Vol 1, Issue 15: The Rules of Rock

Your albums are your livelihood, your art, your creation. Inspired by your feelings and decorated with your thoughts. They are you in a musical form: a reflection of what you stand for, what makes you tick, what breaks your heart and what will repair it. A simple compact disc can embody one’s full range of emotions: the good, the bad and most certainly the ugly. Because of its power, due time and consideration must be taken when getting ready to record your masterpiece. Whether it’s selecting the right producer, or deciding which songs should make the cut, taking your time will be time well-spent. If you want to release an “all killer, and no filler” album, then I recommend taking the following rules into consideration.

Rule #1: Don’t be in a rush to record.
There’s nothing worse than an album that grabs your attention immediately with its screeching distortion, but come track five has lost you somewhere in the translation. To avoid finding yourself in this scenario, I would advise you not to be too anxious to get into the studio. The best art, like a fine wine, grows in taste and refinement as it ages. So, take your time and make sure that every single one of your tunes is sickeningly addictive, gets stuck in your head on repeat, and makes you want to partake in a full-body gyration before you book your studio time. There’s nothing wrong with having a token soft acoustic track in the mix to demonstrate another side to your act, but for the most part, I’d recommend sticking to what you do best. Additionally, there’s no faster way to piss-off a producer than to go into a studio unprepared, but hey it’s your money, so if you want to waste it, that’s your prerogative.

Rule #2: The first 30 seconds will make or break you.
Because of the overabundance of artists vying for the attention of few labels, your act is left with very little time to make an impression. When labels receive artist submissions, they hold listening sessions in which they listen to hundreds of bands back-to-back in order to make their roster decisions. Due to the design of this process, it’s extremely easy for bands to get lost amongst one another. After listening to music consistently for hours, one’s ears start to get tired (especially if the music is poor in quality), and thus, one’s attention span is shortened. I cannot state enough how important it is to be able to grab your listener’s attention the moment the disc begins to spin. Every song needs to have a strong catchy intro, and it is recommended by musicologists that the vocal melody of a track kicks in no later than the 30-second mark.

Rule #3: Always put your best song as track two.
Rarely do labels listen past the second track on your disc unless you’ve truly peaked their interest, and even still, time constraints may prevent them from doing so. Therefore, the first track on your album is designed to act as an introduction to your band. Ideally, it should be a strong song that demonstrates a synopsis of what is to come. It shouldn’t be too heavy, or too soft, but rather right in between. This opens the door for your act to be able to expand in either direction, without having the listener form too many preconceived ideas of how the rest of your album will sound. Your strongest and/or title track should follow closely in line as the second track in rotation. This allows listeners to get a sense of your act's full potential from the very start. As record execs don’t have the time or patience to go through a half hour of your music in order to find your band’s high points, I recommend using this formula if your intention is to solicit your material to labels.

Rule #4: Come prepared.
If you are recording with a professional producer, it will undoubtedly be expected of you to arrive with new strings for your guitars, new skins for your drums, and your vocalist well-rested. Your gear and your band members need to be in tip-top shape to be fully productive and to work to their full potential. Make sure you get plenty of rest, eat well, and don’t overexert your energy. As for your gear, revive what you can. It is not expected of you to purchase brand new studio equipment, but considering that gear undergoes wear and tear from practicing and touring, a band needs to ensure that their equipment is as fully restored to new as possible. If that means spending a couple extra bucks bringing it back up to par, I assure you its worth it. Don’t just trust me, trust your ears: you’ll be able to hear the difference.

Rule #5: Bring your producer a CD by a familiar artist that illustrates how you want your album to sound.
This is especially important if this will be your first recorded album, and if you are working with a producer who is new to your material. By bringing along an example of a disc that demonstrates the production quality you wish to obtain, you are creating a framework for your producer, and also likely setting your budget. When it comes to selecting an appropriate example CD, it’s clearly important to consider the production/technical side of things, but as well, finding an artist that is similar to your act in sound will assist in this process greatly.

Rule #6: Just because it’s free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bargain.
In my opinion, there are certain jobs that should be left to the professionals, and recording/producing a band’s album is definitely one of them. No matter how many recording programs you’ve managed to illegally download onto your computer, you need to face the facts, basement and at-home recordings simply cannot render the same quality as a professional in-studio recording. Aside from the disc’s sound quality, a trained sound engineer will be able to pick up on things that you may not even notice. They are educated to be sticklers for perfection, so if you want your band’s album to be able to compete with the big leagues, hire a professional. However, not just any professional producer will do. Do your research, know which bands your producer has worked with in the past and be sure you are selecting the man/woman you feel is best suited to the job.

Rule #7: Your producer should NOT be the same person as your mixing engineer. The more the merrier is definitely an expression that is fully embraced when it comes to recording. Because it is such a tedious endeavour that requires listening to the same sections of songs over and over again, it is strongly suggested that several engineers are hired to work on your full-length as opposed to just one. Producers are only human after all, and the more that they hear something on repeat, the less likely they will be able to pick up on imperfections. Therefore, hiring at least three different people to cover the jobs of producer, editor, and mixer/masterer will ensure that your album is as close to perfection as possible. As a bonus, producers often have their own staff with which they work or at the least will offer you a referral to a sister-company that handles the aspects of the production that they cannot.

Rule #8: Be in the studio at all times.
Even if you’ve already recorded your instrument, it really makes no sense to abandon the studio. Not only it is disrespectful to your fellow bandmates that waited patiently for you to lay down your tracks, but as well, this is your art. If you take off in the middle of recording, you might as well sacrifice your say in terms of how you want the album to sound because if you were not there, then you’ve got no business complaining about the results. Some of the best ideas for albums have spawned purely from being “in the moment” or on account of a minor suggestion from a producer. So, if you want to see the magic as it unfolds, I recommend sticking around. I wouldn’t want to leave my art into the hands of others, so why would you?

And finally...

Rule #9: Have fun.
Recording can be a stressful experience if you let it, but truly, it’s meant to be satisfying. Let your creative juices get flowing, and experiment with different settings and effects. Ask your producer questions, get involved, take pictures and make it something to remember. If you’re getting worked up over a note you just can’t hit, relax, take a break, and let someone else take over for a bit. Don’t rush yourself, you can take all the time you need. It’s your album, you set the deadlines. Never record for more than twelve hours straight, and if you aren’t happy with something, speak up. Remember, your producer is there to work for you, not against you and your vision.

About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/