HomeRecording Tips You Need To Know

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Dear Reader: I have some advice for you. You see, today marks the first day since October of 2007 that I haven’t been recording or doing production work on an a cappella album. That’s over 2 years of straight aca-work. Wow.

Looking back on it, it was a pretty amazing couple of years.  I had some amazingly fun times, experienced some life changing personal tragedies, lost contact with old friends, and made new ones.  And through it all, there was a cappella.  I am at a break now and it’s time for reflection.  I have some advice for you.

Some of my advice is very practical and a cappella-related. There are some things you ought to know just to get the job done.  Then there are personal musings; some things I’ve learned after two years spent working only to find that that what I thought was important going in maybe wasn’t so crucial in the long run.  These are the things that creating art will illuminate for you in a way that nothing else can.  Let’s begin at the beginning with something very practical…

Never start a project without a plan for how you are going to finish it.  In this case, a plan will include, at the very least, a budget.  You are about to engage in a complicated act of business and you need to be prepared financially for how you are going to execute everything smoothly and effectively. 

We are a relatively small community, and many of the people in our industry will be as kind and accommodating as they can be for your project.  However, do not expect them to be!  Be professional in your contact with them, and be ready to pay them promptly.  At the end of the day these are the people who can make or break your album.  Treat them like the professionals they are.

To that end, know where your money is coming from before you begin.  If you don’t have the proper funds to make an album, wait until you do.  This may seem like obvious advice, but I’ve seen too many groups get themselves into trouble making albums on credit.  The reputation you build in the process of creating your art can be as lasting as the art itself.  Don’t set yourself up for failure by not having a proper budget.

Be ready to make new friends. The work of making an album will bring you closer to people you might never have thought you could connect with. Be ready to work to maintain the friends you have going in.  The work of making an album will isolate you from them in a way you never thought possible.

Allow yourself to be distanced from your work sometimes. The vision you have of your music may never match what you hear in the final product, but know that that’s ok.  You have performed these songs many times live, and you know exactly how they should sound on record.  Your audience does not.  They just want good music.  Trust those around you, especially your engineer(s) and producer(s), to help guide you toward a product that others will enjoy as much as you do.  Something you dislike initially might turn out to be a highlight of the album once you get used to it.

Never settle for a performance you don’t like. Record the take you want and nothing less. Be ready to accept less if you have to. Don’t let one mistake put you in a mood to cause another.

Accept that you will not accomplish everything you set out to do. Work as hard as you can so that even coming up short is excellence in and of itself.  Find joy in the music you’re making, and let it permeate your work.  Nothing sounds sweeter on record than joy. 

You will not please everyone, and that’s ok. You probably won’t get all 5s on RARB, or win a CARA, or get on BOCA, or make SING.  It doesn’t matter.  If you make one person cry or smile or feel anything at all, you’ve achieved the pinnacle of what music can be. There is no greater award than that.

Find time to be yourself away from the music. Make sure that you and the project are two separate entities, so that when the work is over you have other things to do!  Find time to love and be loved, so that you have loved ones to share your music with. Don’t waste that time worrying about what you could be doing or what you could have done better.

Challenge yourself to make something unique. Challenge the people you’re recording with to do the same. Trust that they will. Don’t forget to thank them and tell them that they did a good job, whether they did or not!  You couldn’t have done it without them.

Really though, trust me on the budget thing. It’s really important.

About the author:
Robert Dietz is currently a senior at Ithaca College in upstate New York pursuing a dual major in music and business. He began singing in high school when he founded the CARA (Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award) award winning male quintet, Ascending Height. Since entering college Robert has had the pleasure of performing with and conducting Ithaca College’s only all male a cappella group, Ithacappella. Along with Ithacappella, Robert has had the honor of twice advancing to the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCAs), as well as sharing the stage with the internationally renowned rock band, Incubus. Outside of Ithacappella, Robert occasionally performs with the Ithaca based quintet, Rock Beats Paper. In addition to his CARA awards and nominations, Robert also holds three ICCA awards for outstanding vocal percussion, and his 100th arrangement received the award for outstanding arrangement at the ICCA semifinals at Rutgers in 2009. He also performs with All About Buford.


This is GREAT advice

How I wish I'd seen this back in 2008. My younger brother and I recorded a Christma..."EP"...I guess you could call it, for our family and friends.

There is so much here that would have helped us. Mind you, due in part to the difficulty in arranging, it wasn't all A Cappella, but I truly believe, as an "amateur" artist, that no matter what form of music, this all applies so completely. I'm going to have to print this up and hang it in his office, where we spend most of our time making music.

Thank you for this.

Music...joy, comfort, pain, sorry, happiness, pleasure, excitement. It's all there.

Great advice, indeed.

Terrific commentary, Robert.  I'm going to advise every prospective client to read this from now on!



About Me Diovoce Studios CASA Board of Directors


I asked him how someone so young could be so wise!

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

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