If you’re beginning your journey as a recording artist, it’s hard to imagine what you’ll be walking into as you go to your first studio recording session. You might be asking yourself, “do I need to bring all my instruments?” Should I send a demo to the engineer so he knows what the song sounds like?” “What happens if I don’t finish everything I set out to record?” Or most importantly for my fellow foodies, “Do we break for lunch?” These are all valid questions and I want to take a minute to lay out what I think are the most import things to consider when preparing for your session.
(Also, we created a Free Studio Day Checklist Download so that you don’t miss anything you need for a successful session!)
I think this could be the most important step in preparing for your session. If possible, take a physical tour of the studio. You’ll know within 5 minutes if it’s a place you’ll be comfortable recording or not. During the tour, you’ll hopefully meet the engineer you’ll be working with, so you can ask whatever questions you might have about gear and the process. This is also a great time to talk through the timeline of your session. Tell the engineer what you plan on recording and see if they have an opinion on whether the time you booked is sufficient, or if you need to book a few more hours. Of course it does cost a little more to book extra time, but it’s absolutely worth it to not feel rushed.
Check in with you engineer or the studio manager to see how they usually take payment. Is there a deposit involved before recording? If you show you are proactive with the business end of things, it’s more likely the studio will take you and your project more seriously.
Any studio that claims to be a professional recording space should at the very minimum be a comfortable, and quiet place to record. They’ll probably supply coffee and water but other than that there’s no guarantee that other amenities will be provided. Unless you’re recording at a high budget studio that includes snacks and what not, you should probably bring some food and drinks to stay energized. A full day of recording can be mentally draining so it’s really important to be comfortable and stay energized! If you want to take a break for lunch, the clock will most likely keep running for your session, so maybe book an extra hour of studio time to include that break.
Bring a Recording Template/Demo If You Have One
What’s a template? Some artists have already started on a demo before they even go into a studio to record their song. What you can do is take the session you’ve been working on at home, and bring it with you to your studio session to give to the engineer. They can then load your session on their computer and BAM, your demo appears and you can then decide if you’d like to leave some elements of your demo in the session as you overdub your new parts in the commercial studio. This can sound a little confusing, but if you contact your engineer before hand, they will walk you through the process. Please note, you must have the same recording software as the engineer to make this happen. The basic reason why you’d want to do this is so you’re not completely building up from scratch I the new studio. It gives you a bit of a jumping off point. It’s not necessary by any means, it might be helpful for some and not for others.
What Instruments Are You Recording?
-Ask if the studio has the instruments you need to record.
-Does it cost extra to tune the piano at the studio if you need piano?
-Does it cost extra to use certain drum kits at the studio if you need drums?
Preparing For Your Performance
Even in this modern day of recording, where every note can be sculpted to perfection with software, it’s still really important to practice, practice, practice before you go into your session. You will have an infinitely more productive session if you really nail your parts. The focus will be more on how you’re performing, and less on trying to remember parts and fixing mistakes.
Working With Your Engineer
This leads us into your relationship with your engineer. Now a days, it’s common for an engineer to double as a collaborator in the studio. If it’s not in your budget to have a producer with you on the session, don’t shy away from getting an engineers input about what parts to layer, what harmonies to sing, what tone to use during a certain vocal line, etc. Do keep in mind, it’s probably best to first work for an hour or two so you can get an idea for the engineers taste and character before asking his/her opinion on too many things. If both your tastes line up, great! If not, maybe its best to just trust your gut on this session and then next time, bring a producer that can support you in the sound you’re chasing.
Session is Over…Now What?
You’ve recorded all day and its time to go home. Before you leave, ask your engineer for a couple things:
- A rough mix of what you recorded. It’s always nice to take home an MP3 of the work you did that day and hear it all together.
- Have the engineer copy the session files back onto your drive, so if you ever need to open the session again back home, you can do so. All the newly recorded material will be included.
- Settle up payment for your session if you didn’t pay in full before hand.
Hopefully this gives you some insight on what to expect, and how to prepare for your session!