How Do I Get My Band To Sound Great In The Studio?

How Do I Get My Band To Sound Great In The Studio?

Every band that comes into NHTunes wants to leave with an awesome sounding mix… one that will simply blow them and their fans away. What’s the key to leaving the studio with a killer cut? The answer may surprise you: it’s what goes on outside the studio that matters most.
It’s simple: the more experience a band has playing together, the better their recording will sound, period.

Fact: The Beatles played over 600 shows before going into the studio for the first time.

I record a lot of bands, and I see it all the time; bands that have played a lot of gigs together generally sound great, and almost always end up with an awesome mix that they are very happy with. Bands that have none or just a couple of gigs together usually end up with a nice recording of a not-so-great performance… and everything suffers; it just doesn’t sound that great.

Why is this? It goes much deeper than the musicianship of the individual band members; it has to do with the synergy that is created by the band members working together, as a team. This synergy takes time to develop and mature, just like an individual’s musicianship. More experienced members can expedite this process, but it does take time.
So what happens with a band plays a lot of shows together? Well, a lot – and here are some of them. When you read through these, think in terms of a team and not an individual:

  • Their timing together becomes spot on… they get ‘tight’.

          The band members know each other’s musical timing sense… as they play together more and more they begin to know their material better, and each other’s timing better. In a timing sense they become more of a ‘unit’ than a group of individuals.

  • Their individual sounds are tailored to better fit the group’s overall sound.

          Over time band members, knowingly and sometimes unknowingly, will tailor their sound to better fit together; they will in effect start the mixing process themselves before ever stepping in the studio. They leave ‘space’ for others. They blend better.

  • They adjust their playing style in certain songs and parts of songs to better fit the ‘mix’.

When bands play together for a long time, they become adept at making certain parts of songs sound better by varying their playing style. For example, the rhythm guitarist may vary his strumming dynamic in the bridge of a song; or the drummer may slightly open or close the hi-hat at certain parts of the song. Don’t underestimate this: these subtle changes, made by the band members over and over again in song after song, add up, and are a big part of that  synergy.

Though these are probably the most important reasons that experienced bands tend to sound great, there are more. I’ve played over 400 shows with my current gig, and I can tell you from experience that, over the years these factors create a synergy that just takes time and energy to develop… and is the reason that most newer band’s mixes may be underwhelming.
So, if you’re thinking of coming into the studio to record your demo, EP, or album, do yourself a favor and get a lot of shows under your belt first, and you’ll likely be rewarded with an awesome mix. It worked for the Beatles.

Bob Desmarais is the owner and chief engineer at Manchester NH’s premier recording studio, NHTunes.


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