Recording Guitar Striving for Perfection

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Recording Guitar Striving for Perfection


We are all aware that money does not grow on trees.  In addition, we also know that studio time is very expensive.  So, shouldn’t you be as prepared as possible when getting ready to record?  I’d like to suggest some ideas, learned from my own experience, to prepare you for your venture into the recording studio.


Get comfortable with your recording environment.


Due to time and cost, many guitar players are currently recording guitar tracks in their own home studios.  Often times the drums are being recorded at a recording studio.  The guitar player can then take home a wav file of the drums, import the wav file into their recording rig, and record the guitars.  This is the ultimate scenario.  Tracking in your own studio will relieve the pressure from you as the performer.  You are able to take your time getting the perfect take comfortably in your own environment.


If you have your own studio, I would highly recommend practicing your guitar part while sitting in the same chair you will use when recording.  In addition, practice your part along with the mix that you will use before recording.  This will get you used to what you will hear when recording.  Personalize your studio so it makes you comfortable.  This could include bringing rugs, pictures, posters, or even strippers.  It’s up to you, although the strippers may be too much of a distraction!


Are you really ready to record?


You don’t want to waste your time and money, nor anyone else’s.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you own your own recording set up.  You need to be prepared to record.  This means being prepared both mentally and physically.  The best way to be mentally prepared is to build your confidence through practicing the part to be recorded.  Keep practicing the part until you can play it without any mistakes.  When practicing, you also need to analyze your playing on a deeper level.  For example, when you play the part are you creating any pops or noises by scraping or bumping open strings?  All those little scrapes can suddenly become problems in the studio.  When practicing, be sure to focus on playing the part as clean as possible.  One trick I use to mute open strings and cut down on noise is to fold a piece of paper towel and place it under the strings close to the nut.


Ask yourself if you are playing the part as clean as possible and if you’re articulating each note.  If you don’t feel you are, you should practice the part with a metronome.  Try slowing the metronome down to clean up the part, and then gradually speed up the tempo.  Ask yourself if you have bitten off more than you can chew.  If it’s time to record and you’re still not ready, consider revising the part to something easier for you.  Keep an open mind and consider changing your fingering or trying to play the piece at a different position on the neck.



Is your gear ready?


Ask yourself this question at least a week prior to recording.  You don’t want to be rushing to change your strings before heading to the studio.  You might discover you are out of strings!  I recently went to change the strings on a guitar I was going to use to record.  It just so happened that one of my tuning pegs actually broke off.  I would hate to have discovered this right before recording.  This is why it’s important to get your gear ready ahead of time.  Have your speaker cabinet in the correct place and mic’ed up ahead of time.  Have your amplifier and stomp boxes set up the night before.  Then when it’s time to record you can just come in without stressing about your equipment.  If you are going into a professional studio then create a checklist of things you need to bring.


Have you created a demo of the song?


I usually demo a guitar part before I record it.  You can create a rough take of the song and each part.  This can be a huge help, even if you have to do this on a two track cassette recorder.  By creating a demo of the song, you can verify that the part you are recording actually fits the song.  I have discovered that sometimes a lead run I’ve created may be a few notes too long.  I can catch this at the demo stage and modify the part.  Creating a demo of the song can also help you find the correct tone and effects to enhance the song.



The big day!


Try to avoid stress before recording.  I usually record in the morning because it’s the most stress free part of the day for me.  Find a time that suits you.  I have noticed that the amount of sleep I get really affects how well I play, so don’t go into the studio hung over with 4 hours of sleep!


Be sure to warm up by playing the part you plan to record, but also play a song you enjoy.  Often times I will warm up by playing the part to a metronome and gradually increase the tempo.  Then I try to play something fun in between each time I increase the tempo.


If you’ve done your homework (practice, practice, practice) you should feel really strong about the part you are recording.  Use that confidence to your benefit.  Don’t settle for a mediocre take.  Stay calm and patient and the good take will come.  Take a break if you start to get stressed or play something fun.  The part you’re struggling with can suddenly become easy after taking a break.


If you have your own studio and still can’t seem to get that magic take, then just call it a day.  Practice the part and knock it out the next week.  It’s better to take your time and be satisfied with a better recording.


I hope this helps you in getting the perfect take!

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Updated: 11/4/06