1. Being late – If you are the engineer show up early to make sure everything is working properly. If you’re the musician don’t make the engineer wait around for you.
2. Not changing the strings of your guitar – Scummy strings can’t be fixed in the mix.
3. Not knowing your parts – It’s a waste of time and money to come unprepared.
4. Singing with a cold – Reschedule your vocal session if you know you can’t perform.
5. Giving a lackluster performance – Not everything can be fixed in the mix.
6. Being disrespectful – It goes without saying, the engineer is your best friend. So treat him well.
7. Recording for recording’s sake – Similar to not knowing your parts. If you are just piling on parts without a clear direction, it’s still a waste of time and money.
8. Recording a badly sounding drum-kit – Replace the drum heads and tune your drums. It’ll be worth it.
9. Not having a plan – Make sure you know what you are going to do during the session. A good plan goes a long way.
10. Don’t cram too much into one session – Don’t try to record drums, bass and orchestra in the same three hour session. Recording takes time, so plan accordingly.
11. Skipping the warm-up – Singing first thing in the morning is hard isn’t it? So is nailing a 200 bpm solo without warming up your fingers.
12. Recording too hot – Better be safe than sorry. Record at lower digital levels to avoid clipping.
13. Not being in tune – I’m sorry. It’s a pet peeve, but people are prone to forget to tune their instruments.
14. Not having enough cables – Say you’re doing a location recording and you didn’t bring enough cables. It’s not only a huge waste of time to go and get what you forgot, but it also reflects poorly on you as a professional.
15. Not being familiar with how things work – If you are working with a new piece of equipment, or working at a new studio then it’s imperative you don’t look stupid when you’re trying to figure out how things work.
16. Fix it in the mix? If you know you can (and will) fix it in the mix, then use this sentence. If you know you can’t fix it, don’t lie. It’s one of the more common lines in the audio industry.
17. Communicate – Even though engineers and artists are a closely bred species they do not share all the lingo that’s inherent to them. If the engineer isn’t a musician then getting too musical will be confusing. Likewise with an engineer getting to “audio-engineer-y.”
18. Don’t do drugs – I know what Bill Hicks said about drugs and music, but it’s usually not a good idea to be stoned or drunk during a recording session.
19. Bring extras – Extra strings, extra picks and extra drum sticks for instance. Some things break and it’s better to be prepared when (not if) that happens.
20. Break the session into chunks – It’s better to record two energetic four sessions than one long eight hour one where the last two hours people are tired and uninspired.
21. Not being comfortable – As an artist, much of your performance is based on how you are feeling when you are recording. If you don’t feel comfortable then your playing will suffer.
Think about it, there are just as many things you need to NOT do in order to get that great recording down on “tape”. Just like it’s all about following the right guidelines for recording, engineering and musicianship; there are also some pitfalls you need to avoid.