It takes a certain type of personality to excel at tricky recording maneuvers while simultaneously working with an equally tricky performer. Perhaps for this reason alone, I admittedly never pursued full-time studio operator status, opting instead to track guests on a case-by-case basis. But even in a limited capacity, managing a live recording session can be surprisingly taxing, requiring great technical and interpersonal dexterity. Here are some ideas to avoid time-consuming problems when working with multiple people in your studio, whether it’s your own music or someone else’s.
Producer, engineer or both? Decide in advance if you just want to push the buttons or if you’re willing to provide the kind of input that producers have always been tasked with, like offering ideas on vocal harmony, phrasing, tempo, key , instrumentation and so on, as needed. If everything is technically correct and you still don’t like what you hear, speak up. As long as you remain optimistic, performers will generally be receptive to a suggested edit, especially if it helps improve the song.
Know your customer. Anything you can do before a guest session can help ensure a smooth recording experience, from cabling/positioning microphones, labeling inputs/recording tracks, using disconcerting audio ( if necessary), and more. If you’re recording someone else’s work, consider attending a band rehearsal or even watching a live clip on YouTube, so you get a better idea of what you’re getting into and how. how to approach the session in advance.
Keep rolling. In the analog age, a reel of tape moving at 15 inches per second offered about 20 minutes of maximum recording time. Even so, engineers were often encouraged to “keep rolling”, particularly if performance started to gel and despite everything. obvious mistakes made along the way. These days, even a small microSD card packs more space than a basket full of tape, all the more reason to keep your paws away from the pause button. Even if there is a breakdown in the middle of a take, encourage musicians to continue where they left off in order to maintain momentum, rather than continuing from the top. Remember that you can easily remove the error/pause later.
Everything at once. “Build” a track from individually recorded parts – drums first, then bass, keyboards, etc. – is not only a perfectly acceptable practice (and the dominant method of professional recording for some time now) but, for those without easy access to a performance venue, is the only practical choice. In fact, many people prefer this approach because it makes it easier to “control” the sound as it descends. But if you have a small group of players in the same room, why not record them all at once? Although it takes a bit more discipline, going for a live vibe while cutting a basic track is always worth the extra effort. When doing so, consider recording the bass directly, or perhaps move the subwoofer to another side of the room to prevent too much bass leakage from occurring.
Be positive no matter what. As mentioned earlier, a good studio operator is both a sound technician and a human person. You may be a magician behind the console, but it won’t matter much if you seem impatient or condescending during a session. That’s why keeping the mood upbeat is at least as important as making sure the levels are right – if a vocalist is struggling to hit the high notes, or if the lead guitarist can’t find the rhythm all immediately, offer encouragement and calmly explain what could be done better the next time around. While you can sometimes get what you need from a single take, having the ability to create a composite (or “comp”) track by editing the best bits from several different attempts together can help relieve the pressure.