Madison Records/The Oates Music
For Wyatt Oates, it doesn’t matter if you already know a digital audio workstation inside and out, or if you’ve worked with multiple bands, or even cut a few demo tracks before. As a mentor, the technical side of making music, building a brand, and working on a portfolio will all come in time.
It’s the little things that show Oates everything he needs to know about a new Recording Connection intern. How an extern holds themself in the studio, how they interact with others, just their overall demeanor.
“The very first thing would be being on time,” Oates said. “The next thing I’m going to notice is attitude. And then it’s just walking through what they’re trying to do, try to get a feel for them.”
And when it’s time to get to work, how do the externs act? Even a technical genius on the gear needs more than being a technical genius on the gear. Local, regional, or national acts don’t want to work with a robot, they want to work with someone who makes them sound better. Who can feel the music and make the needed adjustments.
When an artist is in the studio, this is the time for the extern to take a step back and watch the professionals at work. Learn when (and why!) they push, pull, or just sit back when the artist gets in a groove. Although this is a fully immersive, hands-on learning experience, there are times when it’s best to observe.
“A good, safe starting point is being a fly on the wall, and don’t interject your opinions into what the producer is doing, for example,” Oates said. “It’s just bad form. Don’t solicit people right off the bat if you have your own music, your own productions. Treat them like normal people.
“Obviously, introduce yourself,” Oates continued. “And if they seem like a hand-shakable person, shake their hand or whatever the proper greeting is in that culture, and don’t overdo it. You should sit either at the console or back of the room, you know, leaving the sweet spot, so to speak, for the producer, engineer, artists. And just hanging out and paying attention.”
But Oates also believes you need to make yourself useful. Once you’ve learned the DAW and other technical aspects, you’ll begin to sit in on some sessions. Until then, learn to follow the cues your clients give you.
“Trying to be as proactive and predict the needs of the artist, producer, and engineer as much as possible,” Oates said. “So if you hear that somebody is coughing and is obviously thirsty, then offer to run and get them a water, and go do it.”
Take advantage of the opportunities
Stay alert during the process – the entire process. You never know when the chance to sit down and get to work will present itself. Getting the opportunity to put into practice what you’ve been learning is one of the most important parts of any Recording Connection program.
“I’ve seen a few people fall into the trap of putting their headphones on and just rocking out to some music while they’re in session,” Oates said. “You lose a lot of opportunities to be proactive and to really help the session along. I guess how I’d sum it up is, help the session along. During a recording session, do everything within your power to help the session along.”
Hands down, it’s Hands-On For The Win
“I’ve always loved the (mentor) model,” Oates said. “I came up through it myself. That’s how I learned engineering, producing, songwriting, all of that. So anytime I got a chance to help an intern or an assistant engineer up under me along the way, I always did.
“So when I found out about the Recording Connection and one of the guys called me from there to see if I would be interested in mentoring, I jumped on it,” Oates continued. “One of the things that I thought was really cool about the Recording Connection was the fact that they focus on that model. I’m just a fan of it because it works. The real-world experience is always better than classroom experience for these kinds of careers.”
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