10 Things to Have on Standby in the Studio
Sweetwater Studios assistant engineer Rachel Leonard breaks down her top 10 must have items to have on standby to ensure a successful studio session.
- Power and lots of it! Power strips, extension cords, tri-taps, pedal power (one spot), quad boxes, IECs, powerCON, power conditioners — so many things need power for a session, so you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for anything! Extras are always handy, too, in case you need to add something in quickly.
- Tuners — the pedal kind and clip-on tuners. Tuning is so important during recording sessions, so extra tuners are a must for when musicians forget their own or if the battery dies.
- Water, towels, and coffee. These things may seem obvious, and they aren’t audio related, but they’re important for keeping the session moving smoothly and comfortably for the musicians. Coffee is as important as water in the studio, and creativity flows the best when everyone is happy and has what they need.
- Guitar picks, strings, and capos. Guitar picks always tend to disappear, and sometimes you want different pick options for different styles of playing. Strings are equally important to have around in case a guitarist breaks one of their own or needs a fresh set. It’s probably a good idea to have a few different types with different gauge sizes. You’ll want at least one set of acoustic and one set of electric strings — bonus points for Nashville tuning and 7- or 8-string options. The same goes for bass strings. You’ll want different sizes as well as 4- and 5-string options. It can also be good to have some flat wounds around too! Capos are always a good thing to have on hand in case the artist wants to change keys or has written a song with a capo.
- Adapters — any and all kinds you can think of: XLR turnarounds, 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch to XLR male and female, all kinds of USB adapters, iPhone headphone jack adapters, headphone splitters and extenders, and so on. Honestly, you can’t have too many adapters. They will get plenty of use! Situations come up all the time where you need adapters to get the job done; it’s important to have the right ones around just in case.
- Gaff tape, board tape, and packing tape. Tape seems to fix a whole lot of problems around the studio — especially gaff tape. Gaff is great primarily for taping down cables, but you’ll find that it has many other uses. It’s always good to have board tape around for labeling gear during sessions.
- Cables (all lengths): guitar, XLR, speaker, MIDI, headphone extenders, etc. Without cables, you won’t be able to get signal anywhere in order to record. You’ll want to have multiple lengths for all kinds of jobs. It can’t hurt to have some extras around, as cables tend to go bad and cause problems in the studio after a while.
- A toolbox with Allen wrenches, screwdrivers, wire cutters, pliers, a power drill, etc. Guitars need to be set up, gear needs to be fixed, clips get stuck on mic stands — you’ll find that having a toolbox around can help you during all kinds of sessions. You’ll want to have the tools you need on hand to fix any kind of problem quickly and mitigate delays within the session.
- Drum keys, moon gel, snare weight, drumsticks, drumheads, drum hardware, etc. You’ll want these things around for drums in the same way you need strings for guitars. You never know when a hard-hitting drummer will break a head or you need some moon gel to make your toms sound less resonant. Tuning is important for drums when it comes to recording, so having a few drum keys around is a great idea.
- Stands and mic clips — different sizes and types of mic stands, music stands, and shockmounts, as well as different sizes and types of mic clips, laptop stands, keyboard stands, smartphone holders, guitar stands, and so forth. All kinds of stands and clips are needed to accomplish different tasks in the studio, so you’ll want to have a good selection to choose from.