Terry Derkach is a 20+ year recording industry veteran and whether recording and producing multi-platinum artists, talented up and comers, composing music for film, working as a session guitarist or performing on world stages, is enjoying the fruits of a diversified career. As a recording engineer, he has worked under legendary names Bob Clearmountain, Kevin Killen, Michael Brauer, Lincoln Clapp, et al.
Terry currently works out of VRTCL Entertainment (pronounced “vertical”), his recording and production studio in New York City. Terry is also a co-founder of Hook(ist).
This particular post is directed toward the solo artist who doesn’t necessarily have a band and is going in to do some recording.
(I do feel the need to mention that in my opinion… “self-producing” is rarely a good idea. Having another set of ears, be it friend, colleague, fellow musician, etc., whose opinion you value, is inline with you musically and shares/understands your musical vision is invaluable.)
Ok… so you’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback on your song(s) and you’ve decided which one(s) to record. You also have a definite idea of what you want “it”/”them” to sound like and know the general kind of instrumentation you’re looking for – i.e. Strings, horns, electric/acoustic guitar, bass, (electric/upright) drums/loops, etc…
You have booked the studio (see my earlier post on “Booking A Studio”) and are ready to go in. Assuming there will be other musicians playing on the session there are a couple different approaches:
- Book rehearsals with everyone to go over the material – This will save you a lot of time & money and way cheaper than wasting costly studio time defining parts, arrangements and sounds.
- If you’re hiring professional studio musicians and plan on just going in with them the day of the session, be sure to get them at least a simple recording of the song prior to the date, and ABSOLUTELY bring lead sheets for EVERYONE.
Remember… music is a collaboration as well as a conversation, so the clearer the communication, the smoother everything will go, which will in turn benefit the music greatly.
I find inexperienced songwriters and musicians often have a difficult time communicating what they are looking for, so it behooves you to take it upon yourself to fully understand your music and have a clear and concise vision. It’s also a great idea to know other artists, songs, music well enough to be able to reference them to further illustrate what you’re going for – i.e. ‘Such and such’s bass groove”, “such and such’s guitar tone”, “this song’s drum feel”, etc. Using specific references like this always helps in communicating your vision.
Prior to the session checklist:
- Confirm the studio at least a week prior and go over the instrumentation with the engineer. You should have already done this once when you originally booked the time, but do it again. (See my “Booking A Studio” blog)
- Confirm the players, give them the time/address/directions and what (if any) amps, etc., they need to bring including kick pedal? drum throne? cymbals?
- Print lead sheets for everyone plus extras just in case.
- If you are also an instrumentalist make sure all your gear works – no buzzes, bad cables, pedals have fresh batteries if you use them, fresh strings, tuner and bring spare everything… cables, strings, string changing tools, capo, batteries, picks, etc.…
Day of the session checklist:
- Bring fluids and whatever else you think you’re going to want/need for the day.
- Arrive early and get yourself set up, this is a MUST if you are also an instrumentalist. Since it is YOUR session, questions will arise that will inevitably take you away from getting ready, so getting yourself set up well in advance will allow you this time.
- If you have demos of the song(s) give them to the engineer for reference playback (if needed).
- Create your own space/vibe/environment wherever you are positioned in the room. A chair, table for coffee/water, space to move around and be able to have eye contact with everyone (THIS LAST LINE IS VERY IMPORTANT). You gotta be able to see everyone for cues and general communication.
- Lastly, HAVE FUN!! You’re making music!! Yes there are details to be aware of but you’re MAKING MUSIC! And if you are a true artist this is the moment you’ve worked extremely hard to make happen and have been waiting for. The people that are there are there to help you succeed so feel the love!
That’s it for now. My next post will address all the above, however the approach will be from a full band perspective.