Some basic tips before you embark on recording a song in your home studio:
1. TUNE YOUR GUITAR. Essential. Out of tune guitars ruin all recordings… period. Sometimes you can get away with an ever-so-slightly out-of-tune guitar (like, VERY slightly… one or two strings)… but, overall, make sure this shit is in tune, for every single take or overdub.
2. LYRIC SHEET or CHORD CHART. Extremely helpful. If you have trouble memorizing your arrangement, a chord chart is quite handy. Lyric sheets are basically essential when tracking vocals. Get a music stand… a folding one is less than $20. You’ll thank me.
3. NOTES & IDEAS FOR THE SONG. Take notes if you have any vision on where you want the song to go, such as “try to put a shaker in this part” – or “tambourine hits during the chorus” or… “add a rock organ behind the guitar chords in the bridge”… or “these few lines need vocal harmonies”….. if you have the basic arrangement idea planned out fully, you never know how much adding simple things (percussion, other instruments) may enhance the song and make it even better than you thought. For a great example of how tiny things can REALLY enhance an already awesome song, see Pomplamoose on YouTube.
4. VOCAL WARM-UPS / LIGHT DIET. When you’re getting ready to track vocals, make sure you eat light throughout the day, and healthily. Never sing when you first wake up… your voice is much, much too rough and tired, even though you might be fully awake and ready. Definitely do vocal warm-ups (talk with a vocal instructor if you don’t know the proper ones to do… or search YouTube for basic exercises)… the best time to track vocals is in the evening on a weekend (Saturday night or so), when you are relaxed… first day off from working all week… totally in the right mindframe. I’ve done my best vocal recordings on weekend nights when I was fully relaxed and in the zone.
5. RELAX! Recording yourself can be a pain in the ass and very frustrating. Tripping over cables, moving your mouse everywhere, adjusting the mics, and, if you’re like me… you usually shoot video of yourself recording the songs (like Pomplamoose, Jack Conte, Lauren O’Connell, Ryan Lerman and ANY “videosong” artists do) Take deep breaths and be pro about the whole process. If you fuck up, brush it off and try another take. If you really need a break, then take one.. but don’t get yourself distracted during your break. Take a walk, stretch or play with your pet or something, but no matter what, stay focused, and be pro. Another good tip— make sure your computer/recording setup is ready to go and you have no problems with it… the smoother your computer is running, the happier you’ll be, and the better your session will go.
6. NO DISTRACTIONS. Turn off your cell phone. Disable your wireless on your laptop or whichever computer you use to access the internet (I don’t have my main recording computer online at all, because I don’t want viruses or anything). Close your email program and make sure no one is planning on “just dropping by to say hi”… focus, focus, focus. Get in the mindset… put the headphones on, and just go. You’ll be surprised at how much shit you can actually GET DONE, when you put the headphones on and do it… and eliminate all the distractions beforehand.