Recording Preparation for Bands Part Three: THE LIST

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   (Huge thanks to Steve Catizone at Sanctum Sound for getting the ball rolling with his “Session Pre-Flight Checklist,” and to Jesse, Nina, Stephen, James, Guy, Steve, Jeffrey and the whole crew at Fantasy Studios, without whose expertise I would have had to learn all of this the hard way.)

   Before going into this list, remember the basic rule of thumb is to be prepared and be comfortable.  You might think that bringing protein bars to snack on sounds like an asinine waste of time, but let me assure you that I’ve turned more than one psychologically & musically disastrous session into hugs and kisses simply by lighting a few candles.

Step One: Rehearsal (a recap...)

  • You’ve rehearsed the songs and all parts as you will play them in the studio (overdubs, too.)
  • You have more than enough songs ready to play.
  • You’ve rehearsed with your drummer listening to the click.
  • You’ve got your tempos documented and are prepared to play a little faster or slower
  • Your singer’s been singing every day.

For the session, have ready:

  • Water & snacks
  • Be well-rested
  • Spare CD-R’s, tapes and/or hard drives, if the studio isn’t providing them
  • Directions, hours, phone number, and web address for a local music supply store
  • Spare copies of music and lyrics for your engineer
  • Some pencils, blank staff paper and a notepad to write on (a MUST for string sessions)
  • Your loops/sequences/base tracks on a format acceptable to the studio
  • Your original MIDI sequences, in case they need to be flown in
  • Additional copies of your Reference Material
  • Any reference CD’s you’re used to hearing on your home system.
  • Your rehearsal tapes
  • If you prefer your own brand of headphones, bring some.
  • Oh, yeah, and NO entourage. It slows you waaaay down.


  • Bring your guitars and amp(s), of course
  • Good, proven instrument cables and speaker cables (and spares!)
  • Make sure your guitar is intonated properly
  • Put new strings on your guitar in advance.
  • Fresh batteries and good power cables for all pedals
  • Manuals for any esoteric functions you’d like from your equipment
  • "A tuner.  For the love of god, a tuner.” - (Ben Olson of The Old Sins)
  • Cord winders, wire cutters, and any other tuning/intonating tools
  • Picks
  • Extra batteries for any active basses


  • Obviously, bring drums, stands, cymbals.... and spare cymbals for a larger, musical palette.
  • Put some new heads on a couple of days prior, so they can settle in
  • Extra drum heads and a kevlar patch if you use one
  • A drum key!
  • Any special tools, like a screwdriver or alan wrench, for all of your hardware
  • Your own metronome, drum machine or sequence you like to use for a click track
  • Most engineers like a hole in the front of the bass drum (or no front head at all).
  • Extra sticks and different kinds of mallets & brushes, because you never know...
  • A spare kick drum beater (or a whole second pedal)
  • An extra snare drum for sound (or spare parts if something breaks)
  • Extra felts for your stands
  • Did I mention water?


  • Your synths and any amps/di’s you swear by
  • Good & working instrument (and speaker) cables
  • Fresh batteries and good power cables for all of your gear & pedals
  • Bring your manual


  • If you have a favorite recording mic to try, feel free to bring it.
  • Some room-temperature water
  • Your favorite tea, vitamin or herbal supplement (I know how you are!)

   One last thing:  Diplomacy is huge when it comes to saving time and sanity in the studio.  Define your roles in the studio (“Who’s bringing incense?” “What about photos?” “Stubby!  Do you have a spare Jesus?!?”).  Determine which band members are responsible for “signing off” on which sounds.  If there’s ever a difference of opinion, feel free to experiment using your own dollars, but be prepared to defer to one member of your group to make the final decision, depending on the part....  or you could just move on to something else and come back to it at a later date with fresh ears, having taken some time to listen to your rough mixes.

“Dude, FEED YOUR ENGINEER!!” - Charles Haynes

(Next entry: Things every studio intern should do every day when they walk in the door to work.)


 - JW 

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