Booking a recording studio isn't cheap. And if you're like most other musicians, the dozens of hours of work that it takes to produce a great recording doesn't come easy either. While simply messing around without a plan might be a fun way to record by yourself at home, a solid plan and time management becomes crucial in a studio setting -- especially when bandmates are involved. Don't waste your time or theirs. The following tips will help you get the most time and money out of your studio sessions.
Create Firm, Realistic Goals
Nothing will lead you down the path of wasted time and effort than going into a recording session with the mentality of “just seeing what happens.” At a minimum, you need to know who will be involved, what songs will be recorded, and how much time your session will take. An ideal plan will go right down to the track-by-track detail of what you need to get done (such as a list of which tracks are being recorded for each song). Make sure that the goals of the session are communicated to everyone involved and that they are all comfortable with what you’re trying to accomplish. Most importantly, make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. If you have a competent producer or engineer involved, use these people for guidance on how much time you’ll need to get things done.
Know Your Parts
While obvious, too many players often forget this crucial step. Practice every part you need to play. Practice them until they are effortless. Then practice them some more. You get the idea.
Check Your Gear Beforehand
Having a guitar or amp fail on you is bad. Having it fail on you in the middle of a recording session is much worse. Test everything you plan on bringing to the session beforehand and change out anything that isn’t working. Also, make sure that you get rid of anything that might stand in your way. For example, if you plan on using a guitar that gets uncomfortable after about an hour of practice, bringing it to a long recording sessions might completely derail you. And don’t forget to bring as many replacement pieces as possible such as strings, picks, cables, batteries, tubes, fuses, etc., just in case disaster strikes while in session.
Listen To The Engineer
An engineer’s job is tough as it is. Ignoring their advice, or worse, getting in the way of their tasks will only negatively affect the session. A good engineer knows what does and does not work in a studio environment and he won’t be afraid to tell you exactly what he needs. If he tells you to turn up your treble, turn up your treble. If he says something in your rig is humming, start troubleshooting. If you have a question for him, wait until he’s not busy then ask away. Asking a dumb newbie question is always better than wasting half a dozen takes because you didn’t clear up something important.
Be Respectful of Your Fellow Musicians
It’s easy to get caught up in an “it’s all about me” attitude when you’re recording, which is probably why plenty of bands fight in the studio. If you totally nailed your part on the last take, don’t flip out if the drummer needs a few more passes to get it right. And don’t be afraid to offer or, more importantly, accept constructive criticism. Recognize that you are all working toward a common goal and that you need to support and respect each other to achieve it.
Be Prepared to Change Your Plans
No matter how carefully you plan and prepare, you will probably run up against some kind of unforeseen obstacle in the studio. Have a plan but be prepared to be flexible with it. You might find that the tone you loved in practice sessions sound completely wrong on tape. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Whether it’s a change in gear, arrangement, or the notes themselves, it’s important to embrace change in the studio. Remember – the goal is to get the best sounding recording possible.
And last but not least, don't forget to relax! All you're really doing is playing music – enjoy it. Sure, there will be pressure on getting the best performance possible on tape but being nervous will only make things that much more difficult. Nothing will keep you calmer than by going in with a specific gameplan and being prepared for whatever comes your way.
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