• Martijn de Groot

#12 things to Checklist to prepare for the Recording Studio!

Preproduction & Preparation Checklist for the Studio for Audio Engineers & Artists.

It's important to prepare yourself for the studio, but it is even better when you have it preemptively listed.

For that reason below here we have a quick list of all the things we here at Still Sound want to know beforehand to ensure maximum efficiency when it comes to working the recording studio to ensure you get every bang out of your bucks.

See below for the list, and further then that the reasoning behind these choices.

  1. Artist Names (Also Band Members + Instruments)

  2. Instruments List, also which are priority for recording (most of the time acoustic instruments and vocals)

  3. Reference tracks, and sound goals

  4. Demo Recordings of the songs

  5. Song List

  6. Song Structures (Optional, but helpful)

  7. Live and Die by the arrangement

  8. Lyrics written out

  9. Song Tempos/BPM

  10. Guide Tracks / Scratch Tracks?

  11. Session Schedule

  12. Anything that can be recorded outside of the studio?

Artist Names (Also Band Members + Instruments)

The most important thing to know when you have to communicate with someone is in our opinion their name.

When in the studio we do have to understand that a simple band might already consist of 4 members average & while we do try our best to ensure we remember with the amount of information an audio engineer or music producer has to think about during a session it is far to common and easy to forget someones name in all honesty.

On behalve of all engineers and producers that get new clients we here at Still Sound first and of utmost want to apologise for forgetting or butchering someones name during a session.

It is not our intention, but it is difficult to keep remembering, but if we also have the instrument associated with that person listed communication goes far slower.

And making sure u feel properly accommodated, welcomed & respected means we will have better results for both parties.

Instruments List, also which are priority for recording (most of the time acoustic instruments and vocals)

Prioritise which instruments have the most benefit on being recorded in the studio, yes you can record the whole band if the song requires more of a "live feel", but knowing which instruments require the most attention during tracking will benefit to a more professional project.

It benefits a lot more to spend time on instruments that are nigh impossible to record in a home setup, EG Drum Kits.

The reason for this is that we have grown substantially when it comes to technology and the accessibility to what is possible at home and what needs to be done in the studio.

There are whole scenes now dedicated to people that are making their music at home and the quality is of astonishing high quality.

Amp modelling has reached a point that lead developers as in Kemper, Fractal Audio, Positive Grid, NeuralDSP have amp sims that sound close to realistic.

But even for instruments that are hard to record, be sure to consider if the budget suffices the sound quality that will be reached as recording drums in a studio for €100,- might not even come close to the professional sound that you are looking for.

In those cases how crude it may sound consider using programmed drums if it gets u better at that result.

A good musician can play everything, a great musician knows when to be modest.

Reference tracks, and sound goals

Any studio is build to give the most professional sound as well inside the studio as outside the studio, but!

Not everyone hears everything the same way, it helps if there is a reference track to listen if the recorded sound comes close to the envisioned sound.

Demo Recordings of the Songs

Even with a reference track and an idea of what the songs should sound like it helps to also have a great idea of how far that sound has been achieved during the rehearsal and songwriting process.

If there are demo recordings ensure to also give feedback on what is lacking or missing and which parts u do like as this will ensure that this can be taken into equation during the recording & Mixdown process.

Song List

Ensure there is a song list of what needs to be recorded & if possible list the instruments that will be played per song.

It is easy to make a whole list, but your engineer needs to ensure that it all fits into the allotted time in the studio to finish the recording.

Song Structures (Optional, but helpful)

Song structures help during recording scheduling to make sure if parts only have to be recorded once or multiple times to finish a track.

It also helps ensure that the recording engineer knows what part is the chorus and what might be a verse as in some artists will swap this around or even some songs don't have chorus that repeat when it comes to the lyrics.

Live and Die by the Arrangement

Recording time is valuable, but don't spend time extra writing your parts when you get in, a small change is fine, but it should not be a complete rearrangement of the parts that need to be played.

It is also of importance to note if there is any extra layers that need to be recorded, that are not being played live.

EG Lead Harmonies, Extra drum Layers, Keyboard Pads.

Make sure these are communicated to save time in the studio.

Lyrics written out

This is both for the artist as the engineer, to ensure none of the parts are sang wrong.

Especially in parts that required to be doubled up during audio mixdown.

Song Tempos / BPM

Ensure the BPM and Tempos of a track are written out especially for songs with tempo changes.

Finding tempos does not lose a lot of time, but in an environment where every second counts to the quality of the project ensuring this is written out beforehand can be extra time for that extra lead vocal take.

Guide Tracks / Scratch Tracks?

With the accessibility of technology it is easy to create a scratch track in even the most simple of audio editors.

Scratch tracks do not necessarily have to be amazing when it comes to the quality of the sound, but if the rhythm is tight of a programmed midi or drum track it will ensure everyone is playing on the right key and tempo together.

Session Schedule

A bit more of a controversial one, but make a schedule or let your producer / engineer make one and discuss with all parties involved if the scheduling is realistic.

Fifteen minutes can be enough time for great musicians, but far to often u might find out that just that guitar solo is taking up to an hour when it comes to recording.

Realising after the recording session that it was better to record at home, might have been a better option.

Which brings us to the last point

Anything that can be recorded outside of the studio?

If an instrument can be finished up or recorded outside of the studio without losing sound quality, then it might also be better in this day and age to do this at home.

Electric Guitars, Bass etc might be far better options to not spend time on in the studio, except if a real amp is wanted for the sound even in that case it might still better to record and edit the DI (Direct Injection) track at home and use the DI as a scratch track until reamping day.

The advantage of this is that you will have plenty of great scratch and guide tracks for the other instrumentalists in the band for a great take, but by reamping the guitar after will result in getting and aiming for a far better overall sound on the guitar.

Do not underestimate time though for reamping, some reamp sessions can easily climb up to 3 hours for a single song. Especially in genres as Math Rock, Indie, Alt Rock, Synth Pop sounds can vary extensively between parts.

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