I believe that the performance of an artist or band is way more important than what mic or preamp it is recorded through. As the first part of the signal chain, if it’s not right then it becomes a fight to create the record everyone wants. Here are seven tips for getting the performance you want from musicians.
1. Where are they? Bands need to be comfortable, and look cool in any studio footage or photos. This is especially important for singers. Make sure you create an environment and a mood that puts them at ease, even if it means recording screaming in your flat, just be considerate and leave a note for your neighbours.
2. Only human. Remember, as much as you need to get the record done, the human body has its limits. If your artist has blown their voice, shredded their fingers or burst an eardrum leave them the fuck alone, get them some tea and/or plasters and go back the next day. Unless they are trying to be GG Allin, in which case put down some newspaper for the mess and let them create self destructive carnage everywhere.
3. Leave it running. There are some bands who will create absolute magic between takes – I will never forgive myself for not recording Dan Crywank‘s “Bread” song because I was too busy laughing. If you find a band like this, record every second and whittle it down later, sometimes even artistic arguments can get turned into album tracks.
4. Don’t tell the bride. Every band has one member who has practiced their stage moves and can bust a jump perfectly before a breakdown but has forgotten that they need to play anything other than open notes. Here you have two options, let another member of the band take over and record their parts for the good of the record, or let them carry on tracking, pat themselves on the back, and then as soon as they leave record it again yourself.
5. Party hard. Some people give their best performance when they are REAL loose. Careful with this though, keep an eye out for when your artist gets a slightly wild look in their eyes as it means your guitar recording session could dissolve into riding fixies down a corridor trying to knock each other off the bikes with a broom or a mop.
6. Fight for your right. I record a lot of hardcore bands whose music is supposed to sound angry and passionate, and some people feed off conflict. If you need to throw a steel chair at someone to get them to perform I advise you do it, then sample the sound and put it in the song.
7. Live and let live. Sometimes you just need to let the band wear sunglasses and do their thing because they are right.