So, you’ve gotten serious about your music career and have decided to go to a professional recording studio for your next project instead of trying to record it in your garage with home recording software. Good for you. You’ve taken a step into a larger world and some prep work is necessary. Real studios have staff members who are pros at this and they expect professional behavior from musicians. That means showing up ready to record tracks over and over until multiple keeper takes are down. The hours can drag out and the whole process is more tedious than your may realize, so bring lots of water, snacks and patience.
If you’re a singer, you really want to protect your vocal cords before going in for a big recording session. You should treat your voice like the cherished instrument it is, with tender, loving care. Don’t do full-on rehearsals before your session, just warm ups, like athletes do before a big game. No need to strain your vocal cords beforehand, lest you lose you voice halfway through the session. Bring soothing, menthol throat lozenges with you to suck on between takes. Another trick that may sound weird but helps is to take tiny sips of high quality extra virgin olive oil, gargle, then swallow. This helps lubricate and nourish a weary throat. It’s also good for you. Also, lay off the booze and get lots of rest so you’re in tip top form.
Hire a professional guitar tech to set up your guitars, including basses. Your producer will thank you, because it will make things run much more smoothly. The guitars won’t go out of tune or make buzzing noises, and the tone will be perfect for recording. If you’re asking “What does setting up a guitar mean?” you’re likely a first-timer to the professional studio environment. A guitar set up involves setting intonation so all the notes play in tune at all points on the fretboard, adjusting the nut, the bridge and the truss rod so the strings are the right height off the fretboard the neck is in balance and the action is right. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t adjust these things yourself. It only costs between $30 and $50 to get a guitar set up properly.
Know them backwards and forwards. Rehearse like crazy before going in, that way you won’t be spending precious studio time (read: MONEY) rehearsing while recording. It’s one thing to make changes to a song during the recording process because something isn’t working right, but nothing ticks off a producer more than bands who come into their studio without having worked out all the songs beforehand. To further the sports analogy, you need a game plan going in, and you need to share it with your producer long before the red recording lights come to life. Let the production team know well in advance the kind of sound you’re going for, what you want your songs to sound like. Give them examples of well-known songs that are influencing your current sound and songwriting. That way, the engineers will know what to expect and how to tweak the gear before you arrive.
If it’s your first time in a studio, don’t fret not knowing the ropes. The producer and studio staff will be happy to guide you through the process, as well as point out how much better the tracks will sound than if you had recorded them on a laptop in your basement.