How To Record Music at Home Part 1

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It can not be denied that one of the dreams of any sound engineer is to work only with talented and experienced musicians, that is, those who knock down almost every party, and are alike with a microphone or instrument and are aware of several rules and principles prevailing during the recording session and, at the same time, they have no resistance to “opening” from the march.

Unfortunately, not often and not all of us will be given to such situations, because always some part of the projects in which we take or take part will be from this “ideal” more or less distant. There is, of course, nothing surprising in this – the usual day of the work of the sound engineer … How to deal with recording the “unruly” musician?

Below I will try to give you some advice on this topic on the example of a session with one singer, where I was forced to reach for quite extreme methods to be able to harness and decently record her vocals. Also, be aware that these few tips will not only work in the case of vocal recordings, but also when the challenge is for us a musician who is not yet fully in control of his instrument.

Where to start? Basically, it should be that if an instrumentalist or vocalist does not have enough control over his sound engine, he should probably not go to a recording studio. For the recording session, one should first of all prepare properly. I recommend that you carefully read these two texts, because there is a lot of advice not only from me but also from other known producers like Musician on a Mission (go to Rob Mayzes’ great guide)

So let’s assume that our musician is prepared as much as he can and goes to recordings. For the sake of consistency, I will focus on the mentioned vocalist, but remember that these principles are universal and will work well in many other cases.

Comfort and atmosphere

In my opinion, this is the foundation of the basics. It can not be expected that the vocalist will provide us with a part of her life, if she does not feel at ease, she is tense, stressed, uncertain of her abilities or simply lost in this situation. The best remedy for this type of phenomenon is to eliminate stress and provide the artist with adequate comfort.

This can, of course, be done in different ways and probably each of you has some of your favorite methods. I am a believer in getting to know each other with such a person during a calm conversation before the session and preferably with a mug of an exceptionally well-prepared, warm drink. This should already bring about 50% of the tension.

Believe me, it’s differently recorded in the atmosphere of slack and lack of pressure, when you do not need to speak to “master“, because you had a nice and productive chat with him or two, which abounded with lots of laughter and positive emotions . The topics will usually be musical matters, the greatest inspirations, favorite artists, new releases or … even the last episode of “Game of Thrones”. The most important thing is to break out some ice and to stir up the atmosphere, then everything comes (much earlier to the artist) much easier.

The second issue is the very conditions under which we will be recording this “difficult” vocalist. Darkened light, possibly candles, good air flow, a refreshing drink at hand – these are just a few elements that will make things much easier.

The third thing – we listen to the artist’s suggestions (in every issue) and try to make each of them fulfilled – so that the talent would feel at ease, even if it would be at our expense, although this rarely happens. Well, unless we hit it, as perversely I call it, some ‘diva’, which even if we do not know how to please, it will always be something that will not fit. I suggest to stay away from such. Well, unless the label pays very well, then we install the poker face no. 3, we keep the tongue behind our teeth and we do our own. 

But let’s go back to our example …

If we have time comfort (no pressure), it is a good idea to wait for the right moment for the artist. There is probably nothing worse than a soulless ad in the style of: “Okay, no time for crap, stand behind the microphone, because the clock is ticking.” This is sure suicide. Maybe if it’s our good friend from the estate, these texts will not bother anyone, but if we’re dealing with a delicate artist, we definitely do not go that way!

More on the setup next week…

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