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5 Things to Do Before Studio Time

Have a recording session scheduled? Here are some steps to take to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

I - Change your strings and heads ahead of time.

Mics and preamps can't do all the work; if the source sounds dull and lifeless, it's near impossible to make it shine through additional processing. Change your strings at least a day before you hit the studio, and stretch them thoroughly to avoid tuning instability (which, even with locking tuners or a Floyd, can and will happen). The same concept applies to drum heads. Change your batter heads before you arrive, and stretch them out by pressing hard on the new head after you've secured it to the drum (don't worry if you hear cracking sounds while you do this - it is totally normal). Bassists, I know worn-in strings feel great, but consider if you need your instrument to sound bright and articulate. If you need that extra bite, go ahead and change them out.

II - Practice, practice, practice!

Nothing's worse than having a band show up to the studio unprepared (other than someone spilling a beer right on your control surface). If you're booking studio time, having your material memorized is respectful to both your engineer and your bandmates. I don't want to waste my time or your money - get your material down before you arrive at the studio. (One important caveat: it is perfectly alright to jam or improvise solos if you feel it is appropriate for the music. Just don't show up with a loose collection of licks and riffs - I'll either send you home or sit back and collect the studio fees!)

III - Get enough sleep.

We here at Windowpane Studios are musicians ourselves. We know how hard musicians work, and have personally been victims of music-related sleep deprivation. Do yourself a favor before you arrive at the studio - get a good night's rest. Though we do our best to make the recording process as enjoyable and pain-free as possible, studio work can easily become stressful and occasionally overwhelming. By getting enough sleep before your session, you're setting yourself up for a more relaxed and rewarding experience.

IV - Know what you want.

When you get to the studio, know what direction you want to take your record in. Should that rhythm guitar be going through the Mesa or the Marshall? Should the drums have a wide stereo spread or narrow, bordering on mono? Audience or drummer's perspective? Do you want to record instruments separately, or perform live as a band? Are your lyrics and vocal harmonies ready to go? Do you have tempo maps? Do you (God forbid) want to record without a click? Guitarists and bassists, do you want to be in the room with the amp or in the control room with the engineer? Have answers to these questions before you get to the studio, and let your engineer know beforehand as well.

V - Be prepared for downtime.

If you're not recording live as a band, there will likely be a good amount of downtime before it's your turn to bat. Often times, studios will have lounges and other areas for relaxation. Take advantage of them. However, I'm not advocating for you to just completely slack off until it's your turn to track; I'd actually recommend spending a good amount of that downtime to rehearse your parts or even observe the recording process at work. If you're nervous about any of your parts, take that time to get it down to a science. If you're worried about a bandmate's preparedness, take some time to sit down with them and play through problem areas. And when you're confident in your ability to nail your takes, take some time to relax. You've got this.

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