Preparing for a recording session is almost simple when said out loud but in reality its a very complicated list of problems to prepare in advance for.
After reading this, hopefully, some of the more obvious, and maybe some overlooked issues will be easier to approach and will help you streamline your future sessions.
Step 1: Separate the Problems
First of all, consult with the band or artist to find out all you can about the songs you’re approaching. More often than now, most tracks on an album/EP will have more than just the normal array of instruments and at the very least, there will be one that takes you unawares if you don’t prepare for it in advance - for example, an acoustic guitar or piano for a rock band, or synths for a hip hop artist.
With this consultation, you should try to find out not just the instruments, but the bpm’s of those tracks and, if you can, the structure of the songs themselves. You can usually do that part from listening to any demo tracks they send across and marking it out in a note yourself, but if they are without demos then it's a good idea to ask!
Lastly, understanding the mass of each track or the overall bulk of layers for most tracks is important to compensate for anything you might struggle with. This could be a multitude of things, but I mention this as it’s a mistake I made recently upon having to use a backup computer while waiting for a new, much more powerful one, to arrive.
Because I hadn't thought forward and asked regarding layers, when this problem was forced upon me I struggled to even open the sessions, and even after recovering the project in offline mode with the plugins off, I was struggling to remix with lower CPU usage and the sheer level of tracks together!
Step 2: Equipment Testing and Prep
The most important step of getting ready for any session is making sure you have all the equipment needed to actually record the session. Now this can be anything from replacing the kick drum microphone that broke recently, or following on from our last post, making sure you resoldered that dodgy XLR.
But from experience, the worst thing is realizing you haven’t got enough microphones stands in order to set up for the first day of drum recording, or it suddenly dawns on you that you lost your last plectrum at practice the week before and the guitarists you’re recording assumed you’d have some at the studio to use - that one has happened too often to me and my friends and it’s not just a stall in time (which is what they’re paying for), but it makes you feel less competent at your job even if that's not what the first thought of the band is. Make sure you list everything you need for each day as you go and prepare in advance to make sure this doesn't happen to you!
Lastly, while you’re shopping, replacing or stocking up on anything you might need -make sure you invest in a simple cable tester to make sure you don’t need to replace any cables either - it’s always the last thing we want to test individually and go through all of them to make sure to avoid a dodgy cable while in the middle of a good take and this takes out the pain in future.
Once you’ve made sure all your wires are working, check your microphones of course, and maybe take a look at our store to upgrade while you’re at it to make sure you have the best quality and impress the client enough to return in future…
Thomann's own cable tester is one I've used for a long time and helped me stay ahead of any cable problems for years now!