You’re finally ready to take your songs to the next level, and you’re looking to book time in a professional recording studio. However, you may be unsure of the steps you should take before entering the studio to make it worth your money.
The truth is, a lot goes into making an excellent record. If you fail in your recording studio preparation, you’ll get overwhelmed and end up with a recording that doesn’t reflect your true vision as an artist.
Thankfully, you’ve found this article, and I will share with you some steps you need to take to ensure your recording session is a success.
As a recording artist and audio engineer, I’ve seen success come from these steps. I’ve also seen recording sessions fall apart when these steps were ignored.
By following these eight simple recording studio preparation tips, you’ll ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible and come out with a finished product you can be proud of.
Let’s get started!
1. Get your lyrics in order
Before entering the studio, you should have your lyrics in order. This means having your lyrics written out, rehearsed, and having a clear idea of your phrasing and melodies.
You may believe that the studio is where all your inspiration will happen. This may be true if you have weeks on end booked in the studio, but honestly, you only have a finite amount of time and must maximize it.
Trying to wing it in the studio will only lead to frustration and wasted time and money. Take some time to sit down and write your lyrics before you enter the studio so you can hit the ground running and get your tracks down.
2. Get used to your recorded voice
There’s nothing more jarring than hearing your recorded voice. It sounds different than what you hear in your head, and if you aren’t prepared for how it will sound, it can seriously throw you off your game.
What may sound like a great take to everyone else may sound like garbage because you get hung up on the timbre of your voice.
This is why it’s crucial to get used to hearing your recorded voice before you go into the studio to prevent being caught off guard when you listen to it on playback.
If you have a home studio setup, it’s as simple as doing some vocal takes of the track you’ll be working on to get a feel for how your voice will sound.
You can also sing or rap along to one of your favorite songs using your phone’s voice memos app if you don’t have any other equipment.
3. Come prepared with a demo
Whether you’re working with a producer or not, it’s always a great idea to come prepared with a demo of the songs you’ll be recording.
Your demo is a blueprint for the production. It will give everyone in the studio an idea of what direction you’re going for and help them understand your vision for the project.
It also saves a ton of time in the studio. I’ve been in sessions where a well-demoed song was recorded with a full band and mixed within 5 hours.
A demo doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a beat and scratch vocal.
4. Open your heart to feedback & collaboration
Recording an album should be collaborative with the engineers, musicians, and producers you hire. If you’ve come prepared with a demo and vision for your music, you should be able to let go of the reigns and allow others to bring your song to the next level.
Before heading into a recording session, prepare to receive feedback and constructive criticism on your music. Everyone involved in your project wants your song to be the best it can be. Often times there is a simple tweak that elevates the song to new heights as long as you’re willing to listen.
So don’t be afraid to take feedback and collaborate with those around you — it may just result in magic.
5. Abstain from alcohol & greasy foods
This recording studio preparation tip may be the easiest to ignore. You might think that your recording studio experience should be like a party. Depending on your idea of a party, this often would include alcohol and snacks.
However, to sound your best in the studio, you should avoid anything that could dehydrate you and keep your voice from sounding open.
So lay off the alcohol and greasy foods before heading into the studio for at least 24-48 hours, and drink plenty of water instead. Save those celebratory drinks for after your recording when you’re celebrating how amazing your session turned out!
6. Make sure your vocal cords are warmed up
Your vocal cords are muscles; like all muscles, they need to be warmed up before any strenuous activity.
Trying to sing without adequately warming up your vocal cords is a recipe for disaster and often produces a subpar performance.
You can do several exercises to warm up your vocal cords. One of the simplest is to sip some hot water and hum to some songs for a few minutes. This will help loosen up your vocal cords and prepare them for singing. You can also gently sing some scales or do some tongue twisters.
The important thing is to find an exercise that works for you and that you’re comfortable with.
7. Hiring the right engineer & producer
Making great music is one thing, but making a song slap through speakers is an entirely different skill set. That’s why it’s so essential to hire the right engineer & producer for your project.
These people will be responsible for capturing your sound and ensuring that it translates well to the listener.
When researching studios, listen to their past works and see if they have experience working with similar artists. You should also get a sense of their vision for your project and whether or not they’re on the same page as you creatively.
No matter how prepared you come, their sonic stamp will find its way onto your recording. So don’t be afraid to shop around until you find someone whose skills and musical taste align with your own.
8. Be prepared to work
Recording music is a lot of work. Don’t expect to waltz into the studio and lay down your tracks in one take – it just doesn’t work like that.
It takes time to get comfortable in the booth, ensure all your levels are correct, and do multiple takes to get the perfect recording.
So make sure you’re rested and prepared to work hard and put in the time when you’re in the studio. Trust me when I say you’ll feel it at the end of the day.
The bottom line
A recording is a significant investment and, if poorly planned, can waste money and demotivate you as an artist.
However, by following these recording studio preparation tips, you’ll be sure to make the most of your time and money. I hope this article has helped remove the fog on what you must do before entering the studio to have a successful session.
While these tips have worked from my experience, I’m sure there are some I’ve missed. Are there any steps you’ve done in the past to prepare you for the recording studio successfully? Let us know in the comments below!
Brad Johnson is a musician and producer from Southern California. When he isn’t spending time with his wife and kids at the beach, he is helping songwriters and musicians at Song Production Pros.