The way you act at a session many times counts for so much more than your performance.
If you make anyone uncomfortable in the slightest way, you can bet that you probably won’t be asked back, so being aware of proper studio etiquette is extremely important.
Studio etiquette applies to before, during and after a session as well. In part one, we’ll look at what’s expected before the red light is turned on.
These points come ogiginally from The Studio Musician’s Handbook, but most apply to everyone connected with a recording session.
Before the session begins:
On any session, always know who your point of contact is.
Always show up early. To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is almost like not showing up at all! If the downbeat is for 2PM, show up at least a half-hour early at 1:30!
Let the powers that be know you’ve arrived. Make your presence known at a session as soon you roll up on the studio property.
If you’re there and no one knows it, you can cause the session to start late if you’re hanging out in the lounge instead of the studio while everyone is waiting for you because they’re unaware that you’ve already arrived.
Load your gear in quickly and quietly. Accept help with this if it’s offered. If it’s your first time there, introduce yourself to those you make contact with, and find out what the plan for the session is.
You may be immediately welcomed in the studio or control room, or you may not. You may be asked to wait in the lounge instead. While you’re waiting, use those people skills and find out what’s going on. Be friendly and respectful but don’t be overly formal.
After you’re set up and ready to play, keep your warm-ups and noodling to an absolute minimum. Get your sound and follow the producer’s or engineer’s direction “to the t”. If you’re playing an electric instrument, it’s totally cool to turn your volume all the way down and do your warm-ups.
If there are headphones in use, try putting them on with the volume all the way down (studio headphones are capable of being loud enough to cause hearing damage, so don’t hurt yourself), and slowly turn them up to see what’s happening with the mix.
If there are other people in the room, you might want to “keep one ear on, one ear off” until recording begins in case someone talks to you. Always keep your focus on the music and what’s right here, right now.