As a professional recording/mixing engineer, you will encounter as many types of artists as there are styles of music. In my 30 years in the music industry,
I have recorded/mixed many different genres including Rap, Rock, R&B, Folk, Classical, Reggae, Flamenco, Jazz, and experimental. With every session, there is a new responsibility to establish a creative and professional relationship. Given the amount of time it takes to record an entire album, and artist/producer will often develop a personal relationship with the engineer as well. I’d like to share some thoughts about working with different artists, and speak particularly to those of you who may just breaking in.
As an engineer, you need to exude confidence without coming across as arrogant. It is assumed that you have the skills to do the job. If you DON’T know your equipment and software inside and out, spend time studying and practicing. There is so much information available on the internet, and you should be seeking new information on a daily basis.
OK, so you know your stuff. You still need to gain the artist/producer’s respect, even if you have credits a mile long. Here are some ways that you will LOSE that respect immediately:
TEXTING while artist is recording.
TAKING INSTAGRAM PHOTOS WITH THE ARTIST
TRYING TO BE ‘DOWN’ WITH THE ARTIST
CONFUSING YOUR ROLE WITH THE PRODUCER’S
You are an important part of the team, but you are not the coach. You should be nearly invisible. Keep your mouth shut. Anticipate the artist and producer’s next 2 steps.
It’s OK to share your opinion about a creative decision IF ASKED, but try to stay in your lane and concentrate on your tasks. Stay out of personal conversations and other
people’s business. While it is your job to be a good listener, that pertains to the music! Be prepared to excuse yourself from the room for a moment if a phone call or conversation
clearly deserves privacy.
Other important keys to remember:
Show up early. Be prepared to stay late (and cancel your plans with wifey).
Label everything as you go. Be organized.
Always be willing to try whatever the artist/producer wants, even if you think it’s a bad idea. You can always revert to an earlier version of the session if something doesn’t work.
The point is, you never want to stifle creativity. Whenever I really believe something is going wrong, I simply ask, “hey…do you want to listen to that?” Having established a
professional rapport with the artist/producer, they will recognize that as my non-threatening cue that something might be amiss in my opinion.
A few technical notes:
Keep things tidy. Trim and fade, but FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, DO NOT TRIM ALL THE BREATHS OUT OF VOCAL TRACKS AND THEN RENDER THE TRACKS if you
are sending the session to another engineer to mix.
Do not do things that can’t be undone. If you insist, DO IT ON AN ALTERNATE TRACK OR PLAYLIST and LABEL the differences!
When using Pro Tools, SAVE and SAVE AS, and if you are making a copy to send to another engineer/producer, use “Save Copy In”… and be sure to tick the “copy all audio files” box.
It’s worth repeating. Keep hitting SAVE!
Be wary of headphone leakage…ESPECIALLY if you are using a compressor.
LAST THING: Use that vocal pop filter screen, but keep it off the mic a bit, and CLEAN IT occasionally!
These tips will help your session run smoothly regardless of the style of music. Be mindful of them, and your client will recognize your professionalism.
Paul Arnold can be reached at: