As a freelance music producer and recording engineer, the recording sessions are a key component of your business. The success of the recording sessions directly impacts the quality of your final productions. With a little bit of forethought, you can ensure that the sessions go smoothly, resulting in an overall much better experience, as well as high-quality music.
Have a pre-production meeting with the artist prior to the recording session(s) so there are no surprises.
There will be no greater obstacle to overcome than having to figure out what the vision for the project is during the recording session. As a producer and engineer, unless YOU are the artist, your job is to bring the artist’s vision to life. They are depending on you and your expertise to make sure their vision is realized. They don’t know what you know, in most cases, so it is up to you to have a thorough pre-production discussion beforehand. This should drive the approach to the production of the entire song and will bleed into each recording session with every musician.
Make sure everything works at least the day before.
A cable can work one day and then start crackling the next. A tube can blow overnight. Even your computer can suddenly go out. Check all of the equipment you are planning on using for the recording session the day before. Fire everything up, do a quick mock take of something, listen back, and make sure all is working as it should.
Have everything on and warm before the session is to begin.
Turn everything on at least an hour before to give the equipment enough time to warm up. This will also allow you to double-check that everything is working (even though you checked the day before, something could still go out overnight, right?)
Keep your space clutter-free, clean, and comfortable.
Do a basic overview of the space to make sure there’s no dust or clutter. Check the bathroom and make sure it is properly stocked and clean. Make sure the room has lighting options, depending on what the musician or artist might need. Many studio owners (including myself) have fancy LED lights with various colors so we can create moods in our studio space. I always let the artist know that I can adjust the colors to be whatever they want. Sometimes I’m asked to remove all color and make the lights white and bright because they are reading sheet music. Be ready to accommodate so that the artist/musician is comfortable. Temperature can be a tricky element of home recording spaces as well. You’ll have to turn off the AC or furnaces to remove background sound, so be prepared for that. You may need to open doors or turn on AC during breaks or have space heaters nearby to bring some heat.
Give yourself a buffer of time between sessions.
People run late, sessions run long. Cramming sessions too close to one another will create a more stressful situation for you, keeping you from being your best. If the artist or musician is rushed at any point during their session, their performance will likely be hindered. By the same token, really long sessions with no pre-production meeting ahead of time can be very tiring and can wear everyone out. Only book sessions as long as you want and are comfortable with and definitely don’t push a vocalist to sing for longer than 4 hours. Most vocalists don’t have that kind of stamina.
Do not overbook yourself.
Make sure you are prioritizing your mental and physical health. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and getting outside for a little walk (at least) once a day. The session will only be as good as the engineer.
Have rules and boundaries for your studio.
To keep your studio environment healthy and conducive to creativity but also technical quality, you need to create rules for your studio. You also need to be ready to enforce them. What these rules need to be is up to you and may change over time. Remember, it is your space and you are the one in charge.