These tips were gathered from some of the country top studio and mastering engineers. The attached video is a great resource for indie musicians wanting to make a living from your craft.
Before you walk in the studio:
1. Record your songs from live gigs & pre-production rehearsals. These tracks reveal weak parts of the songs
2. Have your parts worked out
3. If you are using a computer or sequencer, have it prepared before you walk through the door.
4. If you're using a "click track", make sure the drummer doesn't have any problems.
5. Rehearse more songs than you plan to perform. Some of your prepared pieces may not sound as strong as the "extras" you have ready.
6. Keep healthy! Get your proper exercise, have a proper diet, keep hydrated, and get your rest.
Setting up for the studio:
7. To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late. In other words, arrive early. At some studios, the clock is running whether you're there or not. It's always a good idea to find out about the cancellation policies.
8. Keep the studio experience as relaxing as possible. If you or your group is not relaxed, it will show up in your final work.
9. Make sure that you and the engineer are on the same page with the song (s).
10. Plan out what each instrument's spot will be on the track. Some studios have 8, 16, 24, or more spots, so plan accordingly.
11. Use new strings, cords, drum sticks, and heads … and don't forget to bring your spares.
12. Find out the hours of the local music store in the event you need to buy spares.
13. Use the gear you're familiar with. Even if the new stuff is better, you know the sound and what you have to do to get it from your old stuff.
The Recording Process:
14. If you have to choose between emotion or technique, people will always pay for emotion.
15. If you mess up, see if the engineer can "punch" in the correction. If you keep going over and over the same spot, you'll burn out.
16. You don't have to utilize all the tracks. Don't force something that just doesn't seem to fit.
17. Find out the focal point on each song. Is it your vocals, the guitar, or something else? Focus your time and energy on that point during your session.
18. Get the "sound" you want in the recording … don't assume that it can be fixed in the mix.
19. Record your tracks without effects. Put them on after the session.
20. You don't have to double-track everything. Sometimes, the subtleties can be lost.
21. When it's time to quit … quit. If you're tired, you're going to hear it.
22. Keep the guests out, it's your dime. Extras can be a distraction.
23. Make backups after each recording session.
24. Tune up as much as you can.
25. Singers … bring water, but leave the ice. Ice restricts your vocal folds. Use hot tea with lemon & honey to relax everything.
26. Keep an accurate track listing and time log from the studio.
Monitoring the Mix:
27. Listen to your music at medium levels. Most people don't listen at full blast or extreme quiet. Listening at moderate levels will give you a more "true" sound.
28. Sometimes, it's good to take a day off and come back with fresh ears.
29. Listen to the mix on small speakers at very low levels to make sure you can hear every instrument. You can use headphones, but don't base your final decision on them.
30. Learn to recognize when your ears are tired. There's no sense pushing yourself when you are tired.
31. Take in some CDs that you listen to so you can get an idea of how the studio system sounds.
32. If you're mixing somewhere else, use the same speakers, otherwise it won't sound the same.
33. Once you've picked your engineer or producer to mix your recording, have them do the first mix. Keep an open mind and remember, their ears are better than yours
34. Think of the songs as a "whole". If you think of each instrument within each piece, you will want to bring up a track that could ruin the song.
35. Get your spokesperson chosen ahead of time. They will be the mouthpiece for the group. An engineer / producer don't want to get 5 or more different opinions.
36. Decide your final format (.WAV, .AIFF, CD-R, DVD-R, Flash drive, etc).
37. Budget for and count on unforeseen delays & expense.
One last thing:
Always make a safety master