Going into the studio can be a lot of fun and can be a milestone in an artist's or band's career. However, it is a lot of work. Tensions run high and the sessions can be repetitive. At some point, burn out will occur, crushing self-doubt will settle in and it suddenly doesn't seem so fun anymore. I don't say this to scare you, I say it from experience. This happens to everyone in the studio, but there are things you can do to prepare and maximize your time in the studio so you can focus more on making music and less on the "Red Light Syndrome."
1) Strings, Heads and Sticks
Before even thinking about booking studio time, make sure you have fresh drum heads, tons of drum sticks and fresh strings in the budget. This will directly impact the sound more than any microphone, preamp, compressor or any other expensive piece of gear. In addition, musicians play better when their gear sounds better. Half of being in the studio is having the right mindset, and having your sound be great from the source (the instrument) will definitely help get you there.
For drum heads, we recommend Evans because their Level 360 technology makes tuning an absolute dream. We also really like Promark drum sticks for their feel and durability.
Some of the best guitar strings you can buy are the D'Addario NYXL. They sound and feel amazing and stay in tune like no other string. It is also very important to get thicker gauge strings. They will keep their tuning much better and will force the player to strum harder, creating a more powerful tone. Many guitar players, including myself, started with lighter gauge strings and just stuck with it. This is a bad habit that you have to break if you want to get serious in the studio.
2) Tempo Maps
One thing you can do to really speed up the process is have your tempo maps ready to import, or at least have them written down. There are some many free DAW's that allow you to prepare tempo maps so you don't need to spend a dime.
Some of the free DAW's we recommend are Studio One Prime and Pro Tools|First.
3) Practice to them
Now that you have the tempo maps ready, you should practice to those religiously. This is the best surefire way to play in time when that little red light is on. It will also make you more comfortable hearing the click and being able to transition with it so you can spend less time punching in and editing.
If you have an audio interface like the PreSonus Studio 18|24, it comes with an upgraded version of Studio One. This will allow you to record yourself and hear your strong spots and areas you can improve on. An interface with this many inputs will allow you to practice as a group or individually as well.
Like I said earlier, tensions run high in the studio. Each member of the band has a vision of what the record should sound like. It is so crucial to hear out your bandmates (and even the engineer) because in the end, it is a team effort. As an engineer, I have had a few bands who waste so much time in the studio literally yelling at each other (awkward) about a five to ten second passage in a song. In reality, no one is going to be 100% happy with everything on an album - or in a single for that matter - but you can't let that stop you from making music.
Having a clear vision as a band of what you want the album to sound like is a huge help. Finding examples of other recordings that are similar to what you are looking for (a.k.a. reference tracks) will pave the way for your record.
By going into the studio with this mindset, you can save time, money and possibly your band. The money you save can be used on in-ear monitors, microphones or new guitars!
5) R & R
Last but certainly not least, take breaks. Staring at a screen in a dimly lit room with loud noises for 14 hours straight will take its toll and productivity will drop exponentially. Your ears also get fatigued when under a constant barrage of sound, which can make it sound better in the moment, but much worse the next day. Sometimes, even just a walk around the block and some food will do the trick. The point is, give yourself some time to come back to the work with a fresh mind, and fresh ears, and you will notice instant improvement.
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