1) Are all of our songs fully written?
This is probably one of the most important questions to ask. If you haven't finished writing your songs, there's no way you could have practiced them enough to be ready to record. This is mainly important for actual instruments like drums, guitars, and bass, as well as vocals. However, it is common for produced parts (for example: background synths and effects) to come later during the recording process.
2) Does each member know his/her parts?
You will save a generous amount of time (and time means money) in the studio by knowing your parts and having them practiced to perfection, and this will generally result in a better overall record in the end. All rhythms should be tight. All lead embellishments such as bends, vibratos, and slides should be nailed. Tempo and key changes should be precise. Pitches should be accurate. More than anything else, your vocalist(s) should have all the lyrics memorized. Having to read lyrics off a paper during recording can destroy a performance emotionally, which is something that can by no means be fixed after-the-fact.
3) Can we play to a metronome?
Timing can be the difference, when everything's all said and done, between having a great sounding record and having to say, "Hey bro, wanna check out my mixtape?" Being able to perform to a metronome (click track) is paramount to getting a tight, consistently-timed recording. For this reason it is important that your band decides on set tempos and tempo changes for each of its songs and practices tirelessly to a metronome set at those tempos before going to a studio. Being able to do this will also improve overall musicianship.
4) Do we each have our own instruments?
While some studios may be stocked with guitars, amps, and a house drum set, some may not. Additionally, playing on your own instrument will be more comfortable than trying to record with an instrument you didn't practice on. Of course, if another instrument sounds better and you have the option to use it, it may be worth using. Regardless, it's worth it to have your own instrument to bring to the studio.
5) Are we financially prepared to pay for the studio's services?
No one enjoys having to spend money, but when it comes to paying for a record, it helps to think of it as an investment in your future. You worked hard to write your music, and the studio must also work hard to bring it to a professional level. There is a lot of work that must still be done, including recording, editing, production, mixing, and mastering. Therefore, it is always a good idea to be putting aside money for studio time. Some studios may charge by the hour, others by the song, and others by the project. It is up to you to decide which method will work best for you and pick a studio accordingly. The bottom line is that if you don't have the money to pay the people who will help put your album together, you're simply not ready to start creating it.
6) Are we financially prepared to purchase new recording materials?
One often overlooked secret to recording a great tone from an instrument is the use of new materials. Before recording at a studio, drummers should have a fresh set of drum heads (top and bottom) ready to go, a fresh pair of sticks for each song, and if need be, new cymbals. Guitarists and bass guitarists should have a fresh set of strings for each song and fresh picks throughout the process. It is also recommended that vocalists bring plenty of water or any vocal supplements such as Throat Coat® or throat sprays for singing. Many recording studios may have some of these things available, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the artist to purchase these materials. While doing so may seem like a burden, the difference in sound is worth the price.
So how prepared is your band? If you were able to answer "Yes" to all 6 of these questions, your band is ready for the studio! If you answered "No" on any of them, keep preparing until you are ready. Only then can greatness be achieved.
Thanks for reading! Questions or concerns? Contact me!