How to Prepare for Your First Time in a Recording Studio (For Artists)
So it's your first time booking a studio session and you have no idea what you are about to walk into. You are excited and nervous at the same time. What should you expect and how do you prepare for the studio session?
Here is a comprehensive list of how you can prepare for your first time in the studio.
1. Do Your Research.
- Make sure the studio you are going to has all the gear you need to perform to the best of your ability. If they don't have it you will need to bring it yourself. (Drums, Amps, and comfortable headphones. Use your research to come up with a recording plan.
2. Have a Plan!
- Figure out what the priorities are and the most efficient way to complete the recording process.
- Have a list of needs and wants to sort out the highest priorities first and then finish off with the wants that could spice up the record.
- Know the exact order of songs that you will be recording to save yourself a headache should your band not agree on which to record first. Save time, save money.
3. Communicate with your Engineer.
- Give the engineer as much information as possible about the studio session, your goals, and your needs before the date you booked. Shoot an email or a couple texts.
- How many people are attending?
- What instruments?
- If you are a bagpipe player the engineer definitely needs to be aware.
- Recording all at the same time? If not who is showing up first? Is everyone there all at once or coming in one by one?
- Send references to the Engineer of what your band sounds like or what you would like to sound like or even previous music.
4. Deal with Money Before the Session.
- Recording sessions can be awkward when it comes to money. It is best to just lay everything out all at the start of the session so no one is stressing over how much you owe or when to pay. This lets you have the entire session worry-free and to be able to enjoy yourself properly.
5. Practice, Practice, and then Practice Some More.
- The difference between a good musician and a great musician is that a good musician practices until he/she doesn't mess up. A great musician practices until he/she CAN'T mess up.
- During your practice sessions, all members of the band should be there for it. Spend some time with solo practice and then have a few rehearsals together. While at the rehearsals you can iron out the details of what production you want done to the song and how many takes you might do of the guitar or how many vocal harmonies etc.
- Record a demo and listen to it before you go into the studio to make notes of things you may like or dislike or what you may be able to do to make it better.
6. Prepare for the Worst and Hope for the Best.
- Be ready for everything and anything to go wrong. Bring extra guitar strings and cables. Bring extra drum heads and anything else that could possibly break or need to be replaced.
- Have contingency plans and be accountable.
- If you know a band member is always late you should plan for that as well as work to make sure they are there on time. If they are typically an hour late then let them know the time for meeting is 45 minutes earlier than it actually is! Worst case scenario they show up early and that in its own is amazing.
7. Come Prepared
- You should have fresh strings on all instruments and fresh drum heads in order to sound best. You may want to work them in a day or two before, but this really depends on how much you play and how you like your strings broke in.
- Bring chord sheets and lyrics sheets (one extra for the engineer)
- Any way you can make someone's job easier you directly make the workflow easier and your song can have the opportunity to be recorded much better.
- Bring any samples or demos you have that should be referenced.
8. Come Focused and Healthy
- Do NOT party the night before or maybe even two nights before the studio session. A vocalist may need to go even longer to protect his/her vocal cords. - Get a good night's sleep and remain as healthy as possible for the session.
- Don't drink or do drugs before or during the studio session. It is a common misconception that it will help you perform better or assists with creativity, but that's the same as saying that you drive better drunk. It's just not true. A drunk/drugged artist is typically sloppy, off time, off-key, and difficult to work with. Productivity would be higher sober. That's my opinion and experience on that subject.
- You are in the studio for a reason don't forget it!
- Be focused and make sure to leave distractions at home!
9. LEAVE YOUR GIRLFRIEND AT HOME!
- In all seriousness girlfriends/boyfriends are not recommended to come with you to the studio. That's work time and you wouldn't bring them to any other workplace, right? The real reasoning is that should you have any issue or fight it could ruin the whole session for everyone. If you were recording an upbeat song and something set your significant other off then you may not be in the right mood or mindset to record that song anymore.
- On another note, if you wrote a love song for your significant other then you may try spending a day with them and doing something extremely nice then inviting them over to the studio. Set the vibes you want for your session and be smart about it.
- Leave the friends at home too if they are not vital to the recording session. It's work, not a party. If your friends do come, make sure they know this and be ready to kick them out yourself should it be interrupting your work flow?
10. Remember Why You are There.
- You are there to record music and to create something beautiful. Everyone in the room is there to help you and to make sure you are able to perform to the best of your ability. Don't be afraid to speak up should you need or want something to make you more comfortable. Of course, be polite about it! We all want you to succeed and will do whatever it may take to get the best performance.
- What is it that you need?
- Is the lighting too much?
- Do you want the room to feel cozier? More blankets? What's the vibe?
- Do you want it feeling like a party?
- Are you uncomfortable with everyone staring and listening to you? Then ask if you can be alone in the room or if the lights could be turned out in the control room.
- Are you more comfortable with people in the room with you? Request to record in the control room or in some way where you aren't out in a large space by yourself.
- Set the mood and the vibe and let us help you.
- Is heating/air conditioning okay?
- The session is all about you and what you need to make it happen.
11. BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE STUDIO!
- At the end of your session make sure you don't forget your hard drives and to copy them on to three different places. If it doesn't exist in three different mediums then it doesn't exist at all. Some studios wipe their computers off at the end of each day so if you lose your files and call the next day... They may not be there and you just wasted a full studio session and all of your money.
- While on the topic of hard drives, put your name and phone number on the hard drive and add a text document "IF FOUND" and add details for someone to return it to you.
Thank you for reading!
I know there are plenty more things to be said about your first recording session, I hope this is a good enough read to get you through the first one! Please let me know how your studio session went and feel free to add in the comments below if you think of anything that could be added!
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Now get out there and make some music!