Recording Tips for Independent Artists

  1. Know your goals and stick to them

  2. Pre-production is a must

  3. Give up your ego

  4. Get as much help as possible

  5. Keep loose expectations


Last Friday I recorded the finishing touches for my upcoming EP entitled DOOZY - if you’re reading this then you are the first to know the title! Like many other independent and young musicians, the recording process was a stressful time for me. It was hard for me to balance a very limited budget, manage studio time, perform, produce and keep everything moving outside of the studio as well. If nothing else, I’ve taken it all as a learning experience and I’ve written down tips for recording as an independent artist.

Know your goals and stick to them

One of the biggest things that helped me was having a producer who knew capturing emotion was the most important thing for me. I am a blues-rock artist and I believe rock n’ roll will free your soul. This is why I made the EP. My goal was to make a cool 6-song record that made people feel what I was feeling. I recorded everything live with my band. This meant that we all played at the same time, which can be difficult and mistakes will happen, but it produces an emotion that only happens when people are together making music. We went with cuts that had great energy, smooth flow, great feel, distinct transitions and tight changes. Sure we may have missed a note or two but the energy was there. If we would have been chasing more technical performances or over-producing unneeded parts then we would have spent twice as long recording and missed the target. My goal was to capture a feeling and we stuck to it. Maybe your goal is to showcase your voice, highlight your songwriting ability or just to have fun. Whatever it is, know your goal and stick to it!

Pre-production is a must

Time is money. The best way to save money is to be prepared. If you are working on a very limited budget or schedule then you must know exactly what you want to do before you get into the studio. This means that you should already know what songs you want to record. Also, all of the writing and arranging should be done beforehand. If you are a solo artist, make demos of your songs as complete as possible for others to learn. If you are a band, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more. This will not only save you time but help you to create the best possible sound. You can also get the engineer and producer involved beforehand. This way everyone is on the same page about the equipment to use, all of the production notes and the recording schedule.

Give up your ego

The studio is a place to be confident in your abilities but it is no place for a grand ego. If you are doing things right then you are working with a good group of people that know what they are doing. They know how to do their job, so let them do it. If the rhythm section doesn’t like the groove and can find a better one, let them do it. If the producer says he isn’t feeling the vibe, then trust his or her ears. If you keep suggesting more takes but everyone is really happy with the previous cut, take another listen. Also, you are in the studio to make music and not teach a lesson. Don’t go overboard with your playing or singing and do what is right for the song. Giving up your ego can make the experience a lot more fun!

Get as much help as possible

Again, the biggest hurdle for independent artists is limited resources. This means you need help. So use friends and family as much as possible. There are also plenty of people in the music industry with incredible talent who are willing to help an artist out on a low budget. Also, one of the biggest things that I had trouble with was separating the managing aspects of recording with the artistic side of making the EP. It was hard to go from scheduling, budgeting and organizing back to being a musician and making good music. If you don’t have a manager, get someone who is organized to help you take the weight of managing off your shoulders. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for money, get loans from friends or crowdsource your funds. You can also save a lot of money by going underground and finding a studio that doesn’t have a big name but a great reputation. Hiring an engineer who can also work as a producer will save a lot in costs.  

Keep loose expectations

Whatever expectations you have already made about your recording experience and your album, be ready to adjust them. You should set goals and have a plan but know things will never turn out exactly how you want them.  Be ready to spend just a little more than anticipated. If things don’t sound exactly as you planned it is ok. If someone gets sick, quits and or mistakes are made, it is ok. If the cover art looks a little funny, maybe nobody will notice. Nothing ever goes as planned. Perfection is unachievable and in the end sounds boring anyway. Have as much fun as possible. This is what you enjoy doing, so enjoy doing it.