FAQ | Studio Preparation
Frequently Asked Questions and things to know in advance
FAQs & Studio Preparation
Studio preparation is key to making the most of your time at the recording studio.
If you arrive prepared then you can record more songs and the process will run smoothly
Here are answers to some of the questions we get asked by first-time visitors to Threecircles.
Please have a read and if you still have questions then get in touch.
What should I bring to the recording session?
You should bring any instruments that you want recording.
We have various keyboards and synths in the studio. We also have a tack piano, a Fender bass guitar and a Yamaha drumkit that you are welcome to use. If you have specific cymbals, drums, pedals or amps that you want to use then you should bring them with you.
You are more than welcome to use our Marshall Vintage Modern Valve amp (in fact we encourage it!). We also get great bass tones from our Avalon U5 so unless you have a boutique bass amp, you can usually leave that at home.
What about food and drink?
We provide a selection of hot and cold drinks including tea and coffee. You should bring a packed lunch with you. There are many local pubs and cafes that serve hot meals that are only a short distance away by car. There is also a local farm shop where you can buy hot and cold snacks and drinks.
How many songs can I record in one session?
This depends on many different factors. The most important factors are how rehearsed you are and how you want to record; all at once or overdubbed. People also underestimate how long it takes to mix and to burn CDs at the end of the session. This is something that is as important as the recording. This is also something clients usually don’t budget enough time for.
Please take time to read our studio preparation below. There is more information on what you can expect and how you can aid the process.
What is Mastering and why is it important to me?
Mastering is a process that is often overlooked and/or misunderstood. Every release usually needs mastering to prepare it for radio play and retail.
The reason? You may record one song at a time, resulting in songs that could have different levels and tonality. This can also be the case when recording or mixing at different studios.
A mastering engineer can unify your album with skilful use of EQ, gain, and compression. This gives it a consistent sound from track to track. A fresh pair of ears can be the difference between a good-sounding CD and a great one.
Mastering gives an unbiased professional the chance to check your record and see how to get the most out of it. You may have spent a long time in a studio listening to your CD over and over again. Fresh ears can put things back into perspective!
To improve your recording, a mastering engineer can:
- Raise the average level
- Even out song levels and EQ individual tracks for cohesion
- Correct minor mix deficiencies with equalisation
- Enhance flow by changing the space between tracks
- Cut noises between tracks.
What about payment?
We accept payment via cash, cheques or PayPal. We do not accept direct card payments at the studio. You can use Paypal to pay with a card online but extra charges may apply.
We do expect payment before we give any CDs or MP3s out and may ask for up to 50% deposit for longer bookings.
Do you offer work experience?
Sorry but this is very unlikely. This is because studio bookings are unpredictable and are often on weekends. Do get in touch though. We can always offer advice for those wanting to join the industry.
Hi Adrian, I had a great time this weekend. Thanks so much again for your help and patience. I’m bowled over with BDTR and it’s not even mixed and mastered. We are finally capturing the sounds in my head. Really looking forward to coming back to complete the tracks.Dave Jones
Studio Preparation – Things to Know and Do in Advance
Nobody likes rules and regulations. In the studio though, unless you are Ed Sheeran or Adele, time is short and costing you money!
How are you supposed to know what to expect if you’ve never done any recording before?
Below is some studio preparation advice so that you can make the most of your recording time.
General Points for Everyone:
The one thing that is very important is your level of expectation.
You may have a favourite album or band that you want your recording to sound like. This is great and gives us a clear idea of what your influences are. Yet some records that have a classic sound often took months and thousands of pounds to make.
Know the songs inside out.
You must know the song’s arrangement even when playing by yourself. Can you play the song without the singer? It’s not easy to remember arrangements without the vocals and the other musicians to follow. Practice this and it will save lots of time. Write out arrangement sheets if necessary.
Be realistic about your technical abilities.
If you have written a part that is too tricky, make it simpler. Keep it as simple as you need to get it right every time and the recording process will be much smoother. If you make a mistake, I am going to make you do it again and this will start to annoy you after the tenth take!
Recording songs is not like playing them live. It magnifies every mistake and captures them forever. If there are obvious mistakes on the finished recording you will not be happy that I let them through.
No girlfriends, boyfriends, mates or pets should come to the session.
Your recording session is not a social event. If you need to bring someone for a valid reason then please speak to us before your session. This could be a photographer, videographer or driver for example.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before you’re due to come in.
Please do not turn up drunk or high – I will turn you away!
No eating or drinking in the control room or nearby any equipment.
You must at the very least know the words and be able to sing in tune. You may have heard that studio processes can correct bad tuning. This is possible, but it is much for satisfying to get it right first time. And you don’t want to cheat, right? Print out any lyrics you need and bring them with you as well as any other singing aids you need (vocal zones, honey etc).
Vocals are often recorded last of all so don’t be too upset if you don’t have a lot to do at first. Help and encourage your bandmates as they record their parts and they will do the same for you.
Depending on the song, it may be of benefit to record the drums whilst listening to a click track.
Practice playing to a click beforehand.
If you contact me beforehand I can supply you with an mp3 of a click at the desired tempo for you to practice with. Be aware that most modern pop/rock/metal is recorded this way. Amongst other things, it helps with editing and adding time-based effects like delay.
No amount of studio trickery can improve bad sounding drums.
If your kit is not up to par, consider borrowing or hiring a better one. At the very least you will need new heads on the drums and for them to in tune. If you don’t know how to tune your drums get on the Internet and learn or find a drum teacher. I have drums and cymbals that you can use if required. Talk to me in advance if you think you might need these.
When recording, try to go easy on the hats and cymbals.
This may not be something that is natural for you but it will improve the balance of the drum recording. Practice hitting hats and cymbals softer than the rest of the kit. This means that they will not be as loud in all the other drum microphones. We can then get a more balanced kit sound as a result.
Make sure your guitars are well set up.
Fit new strings and stretch them in.
Get used to playing with less distortion – less is more when recording.
Bass players – don’t get upset if I ask you to DI your bass when you have a sweet amp that you love.
If you use pedals, get new quality batteries for each of them, even if you have mains adapters.
Buy a guitar tuner and learn to use it.
Don’t forget your plectrums, although we usually have spares if you need them.