Whether it’s your first time in the studio or you’re just looking to freshen up before your next big project, proper preparation is key for a smooth and painless recording experience. While practicing, scheduling, and budgeting are all important parts of the process, I’m here to talk to you about the nitty-gritty details that are often overlooked, but will help you and your band really get your shit together for your next recording project.
Miscommunication is one of the biggest causes of dysfunction between bands, producers, and engineers in the recording environment, especially when it comes to disagreements surrounding overall sound, tone, and vibe. To avoid disappointment with your final product, first ensure that the band is on the same page, then clearly communicate with your producer and engineer about your expectations ahead of time. Not only will this allow you to gauge the creative direction of your producer and engineer, but it also presents the perfect opportunity to discuss any gear, software, or plugins that may be required to create the sounds that you are after, and whether or not it is the duty of the band or the studio engineer to supply or source that gear.
On the topic of equipment, I suggest determining in advance whether or not you will be storing any gear at the studio for multi-day sessions. This is something that happens regularly, especially when it comes to drums and amplifiers, so it’s important to know the risks of leaving your equipment behind. If you’re unsure about the safety of your gear, have a conversation with your engineer about the security of the building and who else may have access to the rooms in which it is being stored. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend looking into musician’s or equipment insurance through places such as Marsh Advantage, Aon, and Bluestone Insurance to cover yourself in the event of theft, loss, or damage while the equipment is not in your home.
Keep in mind that once your gear is set up, microphones positioned, and tones dialled, it is imperative that you don’t fiddle with any settings or mic positions unless directly asked to do so as consistency in sound is so important for creating a cohesive record. In a similar vein, knowing when not to make noise is extremely valuable. There is nothing worse than a perfect take being ruined by some dickhead in the background spitting nonsense or tinkering on their guitar.
Speaking of consistency, keeping your instrument maintained throughout the recording process is also extremely valuable. This may include hiring a drum tech to tune your drums, if the studio doesn’t provide one, checking guitar tuning between takes, and bringing multiple of the same strings and picks as backup. While you may not need to use them, having spares on hand will save a hell of a lot of time and stress if something breaks or goes missing.
When it comes to expectations, time management, and creative vision, maintaining consistency within your band is equally important. We suggest making sure your band is on the same page regarding what is to be written and demoed prior to recording and what, if anything, will be written or improvised during your studio sessions. Having a discussion with all members about who will call the shots and how you will finalise decisions while in the studio is also highly recommended. Perhaps a democratic approach best suits your band, or maybe a single member will take the lead, but whatever you decide, make sure that you stick to it. Now would also be a good time to discuss whether or not you will require a producer and how much input they will have in any final decision making.
Next, it’s a good idea to determine how many takes are expected or allowed from each member, as well as the portion of your overall budget allocated for each part of your recording. Discussing this with all members ensures everyone is on the same page and that all parties know what is expected of them. It’s important to approach this realistically, taking into consideration all members’ abilities and the complexity of parts, as well as how costs will be split between the band.
Finally, it’s worth thinking about how you are intending to release your project, and whether or not it will be gapless before you begin recording. Mastering differs for digital, CD and Vinyl releases so knowing the medium(s) of the release prior to recording helps your engineer optimise the mix and makes preparing the files for mastering a lot easier. If you’re thinking about pressing vinyl, also consider the total playtime allowed per side and how you will split the tracks across them, ensuring that the gap between sides doesn’t ruin the flow of the release.
Words by Bianca Birt