Welcome to Day 30 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.
Wait a second…what?!
I know. I know. This may seem like an odd topic for one of the last posts of 31 Days to Better Recordings, but I think this is hugely important, and it’s something that a lot of audio engineers simply ignore.
If we could rewind 30 days, and I asked you to give me 31 tips for better recordings, what would you say? Chances are you’d list off a lot of the same things I’ve talked about here on 31DBR. You would have had some tips about gear, technique, practice, etc. etc. But would you have mentioned anything about how you deal with people?
I talked about this in The Psychology of Recording, and I’ll reiterate it here.
Who are you recording? Robots? Animals? Space aliens? For most of you, I’d venture to say the answer is people. You’re bringing in artists and musicians to record. [Quick side-note: You may only record yourself, and that’s fine, but you really need to start branching out and recording other people. It’s a valuable skill.]
The “Typical” Audio Engineer
Remember back when your favorite albums would have “Produced by:” and “Engineered by:” in the liner notes? Have you ever wondered why the producer and engineer weren’t the same person? Could the producer have also engineered the recording? Yep. Could the engineer have also produced the recording? Yep.
Then why two people?
One good reason: Audio engineers aren’t good with people.
Okay, before you break out the tar and feathers, let me explain. I’m not saying ALL engineers aren’t good with people, but a lot of them aren’t. They get so focused on “nerding out” on gear and mic techniques and preamps and compressors and patchbays and phase and Fletcher-Munson Curves…that they fail to realize that they’re recording a person.
That’s a big reason why albums had producers. The producer was good with people, knew how to deal with the musician, how to bring out a fantastic performance. He was less concerned with how the recording was technically accomplished. His job was to simply create (or produce) a great product: a record.
Nowadays, most of us are recording in our spare bedrooms. We wear many hats, including both producer and engineer. Keep that in mind on your next session. If you get so wrapped up in the technical side of recording that you ignore this creative person sitting in front of the microphone, you’re not going to be happy with the results.
Your number one job is to make the musician comfortable. And this applies to more than just the tracking sessions. If you’re working on a mix, and the musician really doesn’t like the creative direction you’re taking the song, listen to her. Don’t let your arrogance cause you to burn bridges. You may find that musicians aren’t idiots after all :-), and that they can bring a lot of value to the table.
Day 30 Challenge
Your challenge today is to email a musician friend of yours and schedule a session. It can be a simple guitar/vocal session. That’s fine. But focus on making the musician happy and comfortable. You’ll be surprised how good it will still sound.