Session Preparation

Preparing for a recording session doesn’t have to be stressful. I recommend that clients just use common sense. We all want to have a fun, productive time. Reviewing the following points can help us work toward that goal.

Good rehearsal before you get to the studio really makes everyone’s job easier once you get here. Please know your material!

If your band is recording particularly challenging material, it’s a good idea to have charts. Even if your material is pretty simple, it helps to have charts to keep everyone on the same page. In any case, please have your charts ready to go. While we having printing capability here, stopping to print and grab something off the printer breaks up the flow of the session.

The exact songs, arrangement and instrumentation should be determined before you arrive. Send a song selection ahead of time, with instrumentation listing. This can help tremendously with setting up a recording template before you arrive. Example:

Song: “I Love Rock and Roll”
1 lead female
2 male backing
2 electric guitars
Drums (5 piece kit – kick, snare, high hats, three toms, ride, crash)

For sessions with drums, or sessions that are otherwise electric, it is critical to let me know before the session if you are also including acoustic instruments (guitars, mandolins, banjos, etc). Likewise, if your drummer is also a vocalist, please note this.

Gear List (required)
Please provide a gear list outlining what you will bring (example: Fender Blues Junior guitar amp). This helps with preparation, and documentation for the session. Small/medium amps are best.

The house drum kit is a 5-piece Pearl that is well maintained and tuned by a professional tech, with a fine selection of cymbals. For most projects, I will mic the kick, snare, and use overheads or a Glyn Johns style miking. The kit can be adjusted to your drummer’s liking. Swapping this kit out for your own will take extra time, and possibly cost depending on the size of your kit.

Some drummers like to bring their own snare and/or cymbals, which is fine. Based on experience, but also dependent on music style, cymbals that are appropriate for live performance are not always appropriate for recording.

Microphones are provided unless otherwise discussed in detail before the session.

Please be sure your instruments are in the best shape they can be before you come to the session. Are your strings fresh, but worn in enough that they stay in tune? Do you have a fresh battery in your preamp or pedals? Good cables?

Let’s face it, most people with bands have at least one member – usually several – with a day job. Sometimes we like to squeeze things in on week nights, or before/after family events. I have always found this to be counter-productive.

I recommend that clients come fresh and with a clear head, either for a Friday daytime session, or a weekend session.

Please block the entire day if possible, even if we’re only scheduled for a few hours. I’ve found that when people feel they need to run to something immediately afterward, they can be preoccupied and perhaps won’t give the best performance.

Please arrive on time. Punctuality is important, and shows me that you value my time, just as I value yours. Each session involves an hour or more of prep before you arrive. By arriving late, you put the whole session off balance for everyone. If there are extenuating circumstances, please contact me ahead of time.

Typical Session
Plan on 30-40 min of setup, getting comfortable in the space, etc. This is when we work out sight lines and make sure everyone is set to go so that we don’t have to make changes mid-way. I like to do a test run, preferably with a simple song. The idea is to have some fun before the real work begins, get levels and feel out the room.

Once tracking starts, we’ll do two or three takes per song. Usually that is enough. Every artist/band is different, but I like to avoid song burnout. There’s definitely a point of diminishing returns.

Live vs Overdubs
This will be something that we will discuss long before your session of course. Each project is different, but I have really been enjoying a more live approach to recording bands, especially for demos and blues/jazz acts where interaction is critical. Just keep in mind that while the technology allows for lots of ways to “fix” things, I’d rather get it right the first time instead of belaboring an overdub.

For some projects, such as singer-songwiters, we may have no choice but to build tracks one by one. In those cases it helps to have a solid idea of what those parts are, and a vision for the project. Those are all considerations we’d discuss prior to the session.

Photo Policy and Hanger’s On
Photos and extra personnel who are not in the band create unnecessary distractions for everyone. Let’s focus on the music, and not our Twitter feed! We have an in-house photographer, available for an extra fee.

After the Session
I pride myself on getting perspective on a session, as well as getting things back to clients pretty quickly. Draft mixes are usually provided within 48 hrs, usually via DropBox.

Please see my dedicated page for tips on this topic.

Good, Fast, Cheap…
As always, please remember… you rarely can have all three.