Tips for a Great Recording Session
by Richard Dolmat
You know your songs are great (and so does your girl/boyfriend,
family, pets etc), and you finally decided to record an album
in a real studio. Thats great! But what actually happens
when you get there?
When you finally do pick the perfect studio, one that you feel
comfortable at, there is a certain routine that must be followed
in order to get the best performance and the best recording
for your budget.
1. Tune Your Instruments. This also includes your drums
and any tunable percussion instruments you may have. There is
absolutely nothing worse in the world than to have a perfectly
written song with a perfect performance be ruined because someone
didnt take an extra 2 minutes to check their tuning. Tuning
takes a few minutes; a recording lasts forever.
2. Be Well Rehearsed. Youll be surprised how many
bands suffer shock when they get the final recording bill. The
main reason for this is because they confuse rehearsal time
with recording time. Rehearse at home, in the garage, at your
uncles house; anywhere but at the recording session. When
you arrive at the studio, you should know your songs inside-out
and be ready for the red light.
3. Practice with a Click Track. A lot of drummers arent
able to play with a click track. Make sure yours can. A click
track is essential in getting a good basic rhythm track that
the rest of the band can lock in to, and to sync-up loops and
4. Be Early. Many studios start charging their clients
from the exact time agreed to in the contract. Just because
you decide to show up late, doesnt mean that the studio
should give up that time for free. Be early and be ready to
5. Get the Sound Right. Never, ever try to fix it in
the mix. It doesnt work like that. Take an extra
few minutes to tweak the sound before recording it. Turn that
knob, tighten that string, have another sip of water. Remember
again, tweaking may take an extra minute, but the recording
will last forever.
6. Know When To Quit. Recording often leads to diminishing
returns. Spending 20 hours in a row at the recording session
isnt going to make your song twice as good as spending
10 hours. This rule also applies to mixing. If youre tired,
call the session and come back the next day fresh and ready.
7. Record Alone. Dont bring your friends, family,
parents or anyone else into your sessions. As fun as it may
be, you are there to do a job and record the best music possible.
If you are a millionaire, then by all means, have a party at
the studio, but dont count on getting anything done.
8. Mix and Match. After letting the engineer do the first
rough mix alone (which he should) do an A/B comparison of your
mix to some of your favorite CDs. Remember that the production
CDs you are listening to have already been mastered. But its
a good way to compare levels and panning.
9. Bring Spares. Always bring spare strings, drum heads,
bass strings, water bottles, throat lozenges, etc to a session.
Youll always need the one thing you forgot to bring, so
bring it all and leave them at the studio until your recordings
10. Have Fun! This is THE most important point of all.
Creating and recording music isnt rocket science. Although
there is a science involved, you should let the engineer worry
about that. If youre not having fun, then youre
in the wrong business!
© 2004 Richard Dolmat (Digital Sound Magic)
About the Author
Richard Dolmat is owner, engineer and producer for the Vancouver
based recording studio Digital Sound Magic. Visit his site at: