How to Properly Prepare for a Recording Session

There’s a myth out there that musicians can just walk into a studio with their instrument plug in and start tracking.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Honestly you will save a lot of money, stress and arguments if you plan ahead.  After all you are paying by the day or hour, why waste any of those precious seconds?  Here’s some tips on how you musicians can prepare for a recording session.

Plan Ahead and Be Prepared.

This sounds pretty straight forward, but you should take everything into account.  Cheat Sheets, Chord Charts and Lyrics should all be printed out and ready to go before you step foot in the studio.  Pack a bag with these, along with pencils, markers and extra gear you may need in case of an emergency. It’s my job as a Studio Manager to expect the unexpected.  I never know when someone will need something printed or run out for.  Emergencies and accidents happen, but you should try to troubleshoot before hand.


Make sure your Gear works.

Make sure your gear works, before you get there and before downbeat (the time you are to start).  This is the worst time to find out you need a new tube in your amp, new strings or your set up isn’t compatible.  If you have a producer or manager, they should contact the studio beforehand just to be sure.  If you don’t, make sure you contact the engineer so there are no surprises.  You’d be surprised at how many artists will come in and want to change their strings, drum heads or other things that could have been taken care of ahead of time.  There’s nothing wrong with this, but it shouldn’t be done at after downbeat.

Make sure that your gear is comfortable to you. Make sure everything’s working, the cables aren’t crackling, your instrument is in tune and intonated, your tuner is working, and your amp sounds good. Make sure that you can set everything up quickly and be zero hassle to anybody, either technically or personally. Turn off your cellphone. Make it a point that everyone sees that you’re turning off your phone or leaving it outside the studio so they all understand that you’re not interested in phone calls while you’re working. Make the session a priority. — Paul ILL: LA Session Bass Player (Pink, Christina Aguilera, Bill Ward, Tina Turner)

Avid Pro Tools Training Turn your phone OFF. 

Let anyone that might be contacting you that you are unavailable.  Not only are you risking it ringing or vibrating, but the cell signals can actually interfere with newer wireless equipment.  This is also a huge distraction.  If you are anything like me you have notifications popping up every 3 minutes.  Nothing can break your concentration more than seeing your Aunt Jeanne liked a photo of you on Facebook right before your killer solo.  Also, you would be surprised how peaceful the it is to turn it off for a couple hours!

Practice before hand.

In the studio is not the time to practice.  The engineers punch in and are there to work, not only is it unprofessional but it’s inconsiderate.  This isn’t to say you can’t try new things IN the studio, but try and have what you’re going to track planned out a head of time.  Some of the greatest songs were written and recorded or adapted the same day in the studio.  If you have a long session booked and are there for that purpose it’s another story, but unless you’re Kelly Clarkson, you probably booking a month long session.


Even if you don’t plan on using a certain guitar or instrument.  Because you don’t know when you will need a back up or think, “man I wished I would have brought that, it would sound so much better.”

I over-kill. I bring so much more stuff than we’ll use because that’s part of the charm of hiring me.  It’s part of the “oooh, aahh” factor, and also it’s to be of service to the muse and the spirit of the session. If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing or where the music is going to go, that one extra piece that you bring can make the difference. I’ll bring as many basses as I can fit in my car for that day with a B-15. — Paul ILL”

Be polite and listen to the Engineer and Producer. 

This IS about you and your music, But the Engineer and producer know how to operate the gear, the session and overall the outcome of the album.  You want to keep your engineer relaxed and happy.  Bringing him or her a coffee in the morning and buying them meals is a good way to do this.

Doing these couple of things can prepare you for not only a successful but most likely a quicker and stress-free session.  It is about your music and the creative process, so preparing ahead of time will put your head in the right place.


If you’re an engineer or producer, this is great information to have so you can advise your musicians on how to prepare, you just might want to leave out the be polite part.


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