20 Tips For Drummers To Prepare For A Recording Session

I had previously posted this to a music forum and received very positive feedback on it. I thought I would post it here in case it might help someone else along the way. While it is primarily aimed at kit drummers who may have never been in a recording studio before, it may also be helpful for anyone who might want a checklist of things to consider before going into a session.

  1. Before you even get to the studio, take time to tighten up any loose screws, nuts, bolts, or connections, and oil anything that might squeak. While most of this sort of thing may be buried in the mix, you may be surprised to hear what pops out in a mix when you least expect it.
  2. While you are auditing your kit, fix anything that may be broken. I personally do not recommend changing your gear (buying new drums, changing cymbals, using different size sticks, etc.) before recording unless you have time to rehearse with it.
  3. New heads will sound better, so change them a few days before you go in to allow them time to “settle.” Do not forget to clean any debris from the hoops and bearing edge and consider adding lube to the tension rods. If the bearing edge is damaged, have it repaired before recording.
  4. Expect to tune to the room you will be recording in as it can have a big impact on how your drums will sound. Depending on the temperature, the drums may also need a little time to acclimate to the room.
  5. Bring extra sticks, spare kick pedal (or at least replacement parts for anything that might break), and if you can, extra heads.
  6. If you are going to be recording with a click, practice with a click so you will be used to the experience. Some play better with a click than others, but if you are not used to it, it will help to rehearse with one.
  7. If you have not played with mics on your kit, you might consider doing a mock-up and getting used to having something there. While mics are generally placed out of the way, those unfamiliar with mics on the kit may find it obtrusive at first. Having stick control will earn you bonus points with the engineer which may lead them to using better mics since they may trust you will not damage their expensive gear.
  8. Be punctual (if not early). You may have more gear than anyone else and it may take more time to set everything up for your kit. Some studios may let you load in your drums early and possibly even the night before. Ask and see.
  9. Know your songs inside and out. A well-rehearsed band can usually work more efficiently in the studio.
  10. If you are working with a producer, be willing to take any notes they may have to offer as well as any technical suggestions the engineer may offer. Take the notes, but do not be afraid to state your feelings honestly and communicate openly. After all, you are working towards making something everyone can be proud of (or at least enjoy in some capacity).
  11. Pay attention to what is going on and listen as much as you can. Try to learn from the experience while you are there. Take notes, watch the engineer, note the mic placements, and take it all in. It will help you in the end, especially if/when you return to the studio.
  12. Bring duct/hockey tape, band-aids, stay hydrated, be well-rested, stretch, bring something for down time to prevent boredom, and be prepared to work hard and possibly for very long hours. It should go without saying that drumming can be a workout, so conditioning and practice will help you gain the strength and stamina you will need.
  13. Take photos/video to document your experience if you have time, but do not let it interfere with the work process going on. Also, photos of mic placements and similar can help with continuity if you have to tear down and continue at a later date.
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or voice concerns regarding the sounds you are getting, but keep in mind any limitations in place as far as equipment and time available.
  15. Try to enjoy the experience. You may become a session player…or you may never return to another studio. It can be a very rewarding experience, especially when you are prepared.
  16. If possible, do not invite anyone else to the session in order to allow you to maximize your focus and attention span on the job at hand. While it is great to have the support of friends/family, it is more important to stay focused.
  17. Choose your battles wisely when you run into a disagreement or at least know when to discuss things in private. You should make a great effort to keep things in balance. Plenty of bands have imploded from recording sessions. Keep it positive if you can.
  18. On a very personal note, instead of pushing everything on the grid with Beat Detective or other tools of that sort, consider pushing yourself to improve your performances, preferably before you have to enter the studio.
  19. Make a checklist so you don’t forget anything.
  20. Do a dummy check before you leave for the studio.

I am sure there are other things that could be added to this list. Feel free to use the contact page and send in your suggestions.  Have fun and enjoy your session(s)!