Struggling to get ready for studio time...tips needed please!

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So for my 30th birthday last April (as in 2017!!!!) my work colleagues bought me a 3 hour studio experience voucher, which I was very humbled by and grateful for. I wanted to double up the time ideally to get a full day in there.

The problem has been finding the time to practice and prep enough to be ready as I'm substandard in both guitar and singing, and my music room is the untidiest place known to man and can't seem to get a set up that always works for practice because of that, and because of ongoing technical problems I seem to have (can detail these separately if you want to laugh at how many different things can go wrong!). My musical ability is either in playing piano (classical), or in arranging really, ie musical ear rather than any singing or guitar ability.

It's stressing me out as I've had to extend the voucher validity and now they can't fit me in for the full six hours until June when I'm on holiday. So any practice and prep I do now will be worthless in July as I'll have forgotten it all.

So what should I do?

My intention was to do three original songs in full there, then record the composite parts of a number of covers to finish at home myself. I would bring my backing tracks in audio stems or in a Pro Tools project file so that I effectively re-record the guitar and vocals (ie the stuff I can't do so well at home).

I've thought of the following options:
1. Try to book two three hour sessions on different days. Do vocals on one, guitars on the other. Finish mixing at home. Should not increase set up/set down times this way, compared to doing three songs one day and the rest on another.
2. Just do the three hours (don't extend time) and hope to finish my original ones, and keep the chaos and stress going at home trying to finish the others.
3. Giving up completely and just pretending to others I'm too shy to share what I've recorded :)

I've discounted the following options which had previously been suggested or considered:
1. Doing something totally different, using piano instead. They only have digital pianos and can't record classical on those so no go on that.
2. Going all "singer songwriter" and using the time to record me doing a bit of solo vocals plus guitar/piano, to a click track, so I could use the files later in a bigger arrangement. Can't do this though as sadly my vocals and playing are weak enough by themselves, let alone doing them simultaneously! But even doing them separately in this way, I'm not interesting enough for the recordings to hold the attention that way, and it feels somehow even more self indulgent to do that (notwithstanding that this whole project is a vanity thing to be fair...)

Not really sure what tips can be picked up really as assume the common consensus will be option 2 but who knows unless you ask :)

Thanks kind people of tFB

And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • spark240spark240 Frets: 940
    I would concentrate on one song if thats the case, record all the parts as well as you can on the day, if you get spare tome lay down some tracks for another song.

    Bring the lot home as stems / tracks and remix at your leisure.

    Or...depending on what type of stuff your doing, Im happy to give you some of my time in my home studio to lay down soem guitars / vocals ;-)


    Mac Mini i7, 2.3Ghz.
    Presonus Studio One Pro.
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 2930
    Try and aim for two finished songs. Have the structure, tempo set out 100% and use the studio for its strengths (hopefully mics, acoustics). 
    If you using digi piano then record that at homeas a midi track & rendered, or add one afterward. You can have an audio file with a rendered click and scratch guitar/piano too. That way they can just import the file instead of setting a whole session and having to do a scratch track again. 
    Then add vocals, acoustic/electric guitar and have them mix it. Best prep aside from ready base tracks etc is to practice your singing as much as possible.  
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    edited April 24
    Thanks both for that and @spark240 for the kind offer .

    The back tracks are basically ready (or are close to being) and for each song I've got a notes sheet so I know what I need to record, at what tempo on what settings etc. All I want to do is re record the vocals and guitar parts, which are generally very minimal. Where there are verses and choruses I'd just copy and paste the guitar part, solos never more than eight bars long and generally any recording I've ever done, I've done each part in two or three takes once the technology is working. I don't like polished music, preferring to work quickly and leave the human errors in there.

    Hence why I think three songs in three his would be pretty achievable. Vocals probably about 2.5 minutes worth per song, if that, guitar parts certainly less than that on two of the three given the copy and paste method. 

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • LuminousLuminous Frets: 207
    I get people coming in all the time for a few hours and trying to maximise time by trying to do too much....
    I'd advise concentrate on getting one song right...book 3 hours go in and do basic tracks, then befre your next 3 hour session work on whateber it was that needed working on to finish.
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    Luminous said:
    I get people coming in all the time for a few hours and trying to maximise time by trying to do too much....
    I'd advise concentrate on getting one song right...book 3 hours go in and do basic tracks, then befre your next 3 hour session work on whateber it was that needed working on to finish.

    I know what you mean, but I honestly couldn't see it needing three hours to do one of my songs, normally it takes me three hours to write arrange and record when I do it myself? From Fretboard challenge experience there. I don't think the studio people there do a lot so would just be to record me and give me the files, when I went there before with my dad (he was singing to backing tracks) they didn't really do any more than just pressing record and then adding compression at the end.

