Modified from Brad Lee’s handy dandy guide to recording success (available at stereodisguise.net):
There is a direct correlation between a band being ready for their recording session, and a band being happy with the end result. Below are some tips on how to be prepared for your upcoming recording session.
All instruments and amps need periodic maintenance. Just prior to recording is a great time to take care of it. If something is broken or sounding weird, the recording process is going to shine a very bright light on that problem… and you’re gonna be bummed.
It’s amazing what a decent set-up can do for even the cheapest guitars. Having a guitar that is well intonated, holds a tune, and doesn’t produce any unwanted buzzes allows you to focus on what really matters, getting good takes.
In general, amps don’t need maintenance as frequently as a guitar, but if something is sounding funny (tubes are rattling, knobs are crackling, speakers are fritzing), it’s best to get it diagnosed and fixed before you bring it in for recording.
Old beaten up drum heads sound like… old beaten up drum heads. Treat yourself and get some new skins.
New reeds for your saxophone, extra strings for your guitars, fresh batteries for your pedals (or your active bass)… be prepared!
This is a great time to ask your friend with the vintage Fender Vibro Champ, or your crazy uncle that collects snare drums if you can borrow some of their cool stuff for a few days. The studio you go to may have some cool stuff. Don't be afraid to use it!
Bring a Hard Drive:
External hard drives are getting cheaper everyday. Buy one. Back up your sessions to this drive. This is important. Very, very important.
Getting your gear fixed up is the easy part. Getting your head and your hands ready for recording takes a lot more work. Assuming that budget is an issue, and really good sounding recordings are the goal, these are some of the most important things you can do to make your songs sound rad and avoid wasting time in the studio.
Know How to Play Your Songs:
The more clear you are about exactly what you’re gonna play, and when you’re gonna play it, the smoother everything is gonna go. Practice loud, practice quiet, practice by yourself, have a vocals only practice with an acoustic guitar. It all helps.
Know What Your Songs Sound Like:
Whether it’s sticking an iPhone in the middle of your practice space, or multi-tracking your songs with your own home recording set-up… the more you can listen back to your songs before you come in, the less likely you are to be surprised by your bass player playing an A# while the rest of the band is playing an A.
Practice to a click:
Just do it. Seriously. This doesn't mean you have to record to a click track… but practicing to one will only help. Very few songs have ever suffered because the rhythm section doesn’t waiver unpredictably.
Print out your lyrics:
This also means you have to finish writing them before you come in!
Get a Good Night’s Sleep:
Being tired or hungover is not considered part of the secret recipe for recording success.
Have a Solid Plan + Realistic Goals:
Budget is an issue for everyone, but don’t let that force you into trying to get an unrealistic amount of stuff done in too short of a time. Having 1 or 2 songs that sound really good is way better than having 10 songs that sound not really good.
Talk to your band mates, talk to your engineer. Make sure everyone is on the same page about the goal, how to get there, and how much it's gonna cost.
Now it’s time to get to work. Here are some important points on what to do during your recording session.
Be on time:
This means, don’t be late, but it also means don’t be early! Your engineer has a hard job, and his or her quiet time before a long day's work is sacred.
5 minutes early is a perfect time to show up.
Bring Coffee (and a hard drive!), not friends:
Coffee is recording engineer fuel, friends are recording engineer kryptonite.
Know when to be quiet:
Be mindful of when others are performing and/or actively listening.
Remember, you're all on the same team. Be nice to each other, and be open to other people's ideas. If something sounds strange to you, speak up! If someone else speaks up, hear them out.
Want to run your drums through a distortion pedal? Do it. Want to record your vocals in the dark, lying on your back? Do it. The weirder the idea the better. These are the kinds of personal touches that can really make your record fun and unique.
Ready set go:
If you’ve made it through this whole thing, congratulations on giving a shit and taking your music seriously… things are going to turn out great! If you made it through this whole thing, AND you’re a drummer, you just blew my mind.