Do you want to increase your chances of “making it” in the music industry and getting into a successful band? You probably already know that it takes a large number of things to reach such an ambitious goal. One of the most overlooked skills that you must acquire to make this dream a reality is the ability to record your musical parts very well in the studio. Developing this skill will make it much easier for you to get attractive opportunities to advance your music career.Unfortunately, most guitarists don’t begin to consider the importance of developing their studio recording abilities until they feel the pressure of recording in such an environment for the first time. No matter how well you can play music for yourself (or even on stage), walking into the studio to record your first album will make you aware of the hidden flaws in your guitar playing that you never knew you had. This happens because the skills needed to record guitar well in the studio are very unique and require you to pay attention to fine details that many musicians never consider. One of the most frustrating experiences for musicians is having good musical (and guitar playing) skills but struggling greatly to record even very basic guitar parts “perfectly”. This situation is very common for many guitarists who are new to recording.
How does learning to record guitar parts well in the studio affect your music career?
When you are ready to record your next album with your band, the costs of recording in a professional studio can reach hundreds of dollars per hour. The more time it takes your entire band to record the songs, the more money has to be budgeted for studio costs. On top of that, if at the end of the recording session the songs are still not recorded up to the expected standard, your band (or the record company) can expect to pay a whole lot more money for the studio engineer to fix/edit the sloppy recordings. You can do your part to avoid such situations by making sure that you are always prepared to record your music well in the studio.
Most bands that have a limited budget to pay for studio time face one of two choices:
1. Hire experienced studio musicians (who do not play in the band) to help record the needed parts quickly, reliably and cheaply. Many record companies decide that it would be cheaper overall to hire a session musician to record the band’s album in the studio than to pay for an additional hundred (or more) hours of editing time that would otherwise be required by the engineer to fix the imperfect recordings of the actual band members.
2. Accept the mediocre recordings and settle for less than perfect sound on their album in order to avoid spending more money.
The good news is that it is possible to avoid having to make such unpleasant choices (as described above) by becoming proficient at recording your guitar parts in the studio accurately and quickly. You can develop this ability in the same way that you develop your other guitar playing skills – by consistent practice! However, the ability to record music in the studio is a very special skill that needs to be practiced in a unique way that is different from how you normally practice. This is one of the reasons why even very advanced guitarists have a very challenging time recording even the most simple guitar parts PERFECTLY in the studio.
Spending more time “recording” will help you to improve somewhat, but until and unless you are aware of the most common mistakes that guitarists make in the recording studio you will find it difficult to track your progress in this area.
The most difficult aspect of recording an album in the studio is creating totally perfect and tight rhythm guitar tracks. Most guitarists are already aware of the need to make rhythm guitar parts “in time” when recording. Even though “playing in time” is definitely critical, this is only one element (out of MANY) that must be thought about when recording guitar in the studio. Below is a sample of what is required to record a flawless rhythm guitar track:
- Recording the guitars perfectly tight (in time) with the bass and drums.
- Maintaining a consistent amount of pick articulation and tone on each track.
- Not allowing any sloppy noise from the strings to end up on the recording.
- Keeping the palm muting constant on every track.
- Intonating the rhythm guitars flawlessly with the other instruments used in the song. TIP: Tuning/intonating your guitar in the same way that you do for normal playing and practicing will make it extremely difficult for you to achieve this!
- Keeping all of the chords and notes on the recording sounding perfectly stable.
The above listed points are not very difficult to pay attention to and control in isolation. However, the greatest challenge of recording perfect rhythm guitar tracks in the studio comes from having to do the following:
- Get EVERY element listed above to be perfect on your recorded tracks.
- Do step 1 quickly and consistently to save yourself and your band a LOT of money in studio recording costs.
- Do both of the above steps 2-4 times (depending on whether you are double tracking or quad tracking the rhythm section).
Now that you understand more about the challenges guitar players face in the recording studio, here are some suggestions on how you can use this information to help you and your band:
- Stay determined and patient! Recording guitar well in the studio takes time to develop just like any other musical skill. Even though it may feel frustrating to start from the beginning in this area of guitar playing, you should feel excited from knowing that you are on your way to overcoming a major weakness that is holding back your guitar playing! As with all musical skills, you will be able to master this area of guitar playing a lot more quickly by getting help from a master guitar teacher.
- Find out how much you truly know about recording guitar parts in the studio right now.
- After you get specific about your weaknesses in this area, begin taking the actions needed to improve your skills for future studio recording sessions.
Improve your recording skills in the studio will put you far ahead of most other aspiring musicians and will greatly improve your chances for success in the music industry.
Tom Hess is an online guitar teacher, music career mentor and the guitar player in the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He trains and mentors musicians from all over the world on how to develop a successful career in music. In addition, he has created a free guide on studio recording for guitar players.
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