Music Producers and Audio Engineers’ Tips on Working with Artists
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It’s pretty understandable that when you’ve first starting out in audio, working in-studio with artists can be pretty daunting. You’ve done so much to get to this point. You’ve learned the skills, made the connection, and now it’s go time but you just want to be sure you’re ready.
Here’s a few tips and insights from a number of great Recording Connection mentors to help you set yourself up for a successful recording session.
1) Remember every artist is unique. They’re also the most important person in the room.
Recording Connection mentor Shane Anderson, producer, mixing & mastering engineer is a big believer in keeping the artist comfortable and secure:
“That’s a big thing, understanding and being mindful of the fact that every artist is unique and has their personality. When they’re in the room, they’re the most important person in the room…you’re the magician, you are, you’re the rock star behind the glass, yes, but if the artist doesn’t think they’re the rock star, the artist doesn’t think that they’re the artist, then their performance diminishes…Your shine is when they’re sitting there behind you smiling, dancing, happy about their song.”
2) Invest time in getting to know the artist.
If possible, put in the time it takes to get to know the artists you work with. Producers should invest considerable time building a solid rapport with the artists they work with since a large part of achieving a great session, and ultimately, a great song starts with solid communication.
Recording Connection mentor Michael Vail Blum (Prince, Madonna, Roger Daltrey), producer/engineer spoke about this in a recent interview:
“There’s always that get-to-know-each-other period. That’s really important, actually, because a lot of it is learning how to communicate well with your artist and get to know where they’re coming from, and what their songs are about, and why they wrote it and what motivated them. So you can cue into that and be sensitive to that. Also try to understand why other people sometimes might not get what they’re trying to communicate in their songs. So that’s what I try to do, and I think that it’s really important because then the artist understands that you’re really on their team.
3) Clearly define roles and expectations.
“Taking the time to discuss what the roles are before going into the session helps. So if the band says, ‘We love our live repertoire right now, all we want to do is record it note for note,’ then they’re revealing that they don’t want any musical feedback; they just want someone to engineer and document their ideas to date. [In that case] the role has been clearly defined.”
Producer, musician, and Recording Connection mentor Lee Evans has advice for anyone donning the producer’s cap:
“If you’re going to critique the artist, always have a fix behind it. It’s fine to critique but don’t just say, “No, that sucked,” with no fix and keep doing the same thing. You have to be able to come up with a fix for that. A lot of times you might have to go through 10 different fixes and then the artist gets drained and you might have to come back to it another day.”
5) When the artist is in, you’re in production mode.
Music producer and Recording Connection mentor Josh Monroy (JoJo, Ludacris, Walla) stresses the importance of being super productive during session time. Your aim is to make sure that artist leaves with something “special” that’s “about them” and “encompass[es] their influences.”
“When the client is in the room, you should be quickly going into production mode… When your artist gets there [to the studio], make sure you’re not fumbling around, you know, looking for a kick drum for half an hour. If you’re spending more than 10 minutes finding one sound, you’re losing your audience…
It should be about the song [and] moving the workflow efficiently and when you’re going back to your library of stuff, you know where to find it. Now, you’re a conduit. You’re not searching. Instead, you’re letting your knowledge, your confidence, and your library lead the way, and the creativity is just flowing left and right.”
Michael Vail Blum On Working with Talent
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Josh Monroy on Boosting Productivity In-Session