1. Record all your live gigs and rehearsals. A simple cassette recording can reveal any weakness in arrangement, tempo or other important song elements.
2. Know your song inside and out. Pick your strongest material for the studio. No amount of technical help can compensate for mediocrity.
3. Work out all arrangements, vocal parts and solos ahead of time. A 4 or 8 track recorder can be invaluable as a pre-production tool. The more prepared you are, the less money you will waste in the studio.
4. If you are sequencing parts, have all the sequencing done ahead of time. Try to write down part patches as well.
5. If you plan on using a click track, make sure your drummer is comfortable playing with one.
6. Check out the studio. Make sure it's a comfortable and relaxed place. Meet the people you will be working with. You'll be spending a lot of time with them, so you should feel comfortable with them.
7. Listen to examples of work they've done in the same genre and budget as your project.
8. Change strings and drum heads the day before you go into the studio, to allow for stretching. Be sure to bring extra picks, sticks, batteries, tubes or anything you think you might need. Losing an hour of studio time because you forgot an extra set of strings (or whatever) is costly and stops a session flat.
9. Be on time! In fact, be a little early. If you are going to be late for a good reason (bad roads, death, etc.), call the studio and let them know. Many studios start the clock from the time you booked, regardless of the fact you're not there. Find out about cancellation and payment policies.
10. Take care of yourself. Eat well and get enough sleep. Don't use drugs or alcohol during recording. You need a clear head to focus.
11. Try and remember it's emotion and feeling that make the best song, not necessarily the best technical rendition.
12. You don't have to fill all the tracks. If you're overdubbing a part, make sure it adds to the song, not just clutters it.
13. If it sounds lousy when you are tracking, you can't fix it in the mix. If a track/part is not cutting it, change it or kill it.
Admit that a) your favourite overdub doesn't work; b) the musical idea doesn't work; c) the singer or player is having a bad day; or d) the singer or player just can't cut it and move on or remedy the situation.
14. Unless you are using a unique effect that is crucial to the song structure, record individual tracks clean and add effects later.
15. Keep guests out. Have only the people needed for the session in the studio. Guests only create extra noise and distractions.
16. Tune your instruments to a tuner and use the same tuner for all instruments.
17. Try and have fun! The best music is created when people feel good.
18. Determine a band spokesperson ahead of time. An engineer getting five different opinions (at one time!) on the mix will only get frustrated.
19. Before the final mix, have a band meeting and listen to the rough mix cassette. Have each individual write down the ideas they have for the mix.
20. Trust your engineer to do the mix. They are paid professionals and their ears are better trained than yours. Try to keep an open mind.
21. Think about the songs as a whole and not just the individual instruments. Otherwise, everyone will want their instrument louder, resulting in an "all faders to the top" mix.
Michelle Garuik is a SRIA board member and the owner/operator of Grind Recording Studio, Pense, Sask., winner of the 1999 Prairie Music Award for Studio of the Year.
By Michelle Garuik (Grind Recording Studio). Originally Published December 1999.
These archive versions of The Session Feature Articles are posted as initially published. Deadlines, contacts and links have not been updated. Please keep this in mind when using this resource. In some cases, updates can be found in a more recent editions of The Session.