1. Choose the right studio, engineer and producer for your music. Ask to listen to samples. If you don't like the way it sounds then you won't like the way your recording sounds. If a studio is booked far in advance, don't be discouraged because it probably means they're very good.
2. Be prepared. Memorize your lyrics and have extra copies of your music or lyric sheets for the engineer.
3. If you're recording your own band, don't expect it to miraculously come together in the studio. Be well rehearsed. If you're hiring musicians, only hire musicians with experience in the studio. You can request samples of their work as well.
4. If you're recording a full-length album, record more songs than you need. This way you can cut certain songs that aren't as strong and keep the best ones for the final master.
5. Be on time or early for your recording session. A late start can only put things behind schedule and create stress because you'll be paying for that time you lost.
6. Have samples with you of what you would like your song to sound like. It is the only way to be on the same page with your engineer or producer as to what your expectations are.
7. Don't expect the production to make a weak song a hit single. The best songs are the ones that sound good even without all the bells and whistles of the recorded production.
8. Use new guitar strings, drum heads, reeds, etc. If you have headphones that you love, bring them. If you have a favorite cozy chair that doesn't squeak, bring it. Anything that will make you feel more at home will be helpful in getting that great performance in the studio.
9. Be careful about who you bring to the studio. Guests can distract you and make the recording process take longer. On the other hand some people will perform at their best with their best friend in the room.
10. If you're producing your own music, then be responsible for your tapes by having the engineer make backups regularly. You should always keep your track sheets and master tapes with you. It is not the studio's responsibility should any of these things come up missing.
11. Get the sound you want and the performance as good as you can while you're recording. Don't assume that you can fix it in the mix. A good guitar tone can be enhanced by the engineer, a bad sound will always be bad.
12. Make sure there is only one person who will make the final decisions. Too many producers in one room will only make a project take more time and money.
13. Feel free to ask the engineer for suggestions. He is usually the one with the most experience at knowing what is going to sound the best in the end.
14. Talk to your engineer about how much time you'll need for mixing before beginning your recording. You can save some time by mixing similar songs in succession. The sound you get on the first mix might be perfect for the next 3 songs and this will save you the time and effort in resetting the mixing board.
15. Don't give your engineer feedback on a mix based on listening on only one system. If possible, listen on a home stereo system, in your car, on headphones, and on a boom box, then tell your engineer what you would like changed based on those listens.
16. Always pay at the end of each session or in advance. Financial stress can only hinder a session from being productive. Even if your engineer agrees to be paid at the end of a project, he will always be happier if paid regularly.
17. If you're on a deadline it is a good idea to book more studio time than you think you'll need. Usually with a 48 hour notice, most studios will not charge you for the unused time. It's better to be safe than to find out that you need two more days to finish your project but your studio is booked out for 2 months.
18. Musician tips:
Drummers- Know your part better than anyone because you are the hardest person to punch in!
Guitar players- Work on switching between settings as fast as a keyboard player can. Other musicians grow tired while the guitarist is trying to get back that cool rhythm tone he had on the 2nd track.
Bass players- Play sparse and leave space for the rest of the production. You can fill all the holes on the gig.
Keyboard players- Bring your synth manual to the session, and if there's a bass player in your band, leave your left hand at home.
Vocalists- Have a friend recite these words to you one-hundred times the day before the session, "you're a little sharp, let's do it once more". Out of tune vocals = bad recording. Funny how that works.