Rarefied Recording, a San Diego Recording Studio

Rarefied Recording Session Prep Checklist

So you’re band is headed to the studio? Here are some tips I compiled to make the most of your session. Some of it will be applicable to you, some of it won’t. But I hope you find it useful whether you’re recording at Rarefied or elsewhere!


  • Are the songs ready to record?
    • Structure?
    • Arrangement?
    • Tempo?
    • Lyrics, sheet music, charts?
  • Have you practiced enough?
    • Does everyone know their parts?
    • If using a click, is everyone comfortable playing to one?
    • Have you memorized the lyrics or are you bringing a copy?
  • Are your instruments/gear ready?
    • Guitars recently setup/intonated?
    • New strings on (if desired)? Don’t forget an extra pack!
    • Any technical issues? (buzzes, hums, rattles, etc.)
    • New heads for drums?
    • Are you comfortable tuning drums or do you need help? (I can hook you up with a drum tech if needed)
    • Any need to rent an instrument or hire a session player?
    • Have singers been taking care of their vocal chords? (avoid smoking and drinking prior to your session)
  • Have you discussed “sonics” with your engineer?
    • Have you provided references?
    • Is there a clear sonic vision you can communicate?
  • Do you have a “day of” game plan?
    • Which musicians are recording initial basic tracks vs. overdubbing?
    • Which song will you record first, second, etc.?
    • Do you have a plan for snacks, drinks, and meals?
    • Does everyone know where and when to arrive?
    • Does anyone need to leave early and have you accounted for that?
    • Do you have a hard drive or USB stick to bring for your files?
  • Are your financials in order?
    • Do you have a budget for the various stages of the project (recording, mixing, mastering, release)?
    • Are all band members prepared to pay their share?
    • Are you paying by cash, check, Zelle, credit card, or PayPal?


Shaking Through – A Recording Documentary Series

Why do people today think music should be free or nearly free? Probably because they don’t understand the hard work, heart, and soul that goes into making a record.

Shaking Through is just what this world needs to end such ignorance. If you haven’t checked out this incredibly produced documentary web series, I implore you to point your browser to http://weathervanemusic.org/shakingthrough pronto.

I initially came across Shaking Through because the first artist featured on the site was Sharon Van Etten, a singer-songwriter that once played at The Habitat (the house show venue in Golden Hill I ran from about 2006-2010). I was immediately sucked into the world that Peter English and Brian McTear created. What they’ve done is exposed to the world in a very succinct fashion, the inner workings of a recording session and the creative process an artist, engineer, and producer goes through to flush out a song into its final recorded form. Filmed at McTear’s Miner Street recording studio, the production value has gotten insanely good in the 5 years since that first episode was released on the web. Not only do you get a look at the artistic side of the session, but there is also a video dedicated to the technical side. So those interested in recording should take note, as well.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though. By donating to the cause at various levels, you can unlock other layers of interaction with the project. For instance, you can get access to raw tracks from the sessions which you can use to remix the songs. You can also get invited to recording workshops at Miner Street. Or maybe you just want a cool t-shirt! Check out how you can support this amazing project here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/weathervane2015

Awhile back I had the pleasure to interview Brian McTear for Tape Op. He is the real deal and an incredible Producer. It’s been really inspiring to watch him work in the Shaking Through videos. I hope you check out this project and lend some support.