Simply being at a recording studio is such a therapeutic experience, most artists would live in one if they had the chance. The energy that you can find in a good recording studio with a professional team, warm environment, and creative vibe is definitely unmatched. Even those who arent artists can find enjoyment from being in the studio and watching creativity come to life.

All of this being said, there are some unwritten rules and some etiquette to observe to make sure that the studio experience is enjoyable for everyone involved. It’s your first time at the studio though, so who can expect you to know those rules? Well don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered in this guide to navigating your first professional recording studio experience!

  • Booking the Studio

    Booking a session is often your first impression with the studio's engineer or manager. It's important to make sure that they don't already hate you before you even show up. When you call or email the studio, have a few date/time options in mind in case your first choice is already booked. Talk to the engineer about what you are planning to do and explain that it is your first time.
    Most engineers are very understanding and work with first-timers every day. Explain to her what you plan to do at the studio, whether it is just one song that you want to record, just some guitar parts, or a full project. The studio may have some booking options that you didn't know about or some form of discount for purchasing in bulk.

  • Have a Payment Ready

    Most studios are not non-profit and they need money to keep the lights on and pay the engineers. For a good quality recording, you should be prepared to pay no less than $30/hour. You might luck out and find a really good studio that charges less than that, but most pro studios start around that number.

  • Come with a Purpose

    You booked a studio session to get some work done. The studio should be a fun place to be, but at the end of the day, you need to do your job. Your job is to make music. It's easy to get distracted by all the cool gadgets and plaques on the wall or play on the drumset for 45 minutes even though you're not a drummer. Stay focused on your goals.
    If you booked a session to get a reference or demo, don't obsess over things that you plan to replace later anyways.

  • Be Prepared

    Sometimes, you will go into the studio not knowing what you plan to create. That is a strategy for you after you've been to the studio multiple and are comfortable in the space. Don't do this your first time. Already have your song written or at least mostly finished.

  • Ask Questions

    Usually when you book a recording studio, all of the studio's amenities are available to you. This means that you can have the session go however you want it within reason. If you want to record in the control room (the room the engineer sits in) instead of the live room or vocal booth, the studio will be happy to oblige if you ask. If you can't get a good performance because your throat is dry, ask if there is any water you can have.
    Studios are equipped for maximum comfort in most situations. Studio owners know that in order to get the best recordings, artists need to be as comfortable as possible. This is why studios usually offer water and snacks, various lighting options, thermostat control, and smoking areas.

  • Set Expectations

    Most songs these days are around 3 minutes. This does not mean that it takes 3 minutes to record a song. On average, songs that arent super complicated take 2-3 hours to record to completion. Most artists do not record their songs in one take, some claim they do (and they're probably lying), and a very select few actually do. Even those that do record in one take dont get the recording they want on the FIRST take.
    In addition, songs can take weeks to mix. Mixing is basically the process of making all of the pieces of the song sound right together. The engineer will likely send you home with a "rough mix" which is basically something for you to reference before the mixing process begins. You should not expect to have a radio ready mix in an hour or two.

  • Don't Force it

    Sometimes things sound perfect in your head and you put a plan together to record everything and when it all comes together, it doesn't sound nearly as good as it did in your head. This happens all the time to most artists. It's important to know when to move on from a bad idea. Also in relation to that...

  • Chill - Thing's Do Go Wrong

    Things arent going to go exactly the way you expect them to most of the time. You might not be able to hit that one note or it might take 15 takes before you get a guitar solo that you kinda like. It's important to anticipate things going wrong and have methods in place to keep from getting frustrated. Book enough time to allow for imperfection, sanity breaks, and vocal rest. It's ok! Every single one of your favorite artists has had a bad day at the studio because of their own performance. Thats just part of being an artist!

  • Prepare a Reference

    Even if it's just a voice note on your phone, have something ready to reference when you cant remember exactly how that lyric you wrote goes. This can save you HOURS in the studio. Practice your songs before you record them! Hearing them out loud can help identify potential issues or ways that they could be improved.

  • Know Your Limits

    Im not here to judge. Some people claim to make their best material when they have been drinking alcohol or doing drugs. If this is your case, that's fine. What is not fine is doing too much of your vice and no longer being productive. If you're too drunk to enunciate your lyrics or too high to stay on beat, you're only sabotaging yourself and wasting money.
    The engineer gets paid no matter how much you get done, so they're not going to stop you from wasting time, because this means you'll need to book again and waste even more time $$. Like I said before, its not a party, it's work.

Speaking of not being a party, dont crowd your session. If someone is not contributing in some way to the creation of the song, they should not be in the studio when it is time to create. Recording a song is a very vulnerable, intimate situation. Some people prefer for nobody to be at the studio besides themselves and the engineer. Conversely, others need the validation or denial from trusted opinions in the room. If anybody is going to be in the room, make sure that they have a purpose for being there. otherwise they’re just wasting your money!

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