Here is my short list of 5 things every band or artist should know before stepping into the recording studio. Especially for the first time.
1. No magic here - I often here the the term "studio magic". Sorry there is no magic knob or piece of gear that can magically make you sound good. In fact most times, the opposite occurs. People find out exactly how bad they are playing or just how bad their timing is. All those plug ins and expensive gear can help improve recordings not mask it or change it.
In the end people make recordings..not the gear, computers, or the latest gadget. All of the tone, feel, styling, and performance come from within the musicians themselves.
If you understand that recording is a team effort of great musicians, in a great sounding acoustic space, with a great engineer that can capture it all, your recording will be better for it.
2. This is only step one - I see a lot of the time inexperience bands mistake recording as the final step in the process. It's only the beginning. Having a successful album requires a lot of work and recording one is just the beginning. There is mastering, duplication, distribution, marketing, promotions, touring....etc. All these things are possible for all us to achieve. You just gotta be ready to work, and understand that success is in your hands.
3. Pre-Production Planning - Its a good idea to have everything mapped out on a piece of paper. Nothing complicated, even just a simple list will help. List down before you start things, how many songs you are recording, do you need just the vocalist or the whole band for certain sessions, are you using samples or doing cover songs, have they been cleared, what instrument will you be recording for that session, are you using a session musician, are they available, how much will they charge....etc.
Also it's a good idea to have the song arrangements generally worked out. In the studio is not the time to figure this stuff out or to get in a debate with a band mate on how something should sound. Making adjustments as you go is part of the process, but starting from scratch will quickly get you sidetracked.
Most studios charge by the hour. Time is money. You can easily get unorganized when trying to figure things out on the fly. The more organized you are the more time you'll save, and the more you can focus on the recording.
4. Learn to Communicate - Studio engineers are not mind readers. Learning to communicate with them effectively can save you time and help you get the recording sounding the way you envisioned it. Nobody knows everything, so don't be afraid if you don't know something. Just ask. Most engineers I know are willing to give advice or teach you a few things. He is part of the process, but if he doesn't understand your vision, it's almost impossible for him to achieve the results you desire.
It almost never hurts to check your ego in at the door. Everyone involved is trying to get you the best recording that's possible, even if sometimes they may need to be brutally honest with you. Listen then make your debate if you disagree. Work it out in a civil manner. Bend but don't break. They may have some idea you would never have come up with.
If you can master this skill. It will benefit you in almost every aspect of your life. Hey isn't music a form of communication anyway.
5. Practice your butt off - Practice your songs militantly before you get to the studio. Then practice some more. Be as prepared as you can be. Just cause you sound amazing at your live shows doesn't necessarily mean it will be a piece of cake in the studio.The live performance and the studio performance can be two completely different worlds. It will become obvious when you step into the studio, who knows their stuff and who spent their time playing call of duty all night. In the studio you can hear everything. Fret buzzes, flat vocals, timing issues. You don't want to spend all day doing 43 takes of the lead vocal.
Slopping playing wastes time, time in the studio is money
There's my short list of 5. There are many many more. As always I look forward to your comments.