporated – even copying section s of vocals, having the right markers makes substituting, overdubbing and synchronising everything a lot easier. But you don’t have to do this, as you may prefer to keep your music more free. As long as you are aware of the constraints on this for re-recording if a mistake, or getting another musician to play exactly to the groove – then that’s fine – It’s up to you.
Recording, like performing is something that needs practice.
While you need to practice your lines, ensure delivery is right, you know your part and how you want to convey the music – don’t wait until things are “perfect” before coming to the studio……..you could be waiting a very long time.
So prepare and practice but be prepared to learn as you make more recordings (every person who records learns something new in every session).
Again if we can help further with any of the above or other aspects of our service offering, please do not hesitate to contact us.
For example – Along with our normal pre-production and arrangement options – before recording (with us or someone else if they dont offer the service), you are more than welcome to contact us and arrange to get together for a quick pre-production rehearsal and meeting. I can listen to you sing and/or play to let you know how to best prepare for your pending session. The session is 20 minutes and costs just $25 (possibly plus travel if too far away). It may be the difference between making a great recording or just an average one.
Cheers till next time.