    Me singing the same 90 second vocal over and over won't improve it to be honest. I think I'd rather not go if that's all I'm going to get done though as it'd be easier doing it myself (and would save the hassle, journey time, and whole quandry really) :)

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    edited April 24
    I think if I can only get one song done in that time, it'll have to be just one of those "I'll pretend to like it to make others happy" type things that we all dread so much


    Edit: for an idea of the kind of level I'm working at: https://soundcloud.com/thecolourbox-1

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • IMC1980IMC1980 Frets: 22
    I think your stuff sounds good! Is it you singing on the "Matt songs" playlist? Your voice reminds me of Damon Albarn, Wait has a great feel to it and Sheena is a Monster is like an 8 bit Gorrilaz, very interesting. 

    You could probably get two tracks done with how short they are, maybe pick out the elements you would like to have studio recordings of like the vocals if they have high end mics and well treated rooms or the guitars if they have decent amps at that studio and then add the rest at home. 

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  • Sounds like you're putting yourself under a lot of pressure. Step back,set a reasonable end goal, plus a few practice goals along the way which you can tick off one by one. You'll definitely  enjoy it more that way rather than aiming for something that's probably not achievable in the time period. Plus don't be so hard on yourself. You're better than you think.
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  • spark240spark240 Frets: 940
    Some cool vibes there dude....


    Mac Mini i7, 2.3Ghz.
    Presonus Studio One Pro.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3325
    Sounds like you're putting yourself under a lot of pressure.
    +1

    Relax.

    Decide whether you want the studio experience to be a full immersion learning day or a recording session on the cheap.

    Be prepared.

    Represent yourself. Perform your own material - even if it has to be in a stripped down near-demo form. As a fan of Richard Thompson, I enjoy the deluxe editions of his CD releases. These consist of the full-on studio album plus a bonus disc of solo acoustic renditions of the same material. 

    practice your singing as much as possible.  
    This.

    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    Thanks all for the kind words and advice, have taken it all on board and written out a few plans of what I'd like to achieve. I've had a quick chat with the studio guys as well which has led now to the following plan of action.

    I've booked the last available 3 hour slot in May, on the 20th. I then intend to book a second 3 hour slot after my holiday (either late June or early July).

    The first session, I intend to do singing only - so will prep the  backing tracks ahead of time with good guitar parts, then simply record as many takes as possible on the day to make use of their mics and vocal booth. Will request to take home the raw audio stems to plug into my Draft mixes, but also the effected stems if they add any nice fx there. I would like to do three originals, and three covers, but will prioritise the originals first. I've done an ideal batting order based on that, in an order that gives me an easy warm up song as well. Six songs gives me roughly half an hour per song, that should be plenty if only singing.

    The second session, again I've composed a batting order to get warmed up and prioritise my own songs, and I'll just do the re-recording of guitars for that. There are only five songs that require guitar, and one of them is only a solo with harmony for about 16 bars, and it's not particularly difficult to play :) . Again, half an hour per song should be ample as I tend to favour doing as much as possible in one/two/three takes as I practise them very heavily.

    As Nigel said, I needed to think what I want from it. I do fancy experiencing the recording side of it with nice kit but when it comes down to it, I won't benefit from them only doing one or two songs in full as I'm already fairly alright at the mixing bit myself anyway. So my priority is to get recordings of voice and guitars and then I can can use the opportunity to learn how to properly finish them and do a job I'm pleased with myself. Or I can can pay somebody else to sort it if I get lazy :)

    @funkfingers - would love to be good enough to do the "busker" versions of the songs but I definitely don't have the skill to carry that off! Though may consider piecing it together with the stem files though I guess, we shall see.

    @imc1980 thanks for your kind words, never had the Albarn comparison before though! Usually get "that bloke from Travis" or "that bloke from The xx".

    Thanks all

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    So it was today, they could not fit me in for two sessions so I just thought I'd do one and try to get three songs done. Very disappointing day as I did not get any vocals done at all, the guitar seemed to take an age to get set up sounding OK and I should have said to abandon it as the recordings I had at home sounded better anyway but thought... Oh it's OK I'll have time to run through the singing then call it a day. 

    Sadly not, just as I thought woo guitars done let's sing, they said... Yeah bouncing the files out takes ages so we will have to stop there while I export all the wav files.

    So I've come away with guitar recordings that don't sound that great on rhythm parts, though fine for solo bits, that are half as quiet as everything else in my projects so I've now got to rebalance all the bloody levels again...

    Waste of a day but more of a waste all the prep and practice I put into it beforehand, wrestling with rubbish technology and a persistently crashing VST Bridge in Cubase

    Gahhhhhhh

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • meltedbuzzboxmeltedbuzzbox Frets: 7660
    What did you want to have at the end of it all?

