1. Always ensure an efficient naming system is operational and used as a standard. This will save time when searching for specific samples.
2. Save Channel strip settings with accurate names no matter how obscure/ niche sound these channel strip settings create. This proves especially useful when writing similar genres where similar processing techniques will be required.
3. When writing melodies and hooks creating a “Scratch track” is invaluable. Start by humming or do doo’ing over the track in question and record everything! Do not discard any recordings no matter how rough or poor the recording may be. (This is just a scratch track after all!) Listen back to the scratch track bounce and pick out some idea which sound pleasing to your ear which could potentially be developed further. Next would be to layer this scratch recording in your recording session and begin writing lyrics to the “scratch melody”. This can be really useful when dealing with the infamous writers block. Try to use several different scratch ideas per track. The idea is that out of multiple scratched ideas, one or several will be strong enough to develop.
4. When recording artists, pitch the backing track and scratch track up and then down but keep within the singers comfortable range. Occasionally when pitching up or down you will hear the timbre and qualities of a vocal change. Take no more than 3/4 takes at different semitone increments to prevent tiring your vocalist.
5. If you’re recording a musician or a vocalist you might be required to capture hundreds of recordings in a session/ over a few sessions. It’s important that you make sure your artists are totally comfortable in your environment. Create a relaxed atmosphere and make small talk but remember that you’re in a working environment and professionalism is required at all times. Never tell the recording artist that their take was “bad or poor or crap” as this will only put more pressure on your artist which will not help their sound or your job as an engineer. Instead ask them if they can “go again” or “just grab a couple more takes”. Its always nice after each take to feedback something, even if its just “great” or “sounds wicked” as this is likely make your recording artist more comfortable than if you just sit with your back to them clicking away frantically with no comment on their performance. After all, you’re the engineer and you’re there to help capture their best sound possible. Feel free to give them constructive feedback to help enhance their performance but be sure not to “grill” them after each take!
6. Comping Vocals! So after you’ve made the scratch track, recorded some crispy ideas over your backing track you’ve got some vocal recording which need comping! Comping is the art of selecting phrases, words and even syllables and creating the strongest vocal from each take per idea. I don’t have facts but Id make an educated guess that less than 5% of modern vocal music in mainstream genres actually tracks full length vocals with zero comping. This is another reason why nothing is thrown away, no matter how crappy you think it sounds at the time. In 3 weeks time you could be looking for something as niche as the letter “S” to fly in to a production that has to have a specific type of diction and timbre to fit. You could get the artist back in the studio for one syllable but if you kept all the initial takes you wouldn’t have to do so.
7. As a producer or recording artist, if I’m paying for studio time with an engineer at the helm, I want to walk in to the studio and start work. I don’t want to be waiting for him to set up a patch bay, nor do I want him to be asking me where the phantom power is located on the desk. So if you’re engineering a session, work out what is required of you for the session, ensure you’re set up and ready to go the moment a paying client walks in!
8. Tidiness and keeping the studio clean! In a studio it may not be a huge issue (it is, but bare with me) In live sound it can be massive problem. If I’m running FOH sound and I need a cable changed mid performance, I need that to happen in less than 30 seconds flat. I need audio cables to be run separately to power cables, I need neat coils either placed under mic stands or at the base of the respective instrument or bit of kit that it is connected to. I cant have a tangle of cables then expect 1500 or more paying customers to wait 20 mins while I get a 16 year old stage tech to untangle a 48 loom cable. Same goes for that paying client in the studio!
9. Audio gear can be and usually is expensive. My final point is to make sure you know what your doing when plugging and unplugging cables. A few years ago I was working a front of house gig. I was positioned at the back of the theatre behind the mix console and my monitor engineer was at stage side left. He somehow managed fire a test tone through the monitor speakers then proceeded to stand there with his fingers in his ears whilst 10kHz rung out at 80dB for a good 12 seconds before I could 100m sprint to drop the master output. Make sure you know what you’re doing before you fiddle and potentially blow up an expensive rig or nearly destroy 200 peoples hearing. We all went home with temporary threshold shift that night so you could say we got our monies worth.
10. Remember to take plenty of breaks! (spelling mistake intentional) Even a 5 min break from the monitors can make all the difference when listening back for artifacts or errors!