I’ve been trying to squeeze some recording into my crazy busy life and I’ve ended up stealing minutes here and there. So if I have 15 spare minutes some evening and feel like it, I’ll throw down a quickie guitar part. And it’ll usually suck, because of one big thing – I hadn’t warmed up.
Talk to many professionals and they’ll tell you they like to spend an hour (or more) warming up before performing or recording. Ha! You thought this column would be about where to put your SM57 in front of a speaker. Nope. It’s about getting warmed up. If you’re throwing down guitar tracks like I am, you likely won’t get great results. You might get good results if you’re a good player, but not great. Your muscles and brain need time to warm up whether you realize it or not. Don’t believe me? Solo your guitar track and put it up against a click. Eek!
You hear about a football coach, after his team gets an ass whuppin’, say he’s going to “go back to the fundamentals” in practice. Like tackling. For guitar, it’s about getting your muscles and brain warmed up and working together. How long do you really need? That’s a personal thing. I’d say as long as it takes to get comfortable and be able to play naturally. So for me that might mean at least 30 minutes nonstop. This same concept applies to singing.
I’ve been in more recording studios than I can remember, and in almost every case we had to throw down right away because time = money. If you’re in that situation, consider playing a lot right before you get into the car (or van) to go to the studio. If you’re recording guitar parts at home, just play some stuff first and warm up. What you play isn’t as important as playing something/anything. Ideally you’ll play stuff in a similar vein to what you’re about to record.
Once you’re all warmed up and it’s time to record, relax. Run through the part a few times, playing along with the track. If you can play it at least 3 times in a row without fucking up, you might be ready to record. If you can do that 5 times, you are ready. Relax as much as possible – tension is bad. Tension tightens up the muscles unnaturally. Then do the part and if you screw up, keep playing. You might be able to use part of the take.
Once the part is recorded, don’t be afraid to throw out everything you just did and try again, either right then or the next session. If you just can’t nail the part, here’s what to do – practice the part. Practice it until you can do it without mistakes 5 times in a row. I already tole you that.
MORE? Ok. Tune your guitar between every take. Don’t dick around with your pedals or amp settings, unless you’re not happy with your sound on playback. And if you aren’t, get that shit straightened out before doing any more takes. You want all of your takes to have the same guitar sound – that way you can combine parts of different takes if you have to.
I’m off to practice some more. I have to record some guitar parts while no one else is home.