Updated: Feb 13, 2019
1. Make a plan with your engineer/producer
There are many ways to approach the recording studio. Depending on the type of music you're attempting to document, you might wanna capture the manic intensity of a band playing live or break down the songs piece-by-piece in order to have more control over each element. Regardless, you'll want to talk with your producer about the record you're trying to make. Having a plan of attack will help when finding the right tools to accomplish the desired effect. It'll also help determine how much time you're going to need to get everything done in a somewhat efficient manner. This will also be an important time to share demos and discuss studio rules and expectations that you'll have of each other. Making records can be a breeze or a chore – and often both – so being on the same page with your production team will build camaraderie as well as a foundation for the chaos that is bound to ensue.
2. Be prepared
Money and time are almost always an issue when it comes to making a record. So, unless you have a crazy budget to spend experimenting in the studio, showing up prepared will go a long way towards a smoother studio experience. Having your songs down pat will often mean fewer takes. Fewer takes means you can get more done in less time – which can either save you money or (more importantly) give you more time to experiment with your creation. So practice up, get tight, and make sure all your gear is in good shape.
3. Bring references
Whether you're looking to set a certain mood or looking for a specific production technique, words can fail to express what you want to happen during a particular session. But you don't have to be flummoxed by not speaking the language of trained musicians or producers – and this is where having songs or albums for reference can come in handy. You shouldn't only have these handy for your initial talks with your producer/engineer but during the sessions as well. It may feel like cheating, but hey, great artists steal. Or, to put it another way, would you rather spend 30 minutes waxing poetic about drum sounds or just play that Zeppelin track and move on to guitar solos?
4. Don't let your session get too crowded
Sometimes it's great to have friends and loved ones around to bolster feelings, give support, and act as cheerleaders. And the recording studio is a mythic place – lots of civilians have never been to one, so they're naturally curious to see what goes on, which usually dovetails into people thinking it's an excuse to party. The reality is that making a record takes concentration and focus, and a bunch of people making a racket takes away from that experience. So be mindful of whom you allow to hang out – and not just for your sake, but for the other people involved in making the record, too. If someone's having a hard time nailing his or her part or is shy, then visitors might impede progress. And don't forget about your engineer – you're paying for both expertise and ears, and a loud gaggle of your drunken friends is not what they want to hear. The tedium of the studio will make some friends and significant others become grumpy and negative, so politely ask them to leave – or let your producer/engineer be the bad guy. It's not bullshit to say that you're busy – you are!
5. Stay positive
Things will go wrong. You might have clumsy fingers. You might run out of money or time. You might break a guitar string in the middle of the greatest solo of your life. These things will be frustrating, but don't let them get you down. Some records have the luxury of being polished to perfection. Most don't. And who cares? Perfection is boring. Soul comes from being human – and humans make mistakes. Harness the chaos, use it as fuel. Encourage your bandmates. Listen to advice. Have a vision, but don't be a tyrant. Making records is a team effort. Be open to the experience and surprise yourself. Releasing music may be easier than ever, but getting noticed is hard – so make something special.