Ahead of our Talent House opening in 2022, UD are serving you with the tools you need when it comes to recording and studio life. Stefan ‘Diamondz’ Velichkov, our studio expert, presents a guide to maximising your time – and getting results – from a studio session…
Recording sessions and music studios in general are seen as exciting and glamorous (perfect for that Insta or Snapchat story), but in reality, studios are a serious endeavour and should be approached with a good amount of planning and preparation. You must find the right studio, for the right budget, with the right engineer – then you need to put some serious work in to get a good sounding result. But, like most things in life, it all starts with preparation and planning.
1. Practising by recording yourself
Recording is a very important part of the career of every aspiring rapper/singer so it is only right to spend time practicing it especially if you are taking this up as your profession. As you know, recording microphones capture subtle aspects of your voice that you may not have heard before – we all know how our voice sounds quite different from the outside compared to what we hear on the inside. Therefore, you should become familiar with the sound of your recorded voice and practise recording techniques that work for you before hitting up a professional studio. With that being said, modern technological advancements nowadays have made it very easy and inexpensive to set up a basic home studio. A laptop paired with an audio interface, microphone, headphones and a simple DAW is all you need for recording! There are many affordable options out there (with a lot of said options sold in bundles). Just check online in your favourite music stores. And there are plenty of online tutorials to get you started in no time.
2. Vocal Health and warm up
As with anything important, you should be in good shape before a recording session in a studio. In this case, this should mean at least a good night’s sleep and making sure your voice is in good health. Science says that avoiding alcohol, coffee, and dairy products can be beneficial to your voice as they can cause dehydration and excess mucus. Alcohol also irritates mucous membranes in the throat, affecting the usage of the voice by changing the lubrication of the larynx. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water (at room temperature). Some artists swear by Vocalzone throat lozenges ‘n’ all. Warming up your voice before the session begins will definitely help you get a better result. Even if you feel confident you can hit those high notes right-away, warming up your voice could help you to achieve that better & will be more beneficial for your vocal chords in the long term (after all they are a muscle and for best performance you should warm them up).
3. Plan your session
Find the right studio and the right engineer. Ask what recording equipment they use and if it is suitable for your needs. Make sure they specialise in what you need. In other words, if you are a rapper – go to a studio where the engineer is familiar with the sound and the recording process.
Book your recording session at a time of the day when you are comfortable to sing/ rap and you have good energy. You don’t want to get in the studio with a sleepy head/ voice and warm up for hours until you get in gear to record. On that note… know yourself… Although you might want to go for hours and hours, usually this is not achievable and realistic. Your voice will get tired after 2-3 hours of recording and this might affect the rest of your session. Take breaks when needed and drink plenty of water.
4. Checklist: things to bring to the studio
- Instrumental tracks for your performance (if you hope to release the music, make sure these beats are original and you have permission from the creator).
- References for your mix/ your idea.
- A USB stick/ hard drive/ laptop to take your files home with you (in case there is no internet connection) and just to be safe. You are entitled to your own music after a session (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) and it is also your responsibility to store it safely.
- Snacks and beverages (preferably the healthy sort so you don’t have a sugar crash).
- Vibes. Maybe you have certain objects, people, lights…. Whatever you need to create a setting that’s right for you to create in.
5. In the studio
First things first; arrive on time. There’s little worse for an engineer or a co-writer than to sit around waiting for their session to arrive. Being late for a session can also offset the mood by a mile! You need to consider there are other parties involved and if you are going to be late, at least inform everybody… “Arriving late to make an entrance” is an approach best left for use at social events, not for organided work.
When it comes to setting the tone for the session – make sure everybody involved is on the same page regarding what you want to achieve while in the studio. Do you want to record a few demos to be worked on later or you wish to leave with a final version of your song? Perhaps you want to test out a few different ideas? Whatever it is, make sure you communicate this with your collaborators prior to- or at the beginning of the session.
If you know what you are going to record, and it is not a writing session – make sure that you have rehearsed your lyrics beforehand. This takes us back to point 1 – preparation is very important. Coming up with whole songs in the studio is a territory (generally) reserved for seasoned artists with a big repertoire of unrecorded/unreleased lyrics they can draw inspiration from in an instant. Make sure you have a good range of prewritten material.
Once all of that is in place, the final part of your prep routine is your vision… In other words, know what you want your track to sound like. Does it start with the hook or with the verse?. How many verses are there? Bridges, intros, outros? Stabs, adlibs, harmonies? The list can go on and on. The important part is to know what you’re doing and to follow through.
6. In the booth
Once you’re in the booth, things are relatively easy. Make sure you have a good volume mix in your headphones and that you are comfortable with the sound level of the mic in your ears. Have the engineer make sure that you are facing the microphone correctly and you are in a good position to record. This should be relatively easy if you have followed step number 1. Start doing your takes and don’t forget to communicate with your engineer. If you are not happy with a part you’ve done, don’t be afraid to ask for a re-run. If something is not coming out quite right after a few takes, feel free to move on to the next section of the track and get back to this one after a while. There are no strict rules to follow – the only thing you should have in mind is the end result you want to achieve so keep filling in the blanks.
7. End result.
Without getting into the technicalities here – you shouldn’t be leaving the session without a decent mix of your song. It doesn’t have to be finalized but it has to be a decent mix that sounds good on headphones, so you can listen to it when you get home and are able to hear everything clearly. Ideally the vocals should be leveled to how you like them and with added effects like reverb, delays, beat chops and edits – as much as possible to get the right feeling for the song. The final mixing will be happening at a later stage of the song’s journey but the demo should be a good reference to where it should be going.
Interested in booking a session at the Talent House? Why not sign up to become a member…
Words: Stefan ‘Diamondz’ Velichkov
Hear Diamondz work HERE