How Recording Sessions Work

Planning Recording Sessions

Recording sessions require careful budgeting because of costs associated with equipment and technicians.
Recording sessions require careful budgeting because of costs associated with equipment and technicians.
© Frank Micellota/Getty Images for Virgin Records

Planning a recording session is vital to its success, but one can be difficult with both time and money constraints.

Time in the recording studio ­not only includes use of the facility and its equipment, but also its sound engineer and any other technicians that might be required. Be sure to outline a large portion of your budget for recording session time.

In some cases, management companies or record labels will pay for recording studio time. But often musicians front their own recording costs. If this is the case, try to negotiate a deal with the studio management that favors your particular project. If you're planning to record one or a couple of songs, paying by the hour might be the way to go. But if you have a full album in mind, you should consider contracting for more time at a lower rate.

You'll also need to find an appropriate recording studio. If you live in a larger city, you likely will have a choice, ranging from high-end, multi-track digital studios with many amenities to lower-end, bare bones studios.

While your budget plays a large role in determining where you'll record, you'll also want to consider the studio's reputation and experience recording your musical style. The engineers and technicians may be versatile, but sometimes studios tend to specialize. Do your homework -- many studios have Web sites with helpful information -- and talk to other musicians who've recorded at different studios for their impressions.

While some studios provide the technical personnel to facilitate the recording process, you can also hire your own engineers and music producers. Engineers have the technical background to set up and operate the recording equipment. They know which microphone to use in each situation and how to organize a mixing board. They can also troubleshoot technical problems.

Producers help musicians create the final sound of their music. They help select musical arrangements, tempos and which instruments to use. They decide what types of effects to add to electric instruments and what harmonies might sound right. Producers can take a large, leading role or a more collaborative role in the recording process. It's important that you plan this role before getting into the studio, where indecision can cost you money.

Setting and keeping a good work schedule is also critical to planning a recording session. Time is definitely money, so you don't want to waste it. Decide ahead of time when work will begin and when you will take breaks and quit for the day. Set goals and benchmarks for progress, such as recording everything during the first three days and scheduling two days to mix the songs, which involves taking all the individually recorded instruments and vocals and "mixing" them into the final sound.

What equipment is needed for recording sessions? Check out the next page to find out.