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Studio Prep Checklist

You have written some songs for your project or band. You have tested them live and have them arranged perfectly. Now the next step is to get them recorded so you can release them to your fans. But you have never stepped inside a recording studio and have no idea what to expect or how to prepare for it. How should you prepare for it? What stuff should I bring?


As a recording engineer, I’ve dealt with artists and bands who are entering the studio unprepared for what’s about to happen. This usually results in either an unsuccessful session, or one that will require a lot of editing later. So what can you do to prepare you and your bandmates for your upcoming recording sessions?




This can’t be stated enough. You need to enter the studio knowing all of your songs and their parts like the back of your hand. Time is money in the studio. I mean seriously, you’re paying for time to record there. The longer it takes for you to nail a part, the less time you have to perform everything else which may mean running out of time and not everything gets done. You have to book more session time which means more money spent to finish recording everything.


This also means practicing to a click if you’re using one, as well as any adjustments you make to your instrument for recording purposes, i.e. a drummer bringing his cymbals or hi hat up so that there is less cymbal bleed in close drum mics. An engineer’s worst nightmare is musicians that are unable to play to a click, as this usually means more time spent editing than if the musicians were able to play to a click.

2. Have an idea of what you want your recording to sound like (and let your engineer know this)


Nothing is worse than getting home after a recording session and the rough mix from it sounds nothing like how you were picturing it in your head (especially if your performance was spot on). This can be a result of using the wrong guitar amp or having the drum set in the wrong room or using the wrong microphone technique.


It’s important to know how you want the instruments you’re recording to sound in the final product and that you can communicate that to your engineer. It’s even better if you have something to reference, like you want the drums to sound big and massive like Led Zeppelin or you want the guitars to sound similar to Nine Inch Nail’s “Wish”. This information is a huge help to your engineer since he can listen to what you’re referencing and have a better idea of how to get that sound when you enter the studio. You’ll leave the session with a recording that is much closer to what you want and is much easier to finalize in mixing.


3. Have your instruments set up and tuned with fresh strings, heads, etc.


For recording, it is often desired to get the most clean and pristine capture of the instrument possible. Drums with old heads or guitars with old strings often sound dull and lifeless and that quality will be in your recording. Of course, there are the rare exceptions where that is the sound you’re looking for, but that scenario is rare. So it’s best to have fresh heads on your drums and fresh strings on your guitars beforehand, as they’ll sound bright and lively and add to the quality of your recording.


Also, you need to have your instruments set up properly and intonated before stepping into the studio. Nothing is worse than recording guitar parts with a guitar that is tuned but not intonated properly, as chords and single notes higher up the neck will be out of tune no matter how well you tune the open strings. This often results in un-usable recordings and wasted time.


4. Bring backup supplies for your instruments


Picture this. You’re in the middle of your session and everything is going well. The takes are great, the vibe is happening, and you’re having a good time. Then, one of the strings on your guitar breaks or your snare head cracked and you can’t use it. You forgot to bring backup strings or heads which means the session has totally derailed, as you can’t continue recording.


Some studios may be equipped with their own stash of strings and heads, which can alleviate this situation, but they may not have your specific strings or heads which means the replacements will sound slightly different now. So it’s best not to rely on that and instead, bring extras of your strings and heads so if something breaks, you can quickly replace it and get back into recording while still having the same sound.


5. When you’re in the studio, have a plan! 


This seems obvious, but make sure you know what songs and/or parts you’re going to record in the time you have allotted. It also helps to have plans if you end up ahead or behind schedule. I had a basics session once where we had 12 hours to do basics for 5 songs. We ended up finishing early since the band was well rehearsed so we had already decided beforehand to do basics for a few more songs they had finished writing. These were songs that  weren’t originally planned to be on the finished EP. Because of that, we had 9 songs done instead of 5 and the band is now doing a full length album instead of an EP.


It’s also a good idea to know what to cut in the event that you’re falling behind schedule. Sometimes technical issues can come up and delay the session for a bit, or it’s taking longer to get the right performance and it starts chewing up time. If you’re running low on time, plan ahead that you’ll cut trying to do song E then and wait to do that in another session and focus on song D now. It can lessen the stress you’re feeling in that moment to do more work than you have time to do it.

6. Most importantly, have fun!


Recording in a studio is a different situation compared to playing a live show. For some people, recording is a very stressful process. So it’s important that you are able to find the fun in the situation so you can be relaxed enough to perform well and record great takes. If it is starting to get stressful, it may be wise to take a quick break to relax and come back to the session with a clearer mind. It’s also important to stay hydrated and fed as that can relax the body too (it can backfire if you eat the wrong type of food that makes you sleepy though, so watch for that).


It’s also important to have the right vibe with your bandmates and engineer established. Nothing is worse than feeling like you’re being judged by your bandmates or your engineer when you’re having trouble nailing the performance you need for the recording. The right vibe will allow to you be at ease when you’re having trouble nailing a part. And a well timed joke can break any tension that is building and make the session fun again.




The steps on this checklist can help you and your band prepare for your upcoming recording session. Follow these tips and you stand to have a much higher chance for a successful session and a great final product!


Thank you for reading this article! For more information about myself, please visit my website at . You can also follow me on these social media accounts:


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