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Unsigned special: Realising your musical dreams - recording

By Leigh Sanders | Music | Published:

Fans have been tweeting you asking where they can hear your music; the phone is constantly vibrating with texts and emails confirming gigs; and you want something solid as proof of your hard work.

Recording your music is the next big step on the journey of a musician

After writing and gigging, recording will most likely be the next thing on your mind as a musician.

And with a wealth of options in our region for putting song to disc (or more likely MP3 in the modern age), there has never been a better chance to see, or hear, your hard work in the "flesh".

Recording was a much more expensive prospect in days gone by. And much more hard work had to go into it for an artist. If they choose to, musicians can even record material using free-to-download computer software in their bedroom.

Yet most still go down the more "traditional" route of using a music studio. It's something which Gareth 'Gazz' Rogers firmly believes in.

Wolverhampton-born Rogers is a long-time producer who has worked extensively in his home city and now splits his time between a private studio in Dawley, Telford, owned by former The Ticket Unsigned act Savannah, and Giant Wafer Studios in Llanbadarn Fynydd, Powys, Wales.

Recent acts known to this column that he has worked with include Penkridge's Sugarthief, Savannah of Telford and Shropshire's Black Bear Kiss.

He believes rehearsing a song relentlessly can prepare an artist before entering the studio so they don't needlessly blow cash.

"A band should prepare a lot, and then do it all over again," he says. "They cannot be "too ready" to go into a studio, it can be an expensive place to rehearse.

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"I recommend playing any song you wish to record at gigs a few times first. This makes sure the audience like it, which is essential if you intend to sell a recording of it to them. Gigging the song also cements the arrangement, tempo and a bunch of factors so when you go to the studio you know it's as final a version as you can bring."

He has recorded help videos which he sends out to bands before they come and record with him to prepare them. Included in these are a few top tips.

"Make sure you are well rested, aren't ill, and have your voice/hands/body ready for possibly long days doing multiple takes either as a band or to a metronome click track - which is more fun than it sounds," he advises.

"And check your instruments work, seriously. I've had people turn up with non-functioning instruments. Luckily I can guitar-tech and drum-tech to a reasonable degree, but there's no better way to arrive to record than with a working, well set-up and newly strung or headed instrument straight out of the case.

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"But just have fun. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself either, pressure is a rapid buzzkill."

And just like Rogers, Black Bear Kiss believe in making sure the public want your new single so you won't be left with paid-for copies you can't shift.

"We get a vibe of what we feel people will want to listen to and how the finished track will ultimately be received by the listener," frontman Chris Leech says. "If a certain song goes down well at gigs, it’s snappy and catchy and is a nice length - under four minutes - it’s up for a shot at being recorded sometime soon.

"To record the track it's vital you like the studio and the engineer or producer you’ll be working with, and that you like what they have recorded previously.

"The next step is to get the song as tight as possible before you head into the studio, the best way is in the practice room and live gigs.

"Once in the studio - stick to the plan. Be flexible, but stick to the plan as best you can and be happy with the parts you record, don’t ever think “that will do” or “that can be fixed later in the mix”. Being in a band is all about compromise, everyone needs to be happy with the end result."

Someone who experienced this recently are Walsall's former The Ticket Unsigned stars RootNotes, who released their latest single The Monkey last Friday.

Their frontman Jordan Harris, a former Express & Star reporter, points to working as a team and supporting each other as a band as vital to making it through what can be a taxing and difficult process if artists let it become one.

"A producer will expect a structured song from you and it is assumed that everyone knows their parts," he said about arriving at the studio. "But a good thing to do is leave short spaces here and there for particular instruments where you can improvise on the day. This will make the process a lot more enjoyable and those parts will bring a smile to your face on repeat listens.

"Discussion and positivity is hugely beneficial too. Support each other and don't be afraid to make suggestions in an amicable way."

And he said respecting the experts is just as important.

"The relationship between a producer and a band is so crucial to getting a good finished product together," Harris adds. "You have to show respect for their craft and be willing to step away a little when the time is right.

"The end product will be much better for this."

And once the mixing and mastering is done, you will then get your hard-earned debut single in your hands to show off and make some money from.

Unless of course you didn't do your research beforehand. But then at least Mother's Day is sorted instead.

Next week in the fourth instalment of the series, The Ticket Unsigned will be looking at how to promote your work to music fans.

Leigh Sanders

By Leigh Sanders
@LSanders_Star

Senior sub editor for the MNA portfolio and entertainments writer leaning towards features and reviews. Get releases to me at leigh.sanders@expressandstar.co.uk

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