This article is dedicated to the independent artist (non-band) looking to work smart, achieving quality studio sessions using their hard earned money wisely. As a studio engineer and producer for two decades, I've almost seen it all.
Without saying, you can get discounts with sexual favors. While this method has brought fame and success to some artists, I do not recommend it. Keep your soul, protect your hole!
Okay seriously, here are the real tips and advice:
Tip #1: Sleep and diet.
In order for our bodies to perform optimally, it needs to rest. Get at least 4 hours of sleep the night or day before your session. Your vocal chords will thank you and your brain will be more at ease, making it easier to focus and be creative. Drink plenty of water to hydrate your vocal chords. Vocalists should try to avoid dairy products to prevent mucous build up.
Tip #2: Preparation.
Have your music ready! I have had clients waste hours simply being unprepared. Have your music or "beats" ready on a usb drive. Most producers prefer to work with WAV (PC) or AIFF (MAC) files rather than an MP3 files, because WAV/AIFF files are clean and uncompressed, reducing audio artifacts and optimal processing by the computer's CPU and your audio interface's analogue to digital converters.
Unless you are a freestyle artist, have your lyrics memorized or at least written down on paper or your *mobile device. Practice. Practice makes you better. Go over your material before your session.
Tip #3 Proper Studio/engineer.
Research the studio/engineer. Don't make your decision based on hype, credentials or hearsay alone. Listen to their work. Go with the sound you like. If you are experienced and knowledgeable to your preference, ask them about their equipment/software. At some point you'll have to invest in a session to see for yourself the results on your project. Talk to the studio/engineer. See if any good rapport and good vibes are present between you. Does the studio/engineer produce an environment that supports your creativity or hinder it? Use these methods to find a proper studio/engineer, and you're on your way to great sessions.
Tip #4 Pay upfront.
Most professional studios require a security deposit up front to book your session and full payment upon arrival to the session. This creates a dual expectation of professional obligation between you, the artist (to use your time wisely) and the engineer (to work to satisfaction).
Tip #5 Be on time and only bring people necessary for the session.
Showing up is everything. Not showing up is like black-listing yourself from that studio, and maybe even with other music professionals who may hear about your non-professionalism. Even though you put down a deposit, the studio is losing money because they could've had a quality client who kept their word and paid in full for the reserved time. The clock starts sharp at your appointed time. To be late is wasting your own resources, and when the session is over, it's over. I've had clients come to the studio just to stunt (show-off) to the extra people they brought with them. Bringing unnecessary people can be distractive and stunt creativity and productivity. Keep it simple, silly.
Tip #6 Know what you want and how communicate effectively.
Can you describe your brand and the sound you want? This is crucial is getting a final product you are happy with. Bring examples if you need to. The engineer is working for you. Professionally object to anything you don't like.
Tip #7 Good vocal/mic technique.
Good vocal technique requires proper use of airflow controlled by your diaphram. Vocal lessons are a good place to start if your are a beginner. I've used an excersize utilizing a glass of water and a straw to strengthen the diaphram of developing artists. (I'll post the technique later). Proximity from your mouth and the microphone is important. Remember the softer your vocals, the closer you get to the mic. The louder you get the further you get from the mic. You'll have to be able to adjust your proximity to the mic while you are recording live. Trusting the studio compressor alone to do this will not give you as good results.
Tip #8 Don't force greatness.
Through my experiences I've learned great creativity flows through you. It comes to and from you almost effortlessly. When/if you find yourself in a rut or block, move forward to another section, dim the lights, or take a break to get in your zone. The more comfortable you are, the easier to get to your creative happy place.
Tip #9 Enjoy the experience. Consider your social responsibility.
If you're not enjoying your studio experience you're either doing something wrong, at the wrong studio, possibly in the wrong profession, or need more preparation before you are ready for the studio. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
DeVon Carlo is an Independent artist mogul, owner of Fortune Forever Records, and teaches at Fortune Forever University (FFU). His works as a producer, engineer, singer and songwriter have landed on international top music charts.