Bent Out of Shape: How to Properly Prepare for Studio Sessions
I'm preparing to record an album with the band White Wizzard.
Having done many recording sessions, I've developed a routine to make sure I'm always fully prepared for the studio.
By being properly prepared, you will ensure that your sessions will be an enjoyable experience and that you will impress producers and fellow musicians by being proficient and professional. Here's my checklist of studio session essentials that will help you, especially if you're new to recording.
01. Know the material. It's extremely important to make sure you know exactly what you are going to record. This is particularly important for guitar solos, which should be fully prepared in advance. There's nothing less professional than wasting hours in a studio figuring out what you're going to play.
I've experienced this many times with other musicians, and I've always felt confused as to why people think it's acceptable to wait until the last minute to compose or learn something that should've been prepared at home. It's disrespectful to the people you're working with.
I like to improvise a lot of my solos, but I'll never go into a session without knowing the music. Check out my blog post about improvisation to give you some reasons why improvising can be a useful tool for recording solos — as long as you know what you're doing. In some instances, the solo you prepared might not meet the approval of the producer, and you might be forced to improvise something on the spot. Having a good improvisation technique will be invaluable in these circumstances.
For the White Wizzard session, I'm just going to record guitar solos. I have planned out which ones I'm going to improvise and which ones will have set parts.
02. Make sure you have the chops. Make sure you are well practiced and your chops are ready for the session. Needing a ridiculously large amount of takes to nail a part is another red flag that you aren't a professional. A good musician should be able to nail a solo within a few takes. A good routine would be to practice consistently for at least a week leading up to the session.
03. Make sure your gear is setup properly. Nothing will ruin a session more than a guitar that won't stay in tune. Get your guitar setup by a professional before your session. Check the electronics are working correctly and always make sure you have a spare set of strings!
04. Always be polite and respectful. You know the parts, you're well practiced, your gear is working perfectly. All that's left is to enter the studio and impress everyone with your professionalism. Don't ruin it by being obnoxious, rude or arrogant. The studio is like any other working environment. You should treat everyone around you with respect and dignity.
You might be used to doing something a certain way that differs from the producer you're working with. Just go with the flow and be polite, even if you believe you know better. Every producer is different and will have a different way of doing things. Have an open mind and focus on nailing your parts and let the producers and engineers do their jobs. If you're easy to work with, you will make a lasting impression that may lead to more work.
Throughout my career, I've worked with some great producers and musicians. I've learned (in some cases the hard way) from my experiences, and that's how I developed this routine for recording sessions.
To finish, I want to give you some samples of my work.
Here's a track from an album I recorded with Bob Kulick and Brett Chassen with the band Brute Forzc. The rhythms were given to me by the band, and my job was to play them exactly how they were written. I improvised all the guitar solos in a couple of takes.
Here's a song from my own album. It was mixed by Gary Tole and features Vinny Appice on drums and Rudy Sarzo on bass. When recording your own music, it's important to remain professional and be objective.
Will Wallner is a guitarist from England now living in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and in 2012 toured Japan, America and Canada. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.