Contact Home Equipment Services Rates Client Zone Home Services Equipment Rates Client Zone Contact Toolshed Studios - Session Prep Session Prep toolshed records Toolshed Records step 1 records mp music mad mouse music Step 1 Records MP Music Mad Mouse Music

Helpful Session Tips

The list that follows has mostly been borrowed from many, many similar lists found on many studio websites.  It is mostly common-sense things to think about before we hit that "record" button.  If you take these tips to heart, your session will go much more smoothly and with a minimum of wasted time (and money) - yours and ours.  

Know the music you're going to record thoroughly, before you come to the session.  Everyone involved in the performance of a piece should know his or her part front-to-back, leaving nothing to "exploration" once you are in the studio. It helps if you know how you want the final arrangement to sound, will you be overdubbing extra vocals, percussion or special effects? Debating how a song should go, or arguing about the right lyrics is not the next use of your precious studio time and your hard-earned money.

Whatever your notion might be of how long your complete recording session set might take, plan ahead, and plan on it taking longer and costing a bit more than you think it might. So many times we see an expectation of recording and mixing a whole album in a couple of days – trust us – it is extremely unlikely to happen. If you have little or no experience in the studio you will be surprised at how the added pressure can turn into many more takes than you expected. Plan your funds and time accordingly, so you don't come up short on something as important as your music!

Carry your sound around in your head.  Come to the studio knowing what you want to hear when the session is done.  Convey your wishes to your session staff, and understand that every recording is going to be different from every other - be realistic in your expectations.  The more clearly you can articulate your sonic goals to the engineer or producer, the closer you will be to achieving those goals. Remember, unless your goal is to emulate another band or performer you should be happy with the unique sound you and your band are creating before you've set foot in a studio. Strive for the sound you want to capture before the record button is pushed; don't automatically assume that a part can be punched up in the mix later

Arrive on time, rested - and with a clear head.  Whatever happened in your life, the night before a session shouldn't have an impact on your ability to perform once the clock starts.  

Present a song list ahead of time to the engineer and ideally a list of what instruments and the number of vocals on each song – and the order you want to record them in. This gives the engineer time to setup while you are getting set up and tuned up saving valuable recording time. Be prepared for this plan to shift a little as the session rolls out and other ideas are explored, but it's always a good start.

Check you instruments and equipment. Guitarists, a fresh set of strings on, pre-stretched and tuned, is a must, as well as extra sets on hand in your gig bag. Spare plectrums, are also often forgotten.  Make sure all instrument hardware and any amplifier items (tubes, power cords, etc.) are in good working order and hum free. Put new batteries in your effects pedals and electro-acoustic instruments - and bring spares if needed. Check all your cables work continuously and not intermittently.   

And as long as you're packing your bag, don't forget to bring your sheet music or chord charts for your parts if needed, and lyric sheets if you're singing - no matter how well you've rehearsed, "brain-glitch" can happen at any time!

Keep your instruments in tune at every available opportunity.  When you're not playing that guitar or bass, tune it back to pitch. Vocalists – bring still water to drink when you catch a break (room temperature, of course, as chilled water constricts your vocal chords...and carbonated or alcoholic drinks aren't going to work in your favour either.. I've heard hot tea with lemon and honey is awesome for singers).

Eat moderately before your session and at your lunch break, and don't indulge in anything that's going to make you feel uncomfortable during your studio time (bloated, gassy, full... you know).  Drinking only water or some kinds of juice is highly advisable; certainly nothing alcoholic or carbonated.  (Milk and other dairy is a no-no if you're doing vocal parts.) We won't profess to tell you what you should or shouldn't eat, but you get the idea.  That stray burp going to tape might not be appreciated after the initial humour has worn off!

Patience is a Virtue...and nowhere is this more true than while you're waiting for your turn to record a part.  Be prepared to have some down time, maybe by bringing something with you to pass the time - a book or magazine, your journal of lyrics to capture that next big hit, or anything else that gets you quietly through the gap.

The 'entourage' has no business in the studio during work time.  If someone does not directly contribute to the sound being captured that day, he or she should not be present.  Think about how bad everyone's going to feel if the least little inadvertent noise coming from a cleared throat or dropped set of keys causes an otherwise perfect take to be scrapped. Moreover, extra people on hand are more often than not just another distraction to the task at hand.  

Even if the thought of a recording session might leave you a bit nervous (especially if it's a new experience for you), it's important to approach your session with an atmosphere of fun and a relaxed attitude.  

Once the initial jitters wear off and you can settle in to the session, keep that loose, fun vibe going, and leave the tension behind, and your session time will almost always yield a better result.  We'll do our best at this end to help you enjoy your time and ultimately come away with a recording you can be proud you did your best on!