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The DOs & DON’Ts of… Recording

By Garry Boyle of CP Productions


At some point in your career, you will need to record your music. Regardless of whether you’re a do-it-yourself engineer or you’ve booked into a pro studio, this guide should help you avoid the common pitfalls that bands fall into pretty regularly when recording for the first time.

Making sure your guitars and basses are healthy before getting into the studio is the first step to getting a fantastic sound. Fresh strings and a good tuner get you a substantial amount of the way there; however, if the intonation on the instrument is out it will never be in tune. A simple and inexpensive guitar set up will get your guitar back into shape, in tune and playing as well as the day you got it.

As with the guitars, a little love and care will get your kit into shape before the studio. Some fresh skins on the snare, toms and kick and proper tuning will go a long way to getting a great drum sound. Listen to the engineer and his advice as to where the drums should go in the live room and take their advice regarding any little tuning tweaks or dampening they may suggest.

The human voice is the most complex of instruments and can be affected by a number of factors including tiredness, nerves and general abuse (alcohol and smoking are common causes here). As a singer you need to be comfortable and ready to deliver not only the vocal but a performance that will draw the listener in. Be sure to warm up before getting into the vocal booth by going over some simple vocal exercises (which you can find online) or by singing along to the track acoustically. Have your lyrics learned and a paper copy with you for that ‘mind blank on verse 2’ syndrome. Be prepared to try out a few mics so the engineer can find the one in their collection that compliments YOUR voice.

Getting a sound you like at the very start is the quickest way to a good sounding recording. There is only so much an engineer can do after the recording to manipulate the sound to how you want it, so communicate what you want BEFORE you start so everyone understands what you expect. Do remember that your favourite band sound the way they do because of how the musicians interact with their instruments in whatever studio they were in at the time and recreating the exact sound will be very hard, if not impossible. Finding your own sound or style will do much more for your career long term than to copy whatever is currently in trend.

Your studio session will run on a balance between quality and quantity. As with anything, the more time and effort you put into it, the better the result will be. Booking two days of studio time and expecting to record an album to a high standard is very unlikely. Take the time to record a few of your best tracks and get the best performance and sound you can. One well recorded track with a brilliant performance will stand out far more than a whole bunch of average tracks with weak performances.

Last but by no means least, bring spares. Spare strings, spare batteries for pedals, spare drum sticks and spare guitar leads. These little inexpensive spares will keep the session running and prevent you holding the session up whilst the drummer nips out to get you a battery when yours dies.

Make sure you are well rehearsed and all know the material the way you will be recording it (discuss this with the engineer). If you plan to record to a click, practice with a metronome, if you plan on recording the vocal after the band, practice without the singer. Playing to a click or without the guidance of a vocal for the first can really throw your performance and make a piece of music you know well seem alien, so get this under control in the rehearsal room.

Remember that recording is a fun process but expect to put in some hard graft and concentration to get the best out of yourself. Preparation, communication and organization are the key to the success of any project. Good luck and happy tracking.


Garry is a well-known and very talented Edinburgh producer who has worked with an array of local bands including Bombskare, The Banana Sessions, Rossco Galloway & The Chans and The Discordian Trio, to name only a few. As well as studio recording, he’s also done a lot of live recording at venues in and around Edinburgh, his upcoming one being ‘Live at The Jazz Bar’ which features the finest selection of bands recorded live from the infamous Jazz Bar on Chambers Street. If you want to check out his work or get in touch about getting some studio/live recording done for your band, visit

About The Author

Red Dog Music

Dawsons Music is delighted to announce that the Red Dog Music brand is now part of the Dawsons family. This is an exciting opportunity to bring both communities together and create a stronger, wider network of people passionate about music gear. We both share a common heritage to support musicians throughout the UK and Dawsons want to support Red Dog Music customers in their continued musical journey.

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