I just did a really great set of 1st sessions with a band “Lightning Foot Jenkins.” Great stuff and everything came out wonderfully; check their Facebook page and Reverb Nation page. And apologies guys for singling you out as this example, but hey-I want people to know about you anyway. :-)
I always like to have a meeting with an act before I go into the studio with them. In this case though, I just had phone conversations with one member, who had no idea of what I might like/need to know. He was thorough with his questions to me and we did talk about a number of things, such as the use (or not) of a click track, etc.
Some of the things a producer (me or you) need to ask after he or she has reviewed the material to be recorded are this:
1 Has the drummer ever worked with a click track? Is one even necessary? Thumbs up or down on the click…? There is absolutely NOTHING worse than making a drummer play to a click if they're not used to this process. It takes ahead-of-time practice and getting-used to. It can really just make things worse, not better.
2 What kind of heads does the drummer use, and what type sound is he going for? (and don’t say “a good sound”) VERY important. There is a difference in “live” sound for drums and “recording” sounds. Trust me.Old, cacked (used up) drum heads are just that; old and cacked. You can make them work, but it’s much more trouble and not nearly as good. That is of course unless it just happens to be the “right sound”-that day (which is magical thinking). A talented drummer (LFJ) and a great engineer (Chris Garges) can always make it work, but don’t depend on this to always happen.
3 Are the guitarists' guitars set up properly? New strings? Amp tubes in good shape? There is never a better time to get your instrument adjusted than the day before the session.
4 Don’t depend on the studio to have “a bitchin’ amp” for you to play through. Have your sound together before you get there. Bring your comfort-stuff to have nearby. Why not? And by the way LFJ’s guitarist and bass player get great sounds on their own!
5 Don’t get drunk the night before. Sleep, if possible. And don’t stay up all night working out the solos…
Now all this stuff wasn’t an issue on this session, but it could have been. Been there, done that. I need to print this list out. I needed a reminder. So do you possibly?
It will never change and will always be valid, unless you have a major label (what’s that?) budget to work with, and can afford to work like slow hippies with endless pockets of money searching for your sound. I have seen people waste so much valuable and potentially creative time and money….taking long smoke and diner breaks and then saying “What happened? Why is our record not done yet?” Who do they ask when it’s not done? The producer, that’s who.
Be ready. Ask questions beforehand until you know who you are working with. Great job notwithstanding Lightfoot, Chris, and me (Lucky Man.)