Booking A Recording Studio: 50 Essential Tips

What recording/editing program does the studio use?
There are several different software programs used in digital studios: Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, etc. Find out which one a studio uses and what version it is. Dave Williams contends, “The newer the version the better it generally is. Pro Tools HD 9 is one of the best.”

What is the usual sample rate?
The sample rate of your recording determines the quality of its resolution. The higher the rate the better the quality. But, there is a difference of opinion among engineers regarding this practice. Most CD recordings fall into the 44K range.  Magic Moreno likes to record even higher to get the greatest resolution, from 96K to 192K (the Bit rate also rises––up to 32 Bit).

What audio format does the studio use?
Most digital studios produce recordings in a WAV format. But not all of them do (it depends on the software program). This is important to know for mixing, mastering and duplication purposes. In fact, checking to see what those post–production peeps need will save you a lot of time and grief.

How do they store and back up the sessions?
Studios and/or engineers generally store your recording sessions on their hard drives, which may be part of a network. You should ask how it’s done. Regardless of how a studio stores the work, you should always provide your own hard drive as well, so you have a copy.

Are the recorded sessions available upon request?
Find out how long they store your tracks and mixes. Some studios have no time limit, whereas others only keep it for a limited period of time. Thus, the need for your own drive.

Will I be charged extra for fixes?
Jan Linder-Koda notes that listening to a mix in the studio can be deceptive. She explains, “Everyone’s on a high and the monitors are first class. Because of that, after your ears are rested and you’re in the comfort of your home, you may hear things you didn’t notice before.” Consequently, you need to know what the studio’s policy is regarding fixes. Some studios have a 24-hour fix policy, while others are negotiable.

Can I get a rough mix after each session?
Getting a rough mix after each session allows you to listen at your leisure, without the pressure of studio time breathing down your neck. Sometimes a recording sounds entirely different at home, or you’ll notice an error in a performance that you didn’t catch in the studio.

How is the final recording delivered?
Some studios will burn a CD of the final mix while others will deliver it over the internet. Find out how they deliver and what’s involved. It’s especially important to know what your mastering studio needs. It’s also critical to get all the tracks and stems from your session, in case you ever need to remix.

Where is the money going? 
Be sure to get a written, itemized budget that shows you what you’re being charged for. And if you don’t understand something, ask. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises on the final bill. Food, drink and other amenities are probably going to cost extra.

Will the studio discount its rate? 
Studios will discount their rates for a variety of reasons. Here are a few…
Block Time: Studios will often discount rates if you book a block of time.
Off Time: If you can record during a studio’s “down time,” you may get a discount.
On-Call: Studios hate empty rooms. So, if you’re flexible enough to record when called (due to a cancellation, etc), you may be able to get a deeper discount.
Special Programs: Some studios have special programs for independent artists. Be sure to ask about them. Steve Burdick of Westlake Studios offers a program for select, up-and- coming acts.

Does the Clock Stop For Repairs?
As great as it is to have cool gear to play with, if any of those items gets cranky or breaks down, you want to make sure you’re not being charged for the downtime.

Is set-up and breakdown “on the clock”?
How strict is the studio about its clock? Will you be charged for the time it takes you to load in and clear out your gear?

ASK ABOUT THE STUDIO’S PERSONNEL… 

There’s nothing like having a professional pair of ears at your recording sessions. However, you must make sure the individual you choose is suitable for your project.

Who is available to engineer your recording?
If you don’t have your own engineer, ask the studio who they can provide. Most studios have a list of engineers on call.

What’s their experience?
Ask about the engineer’s experience. Who have they worked with? What records have they done? And do a little research on your own. That’s what Google and allmusic.com are for. Additionally, ask the engineer if they play an instrument. That could give you a clue as to how they hear (and mix) music.

Does the studio have its own repair techs on-site? 
Does the studio staff include experts who can attend to guitars, drums, outboard gear, etc.? If not, do they have people on call? If the studio does not have a board tech on call, you should record elsewhere.

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