1. Practice, Practice, Practice. The single most important element of a recording session is the artist’s performance. Almost any top mix engineer will tell you that the song they worked on was already a hit when they started the mixing process. Also, writing and practicing your performance before your session will save you lots of time and money.
2. Another important factor you should focus on doing the recording process is the studio’s vocal chain. Microphone, Preamp, Compressor, and Audio Interface A/D converter quality. Ask yourself honestly, do you really need a 1000 sq ft vocal booth or a 64 channel SSL mixing console to record vocals? That’s overhead cost studios are passing down to you. Even if you don’t really need it.
3. Have realistic expectations for your booked time. Now, think logically, do you really believe you are being provided recording, mixing, and mastering service within your booked session time? Many studios promise that mixing and mastering come with your recording session. But, what they really would be providing you is a demo or rough mix and master. It takes time to properly mix and master a track. So if your booking, say 2 hours to record, and you spend an hour tracking vocals, that leaves an hour for mixing and mastering. How well do you believe your music would be? That’s like expecting a home-cooked meal from a fast-food restaurant. Recording mixing and mastering are 3 separate processes and should be treated as such. That may be a reason why your songs aren’t coming out like what you hear from a mainstream artist. Do you really think the majority of top artists are recording, mixing, and mastering their songs in 2-8 hour sessions?
4. Leave the .mp3s at home. If you can only afford a two-track mix for your song, it will be better, in the end, to use .wav audio files at a minimum. Ideally, you should be getting the tracked-out files from the producer to get a proper mix. Mixing to a 2 track beat ties the engineer’s hands by forcing them to rely on the producers mixing ability.
5. It will be in your best interest to learn some engineering terms and concepts. Going in the studio and telling an engineer I want to sound like “Insert Big Name Artist” is a recipe for disaster. Instead, try explaining what you like about this artist’s sound, do you like the warmth or hi-end of the vocals? The effects such as reverb or delays? Or maybe you like how upfront the vocals are or how they are more leveled with the beat. Being able to explain to your engineer your vision for the song using the correct terms will greatly improve the chances of your song coming out how you envisioned and make the process quicker, which will in turn save you cash.