5 Tips For Producers To Master Recording Sessions
Over the years, I have worked with countless producers and artists in every type of recording space – from closet studios to label-run multi-million dollar recording facilities. As a singer-songwriter though, it is not so much the space but the skillset of the engineer and/or producer (if the producer is serving as both the engineer and producer) and the prep I do beforehand and during the session that can make a big difference in having a great recording experience and achieving the best performance as an artist or songwriter. Therefore, Part One of this blog will focus on recording tips for producers and Part II will focus on tips for recording artists/songwriters.
Part I: For Engineers/Producers
If you are an engineer or producer that also records the artists or songwriters you work with, this may give some insight into getting the best from those whom you record. These are all from my personal and observational experience yet if you have any others, please feel free to add on to this list in the comments below 🙂
Tip #1: Know the DAW Well
When artists or songwriters are in THE ZONE and are having a great performance, one thing that can slow down the flow is an engineer who is unfamiliar with the DAW (e.g. Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, etc.). However, if the engineer/producer knows certain hacks to speed up the flow like quick commands and punch-in shortcuts, the recording artist/songwriter will have confidence knowing you are capturing their best performance takes…which subsequently adds to their continued confidence in recording and a smooth session flow.
Tip #2: Giving Honest Feedback (During the Recording Process)
Some engineers/producers may hesitate to give artists’ feedback during the session e.g. telling them they are pitchy, singing slightly off beat, etc. However this kind of honest feedback during the recording session facilitates two very important things: 1) It helps the artist grow and gives them an opportunity to receive real-time constructive feedback and 2) It helps with decreasing post-production editing for the engineer. However, moderation is also key with this point. Too much feedback can reduce the confidence of the artist’s overall performance. Therefore, leaving some performance errors to post-production is a better route at times and can be used as an alternative at the engineer’s discretion.
Tip #3: Explaining When, Where, and What’s Next Effectively and Consistently
This is all about communication, communication, communication. Being open at the beginning of the session with letting the artist know that they can openly communicate with you (the engineer) at any point about what they need or want is important so that everyone remains on the same page during recording. When artists and engineers lack communication, both can become lost and this can put a strain on the session – possibly eating up extra time and money. Also as the engineer, being actively vocal throughout the session about where exactly the artist will be punching in, what vocal stack is coming up next, what parts you are recording first, etc. can add significant flow and ease in a session.
Tip #4: Having a Knowledge of Vocal Vocabulary
It is always amazing to do a recording session when the engineer/producer has at least a basic vocal vocabulary. For example, if the engineer knows such vocal resonance styles like “head voice”, “chest voice” and “falsetto” and also a working knowledge of pitch terms like “sharp” and “flat”, they can articulate more clearly what changes are needed. Therefore, if the engineer can say, “Instead of singing this line in your head voice, sing this part in falsetto”, this adds a greater depth in communication which can make or break the efficiency and success of a session.
Tip #5: (Bonus Skill) Vocal Production Knowledge
Out of all my experiences working with producers, I have to say that my best sessions happened when I worked with producers who had all the above traits AND had an ear to also assist in vocally producing the song. This means that the producer not only could produce and possibly record but also had an ear for harmonies, additional melodies and could effectively express how to sing them and where (whether they sung them or played them on the keyboard for me as a vocalist to mimic). While not essential, having this extra skill can greatly enhance the outcome of a recording session. Learning about how to vocally produce a song will add a special magic to the session that just might be what puts the cherry on top to make a hit. If you do not have this skill though, hiring a vocal producer who specializes in just vocal production can also be a possibility. Yet some of the best sessions I’ve experienced with artists and also when being recorded myself is that the producer had a great ear for the added layers of the song (that maybe the songwriter or artist could not hear) which made the song that much richer.
Next month, I will share Part II – 5 Tips To Master Recording Sessions for Artists & Songwriters
About the featured blogger: Ami Kim is currently a topline songwriter and vocalist for DivineTracks.com and is based between Daegu, South Korea and Los Angeles.