    I generally use studio time to record drums
    The Bigsby was the first successful design of what is now called a whammy bar or tremolo arm, although vibrato is the technically correct term for the musical effect it produces. In standard usage, tremolo is a rapid fluctuation of the volume of a note, while vibrato is a fluctuation in pitch. The origin of this nonstandard usage of the term by electric guitarists is attributed to Leo Fender, who also used the term “vibrato” to refer to what is really a tremolo effect.
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    I aimed to do three original songs with guitar and voice, record then separately then take the files home to plug into my own projects which I'd already done the vst instruments for, then adjust levels to suit and finish.

    I have learnt a few things though. I prefer the sound and ease of recording direct, got a good sound pretty much instantly that way, how I wanted it, and doing it myself ensured it was the sound I wanted. I found it hard listening through headphones to what I'm used to hearing coming from in front of me (through not very good headphones I have to say), I seemed to have to keep swapping between live room and control room a lot more than I thought I would. Doing it myself seems easier and more instant, with a better sound to be honest. The files I've got that are not with fuzz are so quiet as well, so maybe I record too loudly but who knows.

    I also learnt that I can't play guitar to backing tracks that well, so in future I will just record click tracks and play to that, my timing seemed better then.

    I just thought it would be easier and better with somebody else taking care of the technology (something I have a bit of bother with as my laptop is a bit old and the systems I use are limited). But it was not, sadly

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3325
    the systems I use are limited
    You say that as if it is a bad thing. 

    I subscribe to the Brian Eno notion that having to work with limited resources obliges one to be more ingenious in the uses to which the available equipment and/or instruments are put.




    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    edited May 28
    the systems I use are limited
    You say that as if it is a bad thing. 

    I subscribe to the Brian Eno notion that having to work with limited resources obliges one to be more ingenious in the uses to which the available equipment and/or instruments are put.




    Oh yes very much so, I very much prefer to keep things simple and work from there. But by limited, I mean my computer cannot run Cubase reliably and I have to reboot it every five minutes due to VST bridge crashing and cutting my audio out which does rather kill the flow....

    On the plus side, I've more or less finished four songs using my own setup and basically only used about 30 seconds of the audio recorded at the studio though I don't admit this to people I know :) 

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3325
    Perhaps, you should do like poopot and offer the stems for one of your Projects up for third party remixing?
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • CabicularCabicular Frets: 2193
    Studios tend to be as good as the people running them
    Ive done a few rescue jobs for bands using various local ones and have been shocked at some of the weird shit that seems to go on during sessions
    I come from the pre digital age so the studios I set up and worked in were 16 track reel machines, racks of outboard and bantam patch panels.
    If you fucked something up editing was done via razor blades and sticky tape. It made you meticulous about set up.
    A lot of these places seem to just throw mics at stuff and then tire their ears out at volume. Some of them must have just no idea what a bass drum should sound like. And no one takes fucking notes anymore.
    We used to have log books and Polaroid’s of the desk for every session we did. We knew who played what in which track and which equipment was used.
    nowadays (if I haven’t done the recording myself) I get a bunch of wav files . If I’m lucky a DAW project and then have to figure it out from scratch
    kids today ...etc
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3325
    Luxury!
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    Cabicular said:
    Studios tend to be as good as the people running them
    Ive done a few rescue jobs for bands using various local ones and have been shocked at some of the weird shit that seems to go on during sessions
    I come from the pre digital age so the studios I set up and worked in were 16 track reel machines, racks of outboard and bantam patch panels.
    If you fucked something up editing was done via razor blades and sticky tape. It made you meticulous about set up.
    A lot of these places seem to just throw mics at stuff and then tire their ears out at volume. Some of them must have just no idea what a bass drum should sound like. And no one takes fucking notes anymore.
    We used to have log books and Polaroid’s of the desk for every session we did. We knew who played what in which track and which equipment was used.
    nowadays (if I haven’t done the recording myself) I get a bunch of wav files . If I’m lucky a DAW project and then have to figure it out from scratch
    kids today ...etc
    Oh I can imagine. This place seemed like that a bit though to be fair I was only there on a gift experience voucher so in hindsight I shouldn't have expected them to care very much!

