Tech: Recording Session Checklist For Bands

Written by Joe Mahoney Posted in: Tech on March 24, 2011

Tech: Session Checklist For Bands

written by: Joe Mahoney

Last week, we detailed some crucial steps for studio engineers to ensure a professional and creative environment for their clients.  While you may find some how-to articles detailing what a band should do to prep for their next recording session, most of them aren't written from the point of view of a studio engineer.  In part 2 of this article, we detail a few things an engineer will hope to see from their client to aid in making the recording process a smoother journey for both parties.

It’s their money, and they want it now!

For a band, the recording process begins when they call and book time with the recording studio of choice. You can start your relationship with the studio on the right foot by paying the deposit immediately.  It's all too often that studios end up having to chase down managers, labels, or even the client themselves to secure the money.  It's best to solidify your studio time by paying the deposit over the phone when booking or when touring the space.  More often than not, if you haven’t paid and a paying customer comes along looking for the time you have booked, you will be kicked to the curb.  Be sure to make it known you want those dates for a reason and you are serious about recording.

Jump the gun

One thing many artists forget is that the moment a session is booked, the engineer has officially become involved and will want to do their research to find out what your music is all about.  To help the engineer during this process be sure to send them copies of your previous work so they can see who you've worked with and where it was done. Doing so will give them a sense of what it is you want to accomplish.  If you really want to impress your engineer, send him some demos of the new material.  This is going to save you a lot on production time in the long run.  In 2007, I had the pleasure of working with A Day To Remember who had signed to Victory Records earlier that year.  ADTR took the time in their hometown to record every song for the record with their close friend who is now one of their go-to producers.  On day one in the studio, we had a listening party where the band described exactly what it is they wanted out of the record.  These demos also acted as great reference points during the entire recording process.

Pack the van

Bring everything.  Literally, bring everything you may possibly want to use on the record, including all possible replacement parts. In particular, always bring new drum heads for your kit.  You will be playing a lot and won't want to use the same beer and sweat stained heads that were used on your last tour.  If you’re a guitar player and show up to a studio session without new strings on your guitar, leave before the jokes and torment begin.  Be prepared. Nothing is worse for a session than having to take a break to send a band member to the local store.  Chances are, he/she is going to get lost and end up wasting valuable recording time.

Have a quick meeting with the engineers and studio staff to find out how the session will begin.  Be sure to bring your guitars, drums, and any other somewhat delicate instruments into the live room right away.  A guitar's tune will change depending on the temperature of the room, so try to have it remain in the same room throughout the session.

Clean Up Your Mess!

While the recording studio is your space during the sessions, it does not come with a maid to clean up after you.  As a temporary home for musicians during a session, it is still a place of business and other artists will be touring the studio just as you did months prior to your session.  Just keep one simple rule in the back of your head: If you make the mess, clean it up.  Your music, your skills, and even the awesome banter between band members will not impress the engineer as much as your housekeeping skills will. Trust me. Show the studio you respect their space, and they’ll love you for it.  When Underoath came through Zing Recording Studios when I was an intern, every band member took ten minutes to tidy up the lounge, live room, and even the bathroom, leaving no evidence that a young 20-something group had been there.  Anytime you show this type of effort, you will be welcomed back to the studio any day with open arms.

The Final Countdown

As the final days of your time ominously approach, be sure to tie up any loose ends.  Start by paying the balance on your bill.  Make sure the studio will release your masters the day you finish the record.  Most studios will not give you a product until the bill is paid in full.  When the final day does arrives, take a moment to speak with your engineer on what they think of the final product, how their experience was, and leave on great terms.  Who knows, you may want to return to them for your next project, and if you do this certainly can't hurt.  Your engineer's opinion may become a valuable resource in what style is trending now or what your potential market may be. Believe it or not, engineers actually do know quite a bit about music outside the confines of their studio.

While this article is limited, remain open-minded throughout the session in its entirety.  Nothing can be fully planned in the studio and trying to do so will drive you insane.  Be sure to keep the topics above in mind, they will help you keep a clear mind and focus on what’s important: creating an album that is true to your sound.

- Joe

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