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Tuesday, October 16, 2007 

So You Want Record (pt.1)

by Rick Slater

[Madalyn's Note: this article is featured on the GoGirls web site this month so I thought I would pass it along here on the blog for your reading enjoyment. Rock on!]

Well it's all about the music right? Well you might want to start by finding the right person who you feel understands your musical vision and can help you realize that vision. Spend some time getting to know each other. How does that person like to work? What are their capabilities? Remember you are going to need to be able to trust this person to help you bring this project home and in some cases he or she may be a limited business partner depending on the nature of your arrangement. The next thing you need to do is choose what tunes are worthy of your attention. Some tunes will just not be your strongest material so be honest with yourself. You also need to consider the type of release this will be. Some material won't fit the nature of a particular release but may be right for others. It's good to be diverse but you need a common thread that holds a release together. (That cool Ska ditty just doesn't fit your blues influenced rock release.)

Now that you have identified which material will be recorded it's time to really get into pre-production. There are many things to re-consider. Tempo is one thing that I often find is something to look at. A song might feel better at a different tempo than you are used to playing it at. Sometimes a click or two faster or slower can really make a song come to life. The other thing to consider is the key. There have been times when I've suggested trying a song that seemed a little dull in a higher key and that has helped. Other times it may be just at the edge of a singer's range and dropping it down helped the vocalist deliver a better performance. This of course opens that can of worms regarding the cardio-vascular exercise habits of the vocalist. This is really important. This is really important. Did I repeat myself? Yup and I'll say it again. Cardio-vascular exercise helps a vocalist improve lung capacity and extend the range as well. The hidden benefit to everyone involved will be that it will be a much shorter warm-up period when the vocalist starts to record. As I like to say, "I don't like to waste my time or your money".

Ah money, that factor that every band/artist seems to put at the very top of list. Remember that you are a small business owner and that music is your product and the competition is fierce. I recommend that you go for a smaller number of tracks and higher quality every time. There are places you can save a lot of money in the process and places (like basic tracking and mixing) where you often get what you pay for. This is where practicing and being prepared with your gear will pay off big time. Have extra strings, picks, drum heads etc. ready to go. I've had to stop day one of recording to have guitars intonated which was a killer on a tight budget. (The band felt pressure to catch up with the schedule for the rest of the project.) Having said all that, it's important to set a realistic budget for yourself. If you are working with a competent engineer you don't need to book the most outrageous studio in town, you just need to make sure you have the tools you need on hand. (Remember, you can't drive a nail with a screwdriver.) As an independent engineer/producer I have been able to negotiate a better rate with studios due to the fact that I represent repeat business. Be sure you leave extra recording time for unforeseen events like tired vocalists, exciting new parts that develop while recording etc.

In my next installment I'll discuss the recording process and some ideas on studio selection.

As an independent engineer and producer I have had the pleasure of working with many talented artists including some GoGirls Music members, in a wide variety of studios from NY to LA. I am constantly seeking out people who are looking to create memorable recordings to work with. Between my audio background and associations with many different studio facilities I feel I can help artists realize their goals of creating truly great recordings. For more info contact me at slicraider@optonline.net.

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    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

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