The studio is not a place to hammer out your ideas so come to the table with a dish that is ready to be dressed seasoned and served. You should understand how to chart out your song before entering the recording studio and have charts to give to all the session players involved and notes to give the engineer for each tune.
An example of what kind of notes to give to engineer would be as follows: I want the snare to sound sonically like the one on “Billie Jean” from the Thriller Album. I’m looking for that tight in your face sound. Be specific for the engineer/producer to know what you are looking for on the overall sound of the mix.
You should also grasp the importance of playing to a click track and have the bpm’s (beats per minute) figured out for each track beforehand.
In order to be successful in the studio, you must be able to perform to a click track. This allows you to utilize the day and age of cutting and pasting in the studio. Not to mention it can save you a lot of money & heartache.
For example, let’s just say you killed the first chorus with the most magical guitar part but could not find it on the remainder of the song’s chorus sections. No worries mate, we will take the magic and spread it over the whole song fitting it in perfectly because you played to a click track. Saving you time and money with countless takes trying to capture the same mojo you had on the first take.
After you have conquered the ability to play through your song by reading a chart and playing to a click track you are now ready to venture on to find yourself a studio to capture this masterpiece. Just remember these little practical tips and you should be just fine.
I don’t care if you have Pro-Tools! I have heard demos that have come out of million-dollar studios that did not sound as good as a home studio powered by a PC. Why is this? Most likely they could not afford the engineer that knew how to work the million-dollar studio.
You are better off looking for a guy who has a reputation of making artists sound great instead of looking for a high-end studio. A good engineer/producer is able to make a decent home studio recording sound closer to an L.A. recording than an L.A. studio with a bad engineer.
Make sure you listen to other recordings the studio engineer has released. It seems simple enough but how many bands forget to do this? They get all caught up with what equipment the studio has and what it looks like when they should be more concerned with how good is the guy running the show.
Is he personable? The engineer should be knowledgeable but he should also be very personable. You don’t want to be spending 8 hours a day in a studio with a guy who is a tool to work with. Find a good balance of character. This is your baby you are investing in.
Bring your favorite albums to reference sounds with. This will help out tremendously in your communication efforts with your engineer. For example, if you love the way the drum kit sounds in U2’s Joshua tree album bring it so he can have an idea of how they are tracking the kit. He should be able to get a good idea on what kind of reverb they are using, did they use close-miking techniques and how they mixed it all from taking a quick listen to the CD that you brought in. You can use this same idea to tell him about guitars, vocals production, etc.