In a perfect world, you would have the most amazing home studio. You would have all the equipment you could ever need. You’d have huge tracking rooms, awesome vocal booths, and a control room that would make you drool just a little bit. In addition, you would have an entire army of A-list musicians waiting in the wings to offer their talent at the drop of a hat.
If this describes your studio, then you can stop reading now. 🙂 For the rest of us in the real world, please read on.
Since we don’t have the perfect studio, oftentimes we’ll need to take our beloved recording projects to other studios. Perhaps you’re like my brother-in-law. He’s working on an album now that requires a different vocalist for each track. He’s traveling around to various studios recording vocalists.
Or perhaps you’re like another artists I’ve been conversing with recently. He’s recording the album in his home studio, but he recorded the drums in a professional studio.
Whatever the case may be, if you’re actively recording music (and you’re not a hermit), you’ll end up taking your work to another studio from time to time.
Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Print EVERYTHING
What I mean by “print” is to record anything and everything that you want to transfer to the next studio. If you rely heavily on plug-ins to get your desired sound (either with effects plug-ins or virtual instruments), you need to record those effects/instruments to a new track.
The reason for this is that the studio you’re going to may not own the exact set of plug-ins that you do. For example, if your entire song is based around a complex sequence you put together using Reason, and then the studio your going to doesn’t have Reason, you’re hosed. However, if you take the time to record your Reason sequence to a new audio track (or several audio tracks), then you can always just play back these tracks whether they own Reason or not.
2. Keep a mix IN your session
This goes along with #1. Before you pack up and head out to the studio, make sure you record a mix of the entire song into your session. If all else fails, and nothing seems to work in the studio, you can always access this stereo mix and record the new parts to that.
3. Make sure your sessions are compatible
This applies to you whether you’re using Cubase or Logic or Pro Tools. Do your homework before you head out to the new studio. Know what version of the DAW they have.
For example, if you’re using Pro Tools 8 and you take your Pro Tools 8 session to a studio using Pro Tools 6.9, the session won’t open. Plain and simple. It may seem like an obvious thing to check (and it’s a simple problem to fix by saving a copy of your session in the older format), but you’d be surprised how easy it is to overlook this little detail.
* On a side-note, this can be important if you’re going from a PC system to a Mac and vice-versa. In Pro Tools, make sure you enforce Mac-PC compatibility for a smooth transition between the two platforms.
4. How to deal with a different DAW platform
If you’re taking your session to a completely different system, then you’ll need to export all of your audio and re-import it into the new system. For example, if you’re in Pro Tools, and the studio you’re going to uses Logic, you’ll need to bring a hard drive full of audio files to import into Logic for the recording session.
To do this, you need to figure out how to make your DAW create audio files for each track, and then make all of these tracks the same length. If nothing else, make sure they all start at exactly the same time. That way, they’ll line up in the new DAW, and you’ll be able to line them up in your system at home after the session.
You may want to use stems rather than provide individual audio files for each track. Stems are basically submixes of groups of tracks. For example, you could have a stem for drums, one for guitars, one for keyboards, one for orchestral instruments, etc.
Using stems gives you a happy medium between having to bring in 24+ different audio files and bringing just a single stereo mix of the entire song. With stems, you can adjust the balance between the different sections, which may be crucial for something like a vocal session. The vocalist needs to be comfortable with the headphone mix if you want to have any hope of a good performance.
5. If possible, bring your computer with you
This may not be feasible for some of you, but you should consider bringing your computer with you to the new session. Consider it a backup plan in case things go wrong.
My studio is currently based around my Macbook. If I go to another studio, I’ll likely bring the Macbook with me. In the off chance that we encounter some serious problems, I can probably plug my computer into the system and run the session off of my Macbook if it comes down to that.
Chances are you won’t need to, but it’s always good to plan for these things.
What other suggestions do you have? Please share by leaving a comment.