    Though given it was only me, I'm not sure that many notes would have been required to remind me who played what :)

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3325
    given it was only me, I'm not sure that many notes would have been required to remind me who played what :)
    *Sigh*

    thecolourbox said:
    I was only there on a gift experience voucher so, in hindsight, I shouldn't have expected them to care very much!
    Au contraire. A good studio should have been striving to make a good impression in the hopes of your repeat business in the future. How far into your session did the staff seem to cease caring?
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    I'm sure it was more user error (ie me) than them Nigel, they seem well thought of by others. It's more that I'm not good enough for such an environment and that is the heat thing I've learnt - stick to what I know at home

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • TheBigDipperTheBigDipper Frets: 932
    <big snip>
    Though given it was only me, I'm not sure that many notes would have been required to remind me who played what :)
    In my personal experience, I can leave a project alone for a few days and then, when I go back to it, I've no idea what I was doing last time. Using notes within Logic has saved me rework more times than I'd like to think. I'm not working on stuff every day.

    If you can work without notes, I'm the envious bloke in the corner....   :)
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3325
    Cabicular said:
    which equipment was used.
    How that equipment was connected to everything else. How its controls were set. Whether anyone was manually adjusting those controls during the replay of the multi-track tape. (In dub reggae, for example, it is extremely likely that the delay devices will receive plenty of real time adjustment of the feedback and time parameters.) 

    Cabicular said:
    log books and Polaroids
    If, for the sake of argument, somebody had stumbled across a particular sound by running an electro-mechanical piano through a ring modulator, a phaser and a Uni-Vibe, a written or photographic record of this signal chain would make possible its recreation in the future. This might prove handy come overdubbing time.

    In a recording studio, anything that saves time, also saves money.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3204
    <big snip>
    Though given it was only me, I'm not sure that many notes would have been required to remind me who played what :)
    In my personal experience, I can leave a project alone for a few days and then, when I go back to it, I've no idea what I was doing last time. Using notes within Logic has saved me rework more times than I'd like to think. I'm not working on stuff every day.

    If you can work without notes, I'm the envious bloke in the corner....   :)
    My songs are simple, the parts very repetitive. I only recorded parts for three songs, two featured the same rhythm guitar sound just on different pickups, two featured the same fuzz sound I always use, so whilst I can see that proper recordists would need notes, mine was hardly rocket science...

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • CabicularCabicular Frets: 2193
    It’s a good habit to get into and I can’t tell you how many times it’s bailed me out even with Daws
    When I’m tracking I run a spreadsheet of parts everyone is going to record and what I’m naming the tracks, equipment used and notes and then cross them off one by one.
    again you would surprised how many times people have come out of sessions forgetting to record an acoustic guitar part or a horn part etc
    It’s one of the reasons I hate recording myself. My brain is too wired into the organisation of stuff to be in any way creative
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  • CabicularCabicular Frets: 2193
    edited June 2
    Cabicular said:
    which equipment was used.
    How that equipment was connected to everything else. How its controls were set. Whether anyone was manually adjusting those controls during the replay of the multi-track tape. (In dub reggae, for example, it is extremely likely that the delay devices will receive plenty of real time adjustment of the feedback and time parameters.) 

    Cabicular said:
    log books and Polaroids
    If, for the sake of argument, somebody had stumbled across a particular sound by running an electro-mechanical piano through a ring modulator, a phaser and a Uni-Vibe, a written or photographic record of this signal chain would make possible its recreation in the future. This might prove handy come overdubbing time.

    In a recording studio, anything that saves time, also saves money.
    Words of wisdom !
    My first experience of in the box recall was when I did 300ft Gorillas album Gorilla tactics (Paul Hindmarsh of Line 6 fames band). To be able to send sessions between his bass player and myself was revolutionary.
    Not taking a day to recreate a desk and outboard for a track was also very welcome but I’m glad I did all that stuff the old way. The knowledge and background has served me very well
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  • BazzBassBazzBass Frets: 1

    So any practice and prep I do now will be worthless in July as I'll have forgotten it all.

    well then you have to keep practicing it to learn it. otherwise don't bother as you'll waste the 3 hours. You have to know the songs backwards to do a recording session justice
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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 4232
    From my perspective I think if you have the ability to record guitars at home then there's questionable benefit to using the studio time in that way. Even with a great engineer it's hit and miss whether mic'ing a cab is going to get a better result than going in to an ampsim.

    Where the studio absolutely will add value is either drums or vocals because these are so dependent on room acoustics, mic and preamp selection.

    6 hours might be a long vocal session if you are not used to singing and sounds like drums arent in scope for you so what I would do is have your guitars and backing tracks done at home ready to go then record as much vocals as you can.

    If the engineer is also a decent producer use the time to experiment with vocal layers and harmony etc.
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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 4232
    Reading back I see youve already completed this but for refrence:

    "Six songs gives me roughly half an hour per song, that should be plenty if only singing."

    I think that is unrealistic if you want quality. Our singer is pretty awesome and it took us 2 x 3 hour session to get 4 songs done for our last EP (including some harmony work). Our songs have long instrumental only sections too.
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