I’m in the studio right now producing a band. The process of pre-production and getting the band ready for the studio has reminded me of the importance for a drummer to be prepared when going in to record. Recording is different now with the advent of digital recording and recording software. Yes there was a day when recording as a drummer meant you had to nail the whole track-start to finish. Drummers now have it easy with being able to cut and paste and move each hit, we don’t have to be the perfect drummers of the past. But, you want to be the perfect drummer going into the studio so all the cutting and pasting is’nt necessary and your playing shines through.
I have always approached going into the studio like an athlete training for a race. There is a period of time before the studio that is crucial for “training” so you can nail your parts and be ready for anything that comes up as your recording. Here are some good “training” techniques for recording.
If you are going in as part of a band it is super important to find the right tempo for the songs and rehearse the songs at that tempo..A LOT! This means you are rehearsing the songs while you are listening to a click. If it is difficult for the band to follow you then either give them a kick in the ass and get them to listen and play to YOU-you’re the drummer!!!! Another option is to have the click running so everyone can hear it.
If you are playing in a band or are hired to go in and record it is crucial to practice your parts on your own, with out the band-just you and the click. This will solidify your grooves and make sure you are nailing your fills. Which brings me to the next step. Take each song, play the groove for 8 bars and practice different fills so you have a few options when you are recording. Fills are just as important as the grooves so you want them solid, melodic and effective. To make your grooves solid, play the grooves with no fills for a good 5 minutes each so they come naturally and sit well with the click. If there is any part of your groove or fills that seems weak, take that part and put it on the practice pad and see what is keeping you from playing it solid. If it is a weakness in one hand then work on getting that hand up to speed. This means working with the click and doing your rudiments.
Make sure when you are practicing to practice with the same intensity as you would in the studio. So if you are playing loud rockin’ music make sure you are practicing the loudest you can play and vice versa. This is particularly important for loud playing. You need to work your endurance up to be recording and playing for hours at a high intensity level and with a deep focus.
When you are recording some key things to remember are: simpler is better (all the crazy fancy stuff, keep it to the live show), if you are recording a full album or a bunch of songs together (EP) look at your grooves and try to make each song unique so your not doing the same beat for more than one song, be prepared to change your parts and be willing to do what works for the song, not you as a player. Put fresh skins on your drums and tune your toms to match the pitch of each song.