On Preparing for the Studio: A Guide for Bands

Written By: Tony Williamette

Date: 3/8/22


In my time running a studio, I’ve worked with all kinds of artists.


This includes artists that show up late and unprepared - without a plan, sometimes without lyrics or the song completely formed. These sessions can be full of inspiration, but some of these have been less than productive.


Other artists have come in wildly prepared, going as far as providing BPM, chord charts, and full lyrics of their songs. I’ve even been handed typed agendas with time stamps for specific tasks. Needless to say, these sessions usually go smoother.


Sometime in 2011, I put together a comprehensive guide to preparing for the studio. I’ve since been giving this to artists prior to our first session together. My preparation guide has greatly expedited the introduction process and helped the artist and me get on the same page both sonically and practically.


I do still get varying degrees of information back from artists, but this at least gives us a place to start and hopefully gets artists thinking about the right things.


Since the studio experience can be so different for full bands vs. Pop/Hip-Hip/R&B (solo) artists, I’ve created this version specifically geared towards bands.


Our studio preparation guide is below. Take a look and feel free to take these things into your next studio session.



Studio Prep for Bands:


If possible, please provide the following prior to entering the studio:


1. The general direction you want the song(s) to go. Give me the names of some artists and some specific recordings that capture what you would like to achieve sonically. Links to YouTube are encouraged.

2. Any demos/home recordings/previous albums you have put out.

3. Are you playing live anytime soon?

4. A list of songs titles you are recording.

5. The instrumentation and desired feel of each song.

6. What is the purpose of these songs- a single? An EP? An LP? Demo songs?

7. A listing of Instruments you’ll be using (see page 2).


Things to consider:


1. Know the songs. This will save a large amount of time and will result in better feeling, tighter songs. Many bands like to practice the night before or day of the session just to make sure things are together. This is probably the most important item on here.


2. Bring a Mac-compatible USB 3.0 hard drive. USB 2.0 will work as well, but can be very slow. We will keep archives of your recordings, but you will receive all of the files and mixes at the end of each session for backup purposes. You will be responsible for keeping these backups once the recording process is complete. Sessions can range from 5GB to 50GB, so be sure there is enough space; be it a thumb drive or traditional external hard drive.


3. Bring some snack and drinks. These can help keep a session going. We can always stop for a lunch or dinner break, but it is nice to have some food and drinks around to keep everyone going. Of course, we will have the standard tea and water. There are many fine dining establishments in the area, and a host of good order-in food options.


4. Use your network. Bring a photographer or videographer in to take photos/video of you in the studio - if you’re comfortable with that. Talk to your friend that has that awesome Mesa Boogie amp and borrow it for the session. Borrow your dad’s custom-made snare that sounds huge. Anything that will help us achieve better tones or give us more options is a good thing.


5. Use our equipment. You are free to use any of the equipment that we keep in the studio. This includes guitars, basses, amps, keys, drums, cymbals, pedals, hardware, percussion, etc. Check out our equipment list for this stuff: http://minnehaharecording.com/gear/


6. Get some sleep and leave some time open. Don’t rush this. A recording is (usually) forever. Come well rested and leave some time open afterwards in the case that the session runs late.



Instruments


Guitarists/Bassists:


1. Please provide a list of the equipment you will be using:

a. Guitar/bass make and model. Any special modifications on it? Active pickups?

b. Amplifiers’ make and model. Any issues with it? Are you using an external cabinet?

c. Any pedals that you might be using.


2. Replace your strings (clean the neck while you’re at it).


3. If you think your guitar has any intonation problems, get it setup by a professional.


4. Make sure you have new batteries for active pickups and pedals. Power supplies for pedals can often cause unwanted noise- most of the time batteries operate the cleanest.


5. Be sure you bring ample and extra guitar and patch cables. Test them before coming to ensure they work and aren’t too noisy.


6. Bring a tuner. It is important to tune every couple takes. Sometimes before every take.


7. Bring Extra strings. They break. We all know that.


8. Bring a good number of picks. We have some, but maybe not your favorite ones.



Drummers:


1. Please provide a list of the equipment you will be using:

a. Make/model of drums

b. Number of toms and size of each drum

c. Is there any auxiliary percussion? Tambourine, cowbell, etc.


2. Buy new drum heads. This is extremely important. The sound of a snare drum has a huge effect on the sound of songs and even a whole album. You’re spending money to record, just do it.


3. Tune the drums. This will take place once the drums are setup in the studio. We will work with you to tune the drums, but it will often come down to you knowing the kit and the sound you want.


4. Listen to the drums. Are the pedals squeaking? Is a cymbal cracked? These small details will be amplified in a recording. Do what you can to fix it.


5. Bring whatever sticks you will be using. More than one pair.


6. We will spend a good deal of time micing the drums and getting the tones we want. This is usually the longest part of the session, but also one of the most important.


7. Be sure to bring in your own drum hardware. This includes stands, thrones, etc.



Keys/synth/organ players:


1. Please provide a list of the equipment you will be using:

a. Make/model of the keyboard/synth/organ/piano.

b. If it is a synth, what sort of patches will you be using?

c. What songs is this used on?

d. List any pedals you might be using.

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