There are many lessons regarding recording in a studio that you won't know unless you've been there. These are the lessons that are only learned the hard way: by spending countless hours in the studio and making a number of mistakes along the way.
Below are four challenges musicians face in the studio and some tips for dealing with them...
1. Not paying enough attention to the small stuff
A couple of songs into an album, with the clock ticking, it becomes incredibly easy to start letting things slide. It can be anything from letting slightly sloppy performances through ("I'm pretty sure we've got what we need to edit something together…"), to not putting quite as much care into maintaining perfect tuning on your instruments ("You can't really hear that bit of wobble once it's in the mix, can you?"), to even scrapping parts that require extra recording time ("Actually, I think that part sounds great just single-tracked… let's just leave the double and harmonies out!"). As justified as you might feel those decisions are at the time, you will almost without a doubt regret them further down the line.
While receording try and do your very best to make sure that everything that was committed to the final version of the song was exactly the way it should be – in tune, in time, delivered with conviction, and engineered without technical flaws. Sometimes that means re-recording whole instruments for a song – possibly re-tracking the drums for a song a second time after you decided the snare tuning wasn’t ideal for the song. And, when it comes to your guitar sound, spend the time fully forming those guitar parts, and anything glitchy sounding should be muted for a period before being sent to the trash upon a 2nd or 3rd review.
The biggest separation between amateur and professional productions is simply the level of attention to detail maintained throughout the recording process. It may drive you neurotic, but it'll be so well worth it in the long run, believe me!
2. Paying too much attention to the song-parts
With all of that said, there is a point where you can disappear down the rabbit hole if you're not careful, never to return.
Make sure that your mindset is as objective as you can possibly manage, to be sure you're not allowing your mood or external factors to cause you to totally lose your perspective and leave you running around in circles second-guessing every decision. It's so important to have a clear vision of what all of your material should sound like, or to have someone at the helm who you trust to have that vision on your behalf.
I know I'm not the only person who has seen artists actually go beyond the point of improving their track and to actually start making it worse as a result of tunnel vision. Don't let that happen to you!stay clear headed, stay on-track and understand what you want in the end. Also, make sure your producer is following your vision and your band's sound.
3. Burning out
Pulling incredibly long days and late nights in the studio every day for a month or two will drive anyone insane. When you start on a record, the initial buzz can have you up all night in a flurry of productivity, but it's important to remember that recording an album is a marathon, not a sprint.
Set strict working hours that make sense for your lifestyle (11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. is my standard – easy to maintain a healthy morning routine, and you're done in time for dinner so you can unwind at night), and give yourself a minimum of one day off per week.
It might feel like you're not grafting as hard as you could be, but trust me, the resulting motivation, positive mood, and attention to detail is going to make your recording process as smooth and awesome as it can possibly be.
4. Dealing with "demo-itis"
If you've done your pre-production and demoing dutifully, there are undoubtedly going to be certain moments of magic in those recordings that are going to be nigh-on impossible to recreate in the studio.
This is why I'm a big proponent of using tracks from demos in the final version of the song if they have the right feel and are suitably in tune. To make this as easy as possible, try to record a dry DI of every guitar and bass part while demoing. (This has the added bonus of allowing you to experiment with various amp-sims and effects after the fact to find the exact sound you’re after, so you can concentrate on the music while you're writing.) That way, when it comes to the final mix, you can re-amp the parts to get the perfect tones that are totally coherent with the mix – the best of both worlds!