No matter what type of music you record, or how simple or complex your studio is, there are a few tips to keep in mind when you're starting your recording project. Remember, these aren't just beginner's tips; I know many recording engineers who've been doing this for years who live by these same rules!
Tip #1: The Better the Source, the Better the Recording.
Think of your microphone as your ear. If something sounds bad to your ear, chances are it won't sound great in front of a mic. Making sure your source is the best it can be is the first thing to remember whenever starting a new project. That could mean a new set of strings, fresh drum heads, or having your vocalist do warm-ups before tracking. Remember that there's a lot you can edit out later on down the line, but there's a lot that you can't add if it's not naturally there. Always remember to tune all of the instruments in your studio session before they track, as well.
Tip #2: Save Your Work Often.
Nothing is worse than losing something you worked for hours on, especially when you're running your studio as a business and you have a paying client. Always save your work between takes. It also doesn't hurt to have an external hard drive that you backup your sessions to nightly; if something happens to your hard drive, you'll at least have a copy to start over from, and you won't have to waste blank media backing up every night.
Tip #3: Always Keep Spare Gear.
Keeping basic items at your studio will always help keep things going smoothly when the inevitable happens. Stock a set of guitar strings (both electric and acoustic), some drum sticks, and always keep spare instrument and microphone cables on hand. You never know when your session will be saved because you came to the rescue! It also helps to be able to kindly suggest a new set of strings to the stubborn guitarist who showed up with old, dead strings on his axe.
Tip #4: Never Let Mixes Out Before the Check Clears.
This tip applies only to the home studios that record for profit, not your simple project studio, but it deserves a mention of it's own. Don't ever, ever let any mixes leave your studio until you're paid in full. This includes mp3 copies you send out via email, and CD-Rs you let leave your studio with rough mixes. At any point during the recording process, a financial dispute of some sort may arise, and if so, you might not get paid and your client still has a usable product. This is rare, but it happens; in fact, every recording engineer has had something similar happen at least once. Making it clear to your client that they won't get anything from your studio until after they've paid you for your time in full makes it easier to avoid complications later.
Tip #5: Keep It Simple.
I can't stress this last tip enough: keep it simple. One of the biggest and most common mistakes a new recording engineer can make is being too fancy. You'll waste a lot of time — and your client's money, if working for profit — by overdoing it in the studio. Examples of this include recording an instrument in stereo when a mono (single) track will do, doing too many vocal overdubs, or laying down too many guitar layers. Let the band's music speak for itself; your engineering should be as transparent as possible while still helping the magic along. A mark of an exceptional engineer is the ability to work with the music and allow it to retain the original tone and sparkle without compromising clarity on tape.