Building Trust: Easing Tension in the studio

Time out!

Sometimes, as the engineer or studio owner, your responsibility goes far beyond getting the performance on tape. Sometimes you act as confidante, referee, maid, counselor, mother..

I’ve often said that a degree in psychology would be as helpful as the right microphones.

Artist’s core egos (good and bad) are called into check when they have to perform in a studio. This is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road” as far as their ability goes.

Since we know that egos are exposed, why not take on the role as diplomat when its appropriate?

If you have two singers in your studio… one’s behind the glass trying to make magic happen and the other is in the studio with you verbally beating up the other singer, step in if you need to and call off the dogs.

Not much good can come of one artist bashing another artists when you are trying to get a good performance.

If tension gets high, here’s a couple of things you can do to get things “back on track”:

  • Take a break- sometimes all you need to do to break the tension is to call a lunch break, a bathroom break, take an important phone call… anything to get the singers ego out of harm’s way
  • Take the blame for it – when the singer misses their cue, just say, “Sorry, that was my fault. I didn’t give you enough pre-roll. Let’s try that again.” Sometimes, this is all it will take to give them the confidence they need to get through the take.
  • Do full takes instead of punching in parts – Most singers are used to performing songs, not punching lines. Sometimes before you realize it, trying to get that “perfect line” by punching in will kill a singers confidence. Try to notice if this is taking a toll on the singer and opt for comping vocals instead of punching.

Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to stay on track and sometimes it just takes a good engineer paying attention to the tension.

Question: How have you broken the tension in the studio before?