HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE RECORDING STUDIO
Tips & tricks
The recording studio is a place for creativity and hard work. To get the most out of your sessions, it pays off to come in well prepared. Not only is it going to save you money, it’s going to drastically improve the end result that even your fans will notice!
Prepare for recording
The best way to save time in the studio is to come in prepared. This set of guidelines have grown over the years on experiences I had tracking other musicians.
Practice your songs and then… some more! Not only focus on your parts, but also those of the others in the band. For example, does the bass lock with the kick, are both guitarists palm muting the same manner or is the singer in the same key as the instruments.
The biggest time saver during recording is to prepare the overdubs. We can always change parts along the way when creativity strikes in, but at least knowing what harmonies work is a minimum. If you have no idea how to do this, plan for a production session with me and I’ll help you write those parts.
Don’t forget the paperwork! Bring at least 3 print-outs of your lyrics, that includes one copy for me. Real professionals also have the song structures on paper. That way you’re not going to realise you still need to lay down that otherworldly solo when we’re already halfway mixing!
Before anything else, tell your lovers, roadies and greatest fans that they will not be allowed to sit in on the recording session. The studio is not a hang-out place, it’s a place of hard work. It’s the only way to guarantuee we get the best possible sounding record. Don’t worry, we have free wifi so you can message the outside world as much as you like.
Musicians come in sober and had a decent amount of sleep. There are plenty of opportunities to confirm your rock & roll status, but the studio is not it. You’ll need this awesome album to support your further endeavours. The only way to stand out is full focus.
Bring indoor shoes to help keep the studio clean.
This is the most overlooked part. There’s this saying, “you can’t polish a turd“. This applies to your instruments in every possible way. Make sure they are in perfect working condition. If not, get loaners from friends or use the studio’s equipment. Also, when recording over the weekend or at night you might have a hard time finding replacements when things break down (and they will!). So, make sure you have spare parts and even some spare instruments with you.
- Tune your drums or get someone to do it for you. I can provide you some contacts, if required.
- Bring spare parts: drumheads, sticks and (loaner) cymbals
- Make sure your hardware is free of unwanted noises. Especially pay attention to your seat, kick and hi-hat pedals
- Fresh and stably tuned strings that you’ve put on the day before the session start.
- A spare set of strings of the same brand, type and gauge for each additional recording day. Than some more.
- Spare batteries for your active pick-ups and pedals
- Good and quiet cabling (the shorter, the better. Max 3 meters for optimal results)
- If you have specific effects you want to use, bring them and their power supply or batteries
- Serviced guitars: no noises or string buzz, fixed hardware, nut string dampening (use a sock if nothing else), intonated.
- Bring your amps. If you want to expand your tonal options, don’t only bring different amps, bring different cabs
Synths and drum computers (that’s you SPD users!)
- Make sure you have your sound modules arranged and fully working
- Bring laptop, external hard drives, power supply and your interface (at least 1 spare stereo output)
- My setup only accepts midi over USB-A. Bring any conversion cabling, if needed.
- Take good care of your voice, during off time and during recording. A lot of you scream your lungs out and I love it, but think of the fast degradation of your tone and take enough in between moments of rest. Practice being able to sing on half tracked songs. Some vocalists can only track one song a day. So we might opt for in between song recording.
- If any special effects required, for instance that of a megaphone… bring one!
- Don’t bring your girlfriend. That rule also applies to you!
Prepare for mixing
I only accept Pro Tools sessions up to version 2022.10. Make sure to export your session as such before sending it to me.
- Do not change anything to the default folder structure of Pro Tools
- Supply the exact name of the drive this session was recorded on. In case of Pro Tools not finding files, changing my drives name to yours sometimes solves the issue. (Please Avid, fix this 15 year old bug!)
If you can’t provide the required Pro Tools sessions, or used a different DAW altogether, I will require the following:
- Export the tempo map of your session as a midi file. Make sure to put a midi note at the very start of your track (most left position on your daw timeline) to assure the click will align with your audio tracks. If you didn’t record to a click, spare yourself the trouble.
- Export each audio track as a .wav filetype, mono for mono tracks, interleaved stereo when applicable. All files must be 24 bit – 48kHz.
- Make sure each track beginning is at the exact same position. As with the midi tempo map, use the most left of your lanes as your starting point.
- Label each track with a meaningful and self explanatory (short!) name. “Satan” is not descriptive enough, unless the man himself is featuring on guest vocals!
- Each identical track across different songs needs the exact same label: “Kick In” might not become “Kick” or “Boom”. This will slow down mixing significantly as it will introduce a lot of additional (paid!) work to get your mixing template working across songs.
- Any midi instruments need to be committed to audio. If you’ve chosen to hire me for production and sound design make sure I additionally receive the midi files of each instrument.
- Any effects that need to stay as part of the sound need to be committed to audio track, for example a space delay setting on a guitar riff. Any other effects need to be removed from the session.
I do not mix multiple songs in one Pro Tools Session in order to allow for easy automation. Since there will be a lot of it on your track, make sure to do the following:
- Each song belongs in it’s own top level folder. 5 songs = 5 folders.
– OR –
- Each song has a separate Pro Tools Session.
Prepare for mastering
All files presented for mastering must be:
- 1 stereo file per song, give each file the exact name (mind the spelling) of the song
- In the same bit rate and sample rate as the mixing session. So if you recorded in a 24bit – 48khz session, that’s what I need
I can get creative and make up my own song names, or you could include the following:
- Song names
- Song order
- Album name
- Description if some songs fade into each other
- EAN Number, if you are going to have a barcode printed on your physical product
- ISRC Codes, could be useful if you want to collect royalties or have your music automatically recognised in some online players)