Studio Flow: The Basics for Making the Best of Your Studio Time as an Indie Artist
Making the best of your studio time is not just about having your tracks on your flash drive (unless this is a live band recording, then your instruments) for your session ready and having pre rehearsed your song long before you have paid to record it. It's also about knowing that when you leave the studio, you are leaving with what you paid for.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what services a recording studio is or isn’t supposed to provide, so instead I’m going to clarify what YOU, the artist, should be sure you’re leaving with when the session is over – AND WHY.
First: At the end of the session the engineer should be bouncing down a properly labeled high quality compressed audio file of the final recording. Depending on what software he's using it will be an Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) (Mac/Itunes) or an MP3 at 320kbps. Why?
a. Because low quality files are not broadcast/radio ready
b. Because any track below 24 bit compression can't be Mixed/Mastered to its best sound
Second: The engineer will bounce down a properly labeled WAV file of your finished recording (If your USB Drive has the space, these files are large). Why?
a. Because some places where you submit your track will not accept an MP3
b. Because you can always convert the WAV file into an MP3
Third: The engineer will bounce down properly labeled stems of your song: Stems are the different parts of the song as their own audio file; for example, your vocals as its own MP3/WAV, ad libs on its own Mp3/WAV, instrumentals on its own Mp3/WAV, etc. Why?
a. Because your song cannot be professionally mixed & mastered without stems of your song
b. Because your song cannot be properly radio edited without stems of your song
c. Because your track cannot be remixed clean (crisp non-muddy sounding) without the stems of your song
d. Because you cannot create a Show Set without stems of your song
Fourth: The engineer will bounce down a properly labeled Show Set, which is an audio file of just your music and ad libs without your main/lead vocals. Why?
a. Because you don’t want to perform over your own lead vocals at a show, trust me.
b. Because you can’t sing both your ad libs and your vocals during a set.
So remember indies, the next time that you book a recording session, don't just make sure you have your USB flash drive with space for all of these recorded items. Make sure you leave with them too. Keep in mind, this outcome is what you should expect from a professional recording studio and these are JUST the rough mixed recorded files.
Usually you must pay EXTRA for mixing and mastering, especially if you want to use a different engineer. Both the mixing and mastering processes require a separate set of skills and take a lot longer than a recording session IF it’s done right. That is a whole other article in itself.