Good documentation of your work is one of the best long-term investment you can make in your music-making practice. Your recordings, both audio and visual, will be the cornerstone of your portfolio. Plus, it will determine how your work, values, and interests in music are viewed throughout your career. Recording is absolutely a different skill set than performing or composing. It’s important to get as much experience in recording as possible and create as much documentation as possible to have a ready archive that demonstrates your artistic voice.
Your 29 Day to Diva – Day 7 Assignment: Schedule a recording session
The audio/visual documentation of your musical work becomes the primary way that people engage with your art when they’re not physically witnessing your performance. Recordings will often be the principal way that presenters, directors, journalists, or grant panels will interact with your work. Having good recordings can mean the difference between getting a grant or gig and well, not.
Because I do a lot of my professionally creative work in new music, I often like to tell myself that making recordings is the “closing of the loop” on a project. Recordings are the only really tangible way for others to engage in performance work after the initial performance. I’m primarily saying that performance is ephemeral and that no performance can ever be duplicated in exactly the same sounds, conditions, or experience and not that you shouldn’t try to perform new works multiple times in different spaces and for different audiences. I consider it “closing the loop” or “completing the circuit” because recording is an important step in the planning, commissioning/creation, performance, and proliferation trajectory. Recordings can help make other performers and presenters aware of the piece and encourage them to take it up. You don’t only have to focus on new music for recording to be an integral aspect of your process. Regardless of your style, aesthetic, or genre, I encourage you to have a ready amount of documentation.
There are lots of ways that recordings can happen. Depending on where you are in your career and your goals, you might be creating recordings for YAP applications, you might be recording an entire album of a project you’ve curated/performed, you might be hired by a studio or composer to record their work, you could also be self-recording in your own space. Many of my clients feel overwhelmed by recording themselves off the bat. So, let’s focus on a version in which you work with a studio/engineer.
Research studios and/or recording engineers
I want you to ask for recommendations from professional colleagues and also do some information gathering of your own to find a studio or recording engineer that you would like to work with. You’ll likely want to prioritize someone in your geographic area, but I have also worked with studios and engineers far from home because I liked them and their work. Pick the direction that seems the easiest to accomplish. Know someone but they live farther away? Figure out if the travel presents a bigger barrier (cost, schedule, etc) than finding someone local to work with.
When you’re researching studios or engineers, ask them about their experience and confidence with mic-ing and recording your specific instrument. Ask them about the challenges they’ve experienced and how they overcame that. Ask them for examples of previous work in your specific style and determine whether you think they’ll be able to do the work you’d like them to do.
Price comparison is usually a consideration at this stage. Find out what people charge for their services and the timeline on which they expect to be paid.
Schedule a session
Just get it on the books. Honestly, this is the whole micro action for today’s post. Please, for the love of all things holy, just schedule it already. Don’t drag your feet. Don’t wait until the conditions are absolutely perfect. Don’t tell yourself that you need to get permission slips from your voice teacher, coach, conductor, mentor, mother, neighbor, 2nd grade teacher, and favorite grocery store employee before you just schedule the darn thing.
Once you’ve figured out who you want to work with and gotten a quote for their rates, go ahead and schedule a session. You might need to save money before you’re able to meet their fee. Determine how much time you will need to save or earn that money, then schedule your session for that future timeframe. Avoid the common mistake of not officially scheduling a session because you can’t afford it right now and then just letting the entire project disappear into the ether.
Don’t forget to coordinate scheduling with any of the collaborators you will need for recording. Working with a collaborative pianist? Want to have someone in the booth to act as your producer? Heck, need to secure childcare during that timeframe? Go ahead and get on other people’s schedules early.
Practice at home
Want to prepare for the experience of the studio? Create your mock studio at home. (Bonus points: The *mock* studio might become an actual music recording space that you use in the future as you become more comfortable recording yourself.)
You’ll need (there are some good recommendations in this post for each):
- Your computer
- A DAW (digital audio workstation)
- An interface
- A microphone
- Headphones or speakers
To prepare for your time in the studio, practice tracking the music you’re recording many times over. Then, put time into your practice schedule to do critical listening to each track that you laid down. Listen for things such as intonation, articulation, timbre, rhythmic accuracy, diction, dynamics, and more. Do you hear anything in your production that you don’t want to hear on the final recording? See if you can identify it now and work through it before you go to your recording session.
There are always next steps. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? You’re never done. In 29 Days to Diva-land, we focus on micro actions. Micro actions mean that we’re picking manageable chunks of the work that needs to be done. We accomplish the micro actions to avoid feeling overwhelmed by all of the work that goes into making our projects come to fruition. Go, diva, schedule your recording session now. Come back when you’re ready to tackle another micro action.