When working on a record, there’s a ton to think about. So for now, let’s simplify. Take your attention off of gear and mixing, and focus your thoughts solely on tracking. I’d like to share with you 8 of my favorite techniques to use during sessions. (Note: I layer my tracks, so apply these techniques accordingly)
1) Take an artist through the song one time.
I call this creating a roadmap. It’s a great technique because it allows you to hear the entirety of an instrument or vocal (it also allows the vocalist to warm up his or her voice) without any interruptions. If the artist flubs a part, don’t stop and start again. Hear out the entire song to make sure everything sounds correct. If you have questions about a particular part, show your client the trouble spot and work it out together. If the entire take was perfect, then congratulations Johnny Cage, you’ve achieved a flawless victory.
2) Make sure the track is at a comfortable listening volume.
This may seem obvious, but you should create a balanced mix for the artist who is currently recording. Ask them if they’d like anything louder or softer, and adjust accordingly. In addition, let them know if you’ve done something that may throw their ear. If you’ve muted out a vocal line – enlighten them. If you’ve panned their guitar through the left speaker, let them know they’re only coming out of one side.
3) Decide if you want to record section by section, or in full.
After creating your roadmap, you’ll need to decide the best approach for recording. There are some artists who feel more comfortable recording a song all the way through and then cleaning up any sections that were sloppy. Others will prefer to track one section at a time – so you’ll need to keep recording the first verse until they’re satisfied. Only then will you move on to the next part of the song. See which technique will work best with your artists and you’ll save yourself a ton of time.
4) Punch in and out on downbeats.
When you’re looking to make a punch, don’t just hit the record button arbitrarily. Make a calculated approach and hit it right on a downbeat. The punch will sound cleaner, and you won’t have to drag your crossfades to match the grid. When punching out, use the same approach. Remember to tell your artists to play into and out of sections – this will make your crossfades sound much more natural.
5) Delete the audio in a region you’re trying to record over.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself listening to a song and you hear a guitar come slightly off beat. You’ll show your client and they won’t hear the mistake you’re talking about. You’ll want to track that part over, but if the artist is confused, they may not know exactly where they should be punching in. I’ve found a simple solution for this is to delete the region of audio that sounds sloppy so the artist can visualize exactly where they’ll be punching in and out. This has been a go to technique of mine for years. (If this confuses you, check out my producer quick tip on the matter)
6) Use beats and measures to tell an artist where to come in.
If visualization doesn’t work for your artist, another great tip is to count the beats aloud for them. Don’t just say something like “come in right after the cymbal crash”. Give them specifics. Say something like “you’ll want to hit the snare on the downbeat of 1, or the upbeat of 3”. Sometimes you’ll find combining this technique with a visual (such as a hand motion) can be just what your artist needs.
7) Give reliable input.
When giving an artist input, remember to always give a reason for what you say. Don’t simply tell them you don’t like their bass part. Give them a reason you don’t like it. Perhaps the bass isn’t following the root notes and it’s losing some body by going too high on the neck. Always be honest with your clients – they’ll appreciate it more than you’d think.
8) Let the artist listen to their final takes.
The last thing I like to do is let the artists listen to their performance once it is finished. If they are satisfied, it means they’ve given you their blessing and you’re ok to move on to the next session. If they are happy in the moment, they’ll be thrilled with the final product.
Next time you’re tracking an artist, you should definitely use some of these techniques. Have you ever used any before? What are some tricks you use?