I'd like to talk about something I'm doing most of the time these days preparing for the studio!
One of the reasons I chose to write about this is because I believe it's one of the most important things to do in your whole music career. Nothing is as valuable as being ready to give your best 110% in the studio. Meaning, when you go to the studio to record your songs, you're almost like carving them in the stone. After that's done, there's no turning back. Or there is, but it will cost lots of money, energy and time.
So, how to prepare for the studio?
1. This one is pretty obvious practice, practice, practice more practice and then, even more practice! Nothing substitutes practice. This is so important because you most likely aren't aware of how much mistakes you're making that cannot be heard now, but will be heard in the studio. That appears to be a common case due to cheap and low quality home musical equipment that disguises many details when playing. Practice until you're able to play whole song in one take without mistakes, and more important without effort. As long as you have to really focus on what you're playing, that's still too demanding for you. Work on those parts as much as it takes. You'll feel it when they become natural to you.
2. This one is also obvious play with your new favorite toy the metronome! I believe you heard countless times about how important it is to play along to a metronome, and now you'll hear it again; it is immeasurably important to play along to a metronome. Why? When you play with a band or a backing track you have many other sounds that distract you from hearing if you play everything enough clean and in time. Especially in rhythm parts. Make sure you can play whole song to a metronome without mistakes and effort. And if you have more than one guitar (or instruments) to record, practice each of them separately.
3. Click tracks. Make sure you have accurate click tracks or metronomes ready for the studio. Know in which bpm's the song is; know in which time signatures it is. Try to think from drummer's perspective and think about how it will be easiest for him, since he'll probably record first. Consult with your drummer when you create click tracks and make sure he gets through them.
4. Demos. You have the demos, right? Well, go and record them again. But record them as if you were in the studio. With all the plugins and programs that allow you to have really clean and good sound, you can create a sound that's representative and will show details of your playing. My advice is that you don't use much distortion as it pushes you away from playing firmer and realizing mistakes you may eventually make. Go through all the tracks and play them. Play them with drums, with a metronome, with other instruments. Make sure everything works together. This is incredibly educative thing I really suggest you to do.
5. Review demos with your producer. This is really useful if you have a person in front of mixing console when you record and mix. Make sure he's aware of what each song has to present and how it has to sound, and of course, make sure you're aware of that, too. Many ideas may come up during studio sessions. Some of them may work, and some of them may not, but if you know what you want I'm sure you'll keep the right ones.
6. If you are working with session musicians, don't hire them based just on their technical abilities. If they don't really like what you do (or what they have to do), or if they do it only for the money, I can almost guarantee you that it won't be as good as if someone who truly loves to play those songs did the task. Also, make sure the session musicians know the background of your music, and send them demos and click tracks few weeks before, so they can practice them enough. You'll see if they are sincere musicians or if they play only for money on level of their involvement in the project and their excitement about it.
7. Don't misunderstand live gigs for studio sessions. Some people just do that. They think they should play everything on the first take and leave it as it is, and let the producer worry about fixing everything. I can tell you, producers are sometimes so pissed off with how bad musicians come to them that it's indescribable. Some people are too afraid to go to the studio, and some are too full of themselves when they go the studio. Listen to everything you recorded before you end recording that specific instrument. Correct all the tiniest mistakes and edit everything. That will make yours and life of your producer much easier, and it will spare you some $$$ because your producer won't have to draw F notes to E notes and do similar things which take a lot of time. And yea, have you heard that (in bigger record deals) producers sometimes have to call musicians that have nothing to do with the band that's recording (and this usually stays a secret), and have them play everything all over again so they actually can do something with it? Don't let it happen to you! Try and think from producers' perspective and get back to the ground. Be honest with yourself and with everyone else, and don't let the lack of honesty prevent you from having a record of satisfying quality.
I hope you (and your band if you have it) understand what responsibility you have when you go the studio, and even more, I hope you create a record that will really rock. And in the end, it's all about it Rock n' Roll!