Working in the recording studio - for pop and rock musicians

Studio recording is the culmination of long and thorough work on the song. I suggest that you should take the following in the consideration:

  • Rehearsals. You should come to the studio prepared and well-rehearsed (yes, I had situations when musicians were not prepared for a recording session, although they didn't think so). Ensemble and solo rehearsals are a must. Each instrument should have all parts "set in stone" and ready for the recording,  Don't postpone the finishing touches until the recording session - you'll likely lose a lot of time trying record it just right.
  • Arrangement. Arrangement is a major contributor to the overall sound of a song. Don't rely on audio engineering tricks to sole the arrangement problems. If during the rehearsal you hear a mess in some particular part of the song, nothing will change when you come to the studio. Don't rely on the engineer to solve your problem - it's not his job (many engineers don't feel comfortable interfering with the creative ideas of the musicians because this is producers' job, and nobody is going to pay engineer for his suggestions).
  • Demos. Make a demo during the rehearsal. It is sometimes possible to make both stereo and multitrack recordings. Listen carefully and analyze the arrangement - are instruments interact with each other nicely or do they clash together, are choruses powerful enough, is the song structure logical and interesting, do you like how the musicians perform? Make the corrections and make a demo recording once again. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises in the studio.
  • Think about how you will record. Are you prepared enough to make a recording all together simultaneously? From my experience, these recordings have more "life" to them. Do you need that kind of feeling? Or are you after more "polished" sound? In this case you may need to record each musician separately. Discuss these issues with your producer or engineer, show them your demos. Together you will be able to work out the most efficient way of making a recording.
  • Be realistic. During one day in the studio, and if you're lucky enough, you may record drums, bass, guitars and vocals for one song. However, I suggest that you should consider 1.5-2 days for one song. It's better to allocate unused studio hours for editing and mixing than make tracking in a hurry.
  • Trust the engineer. In the studio, let the engineer make the best job he can. Positioning the mikes and connecting equipment may sometimes take up to 2 hours. Use this time to prepare and tune your instrument for the recording. After the engineer has set up all the mikes and got all signals in the computer, he will ask you to play to check how it sounds and set up the levels. While you play, the engineer may move or change the mikes, connect different equipment for sound processing etc. This may take considerable time, so you need to be patient and play quite a bit before you go to the control room and listen to the first take.
  • Know what you want. Working in the recording studio you should always keep in mind the final result - the sound that you want to hear on your record. You should understand that each bands sound is unique and is tied to musicians (or producer), not to the engineer. If you've found some interesting sound textures during your demo recordings, show these tracks to the engineer and tell him what you have done to achieve it. This will help the engineer in recreation the same effect.
  • Be persistent and reasonable. If you didn't like the sound of your first take, discuss with the engineer what's wrong as exactly as possible. Don't start recording until you're completely satisfied. However, you should listen what the engineer is telling you. Because sometimes you may hear from him that it's impossible to achieve that particular type of sound with your instrument (for example, you have Gibson guitar, but are trying to get the Ibanez sound), or you should tune the instrument differently (for example, loosen or tighten the head on the drum). Remember, 70% of the sound comes from the musician and his instrument, 20% - from the room, and only 10% is left for the engineer.
  • Buy new strings and drumheads. Always change guitar (bass guitars also count!) strings and drumheads the day before recording session. There's only one exception from this rule: you may skip this rule if you don't want to make a good recording. By the word "new" I mean just that - never used and never played strings and drumheads. "Boiled" strings and week-old drumheads don't count.
  • Most important - enjoy! 

I hope this advice will help you record your songs faster and easier. Good luck in the recording studio!