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10 Things to Prep Before the Band Gets to the Studio

As an intern, assistant engineer, or even head engineer you want to make sure you are as prepared as possible before the band gets to the studio. Getting things set up ahead of time will help make the session run smoothly and keep the session on time, giving the band as much recording time as possible. Ideally all that will need to be setup once the band walks in the room is the equipment they brought.

1. Stations set up for each person.

A simple thing to start with is putting a rug at each spot you will have a musician sitting to record. The rug will eliminate any foot noise from moving around while recording. Some guitar players like to tap their foot while they play which can be great live, but you don’t want foot taps or stomps bleeding into your acoustic guitar mics. A rug under the drum kit also prevents the floor from getting beat up and keeps the kit from moving while the drummer plays. Some other useful things to put at each station include a chair, music stand, maybe a small table or surface they can use to set down things like water bottles and phones.

2. Power.

You’ll want to make sure each musician has access to some power. If possible, a power strip is great so there are extra outlets for multiple things at once. You’ll need power for all kinds of things in the studio including pedal boards, amp heads, and tube mics.

3. Mics on stands and cabled.

Before the band comes in you will want to have all the microphones prepped on stands with XLRs plugged in and patched into the wall. It may not be possible to set the mics into recording position until the band has set up and adjusted their drum kit and amps, but we can still stage the microphones so they are neatly cabled and ready to be easily put into position. This will save you tons of time and it will get us one step closer to getting sounds with the band. If the drum kit and amps are already set up then go ahead and get the mics as close to in position as possible while still taking into account that the band may need to adjust their instrument setup to their playing needs.

4. Talkback mics.

In most studios it will be really helpful to have talkback mics at each station so you can easily communicate with the musicians. At Sweetwater Studios we use foot switches on our talkbacks and put them on auxes in ProTools so we don’t have to mute them while the band plays. Another option is just one omni mic in the middle of the room for the whole band.

5. Headphones.

This one is pretty straightforward, but you’ll want to make sure each musician has a set of headphones and possibly a headphone amp or a headphone mixer depending on your studio’s headphone system.

6. Lines patched.

If you have a patchbay to route all your gear where it needs to go, then you’ll want to make sure all the inputs are patched into your outboard gear of choice, and into your DAW.

7. Channels/outboard gear labeled.

A super simple and quick way to stay organized in your session is to label all your preamps and outboard gear. If you need to change things on the fly or quickly get drum sounds there’s no guessing games to play, just grab the right knobs and go! This is also very important if you have other people helping you run the session, so they also know where everything is.

8. Session made in DAW.

Next thing to do is set up your session in your DAW of choice. You’ll want to make sure you label all your channels and check that the routing is correct. Make sure not to forget about sends to headphones and talkback channels!

9. Scratch test/line check.

Before the band comes in, you’ll want to check that you have signal to all the microphones. If you have someone else around you can have them play the instruments quickly for you while you get rough levels — you’ll be one step closer to recording once the band gets there. You can also do a quick scratch test just to make sure there is signal to every mic and leave levels for when you have the band there. This gives you time to fix any mistakes and make sure everything is getting into your DAW correctly.

10. Lastly, tidy up!

You don’t want anyone to trip because there are cables everywhere. Make sure there are clear walkways, and tape down any cables that have to sit in the walkways. Make the studio look presentable to your clients so they will be even more excited to record there! A good-looking studio helps get the creative juices flowing!


Rachel Leonard

Prior to joining the Sweetwater Studios team, Rachel curated pro audio–related content for YouTube videos at Reverb and also ran live sound as the house engineer at Penny Road Pub in Chicago. Her experience working on so many genres of music — including classical, jazz, choir, metal, singer/songwriter, rock, funk, and others — has made her a vital member of the studio team.

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