In this episode, we give you tips to avoid the five most common studio mistakes that almost every artist makes. With the right preparation, you can have your smoothest, most inspiring, and most fun experiences yet, at your next recording session.
KOBY: [00:00:00] Welcome back for episode 17 of Self-Signed Artist. And this is going to be a good one. We’re talking about studio mistakes. Get your pen, ready to write down these five things to avoid. If you want to have an enjoyable recording experience and a successful product in the end.
How’s it going? Everybody. I’m Koby Nelson and I’m joined by the studio wizard himself, who never makes mistakes,
Jake Mannix how’s it going, Jake?
JAKE: [00:01:04] It’s going so good. How are you going
KOBY: [00:01:06] I’m doing all right. Getting back to work at the university, which is interesting in these times. So that’s all I’m going to say about that and
JAKE: [00:01:16] week amidst the COVID-19
KOBY: [00:01:18] Yup. So we’ll see. Um, have you been.
JAKE: [00:01:22] I’ve been all right. I’ve been alright. Just kinda doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the last four months.
SSA Episode 17_1#01: [00:01:27] Mixing
JAKE: [00:01:28] recording a little bit here and there making a little bit, of some life changes, some positive changes, some positive career changes. Just changes,
SSA Episode 17_1#01: [00:01:37] man.
KOBY: [00:01:37] All good things. Yeah.
JAKE: [00:01:39] All good at all times that you know me.
KOBY: [00:01:42] Nice.
JAKE: [00:01:45] you know what else is good? These five tips,
KOBY: [00:01:48] great segue. That was much better. Yeah. The topic of the today is something that both Jake and I are very familiar with owning and working, recording studios and mixing businesses. Would you say so, Jake.
JAKE: [00:02:02] Yeah, we’re familiar.
KOBY: [00:02:05] Everything that we are going to cover today is extremely common. It’s easy to fix, and it really should be part of every artist checklist before they go forward with making a record. I think. Just to be absolutely clear up front though. This, this episode is not, I meant to call people out. Neither of us is saying that if you’ve done one of these things on this list, just that you’re bad at what you do or, or dumb or anything like that.
And if you’re one of my past clients and you hear something that sounds like you, I’m not bashing you on this podcast, all of these mistakes, things that I think every artist has to manage. To some degree during the whole process. And a lot of them are things that I talk about with my clients before starting a project.
And I’m sure you probably do too. Jake. The purpose of this episode is to give you as much time to plan as possible. Before you sit down in the first meeting about your recording project, whether that’s with your producer or your engineer or whoever it might be.
That’s part of the recording process. And for some of these things, if your producer brings it up on the first day of your project, It’s probably already too late to fix it. So that’s our goal to kind of put you ahead of the game and set you up so that you can walk in the door with all your ducks in a row.
And you’re just ready to sit down and go. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it. Shall we? All right. Studio mistake, number one. And it’s a big one right off the bat. This I think is the source of all five mistakes that we’re covering her all four additional mistakes that recovering. So listen up mistake.
Number one is not having a clear end goal or plan no vision for how the project is going to go. This is the first thing that I ask every single client that I work with, I meet with them, or I talk to them on the phone and I asked them, what are your goals with this record? Because their answer tells me right up front, what our challenges are going to be.
And that’s assuming that they have an answer for that. So if an artist or a band can immediately list off what their goals are and how they plan on achieving them, then I know we’re ready to start and I can just. Take all that in and apply it to everything that I’m going to do. If I’m mixing, I have their end goal in mind.
Is that something that you do to Jake? Like, do you meet with your clients at all and ask about their plans or their goals?
JAKE: [00:04:42] um, not so much. not that I’m super happy about it, but I would consider my studio work and my mixing to be like, 80% fast food style of mixing, you know what I’m trying to say? Like, they’re just putting out a bunch of music, recording a bunch of music.
Like sometimes there’s, an idea for a video or something like that, but it’s not like super, super thought out, but there is that other 20% of clients or the other 20% of songs that I work on that. There, they are thinking about it, like what way ahead of time. and I do try to get a feel for that before I work with someone, just to kind of see how the session is going to go and how I should, direct it and, and, and stuff like that.
But yeah, that’s how it usually is for me not to like talk down on myself or my clients. I don’t mean it that way. It’s just like, it’s, it’s very fast. It’s
fast. It’s like we’ll show up for two hours and we bang out a bunch of songs, you know?
KOBY: [00:05:42] Yeah. So it’s like a different priority. So you’re, you’re prioritizing speed and efficiency and that’s what your clients are looking for when they’re coming to you. Are those 80% of clients. Versus the other 20% who, but, but I mean, either way you kind of have to get a sense of that.
Like, what are their goals for the project Are they coming into the project with the goal of having it be quick and efficient and getting a product yeah. Out the door really fast, or are they looking for something else? So that’s part of the process for any producer or engineer or anybody who’s going into the studio.
So that’s one thing that I try and do is just ask about it upfront. And sometimes there’s an answer sometimes there’s not. I would say most artists show up to the record making start line with really only one thing on their mind and that’s recording their songs, which I mean, to be fair, makes sense.
Right? Like, isn’t that a good thing. Being focused on the task at hand I don’t know, I would kind of argue no, or at least I don’t think so for most cases, because here’s the thing, like without a vision for the outcome, you really have no guide. No, like no way to navigate. And there’s no like North star for the entire record making process.
So I don’t know. I like to have people try and think about. Who are you making this music for? Are you trying to get new fans or are you trying to make this for your old fans? Are you trying to make this for fans of another artist, and try and convert them into fans of you? How are these people going to discover your music after we make it?
How are you going to get it out to your target listeners? How will the record fit into the branding that you’ve already developed? Or do you need to adjust your branding? Like those are all questions that I think are good to think about before you make the record, like in the songwriting and the song selection process, because otherwise you as the artist and everybody else involved in making the record is kind of just flailing around in the dark.
That’s at least how I feel when I don’t have that. North star that guiding light to tell me which direction to go with a record. I sort of feel like I’m flailing around and I don’t know what I’m doing. So maybe that’s just me and the way that I work, but I like to have that. and I would say to kind of give an example of that, like picture this.
Say you’re in a band and somebody comes up with a crazy idea for a weird effect on the lead vocal or something like that. In one of the songs the producer says, it’s awesome. vocalist says that it’s stupid. The guitarist thinks it’s whatever to pop for the style and. I don’t know, the drummer thinks it’s too retro.
Like you have four different opinions there and who’s really right. Like, that’s the kind of thing that starts arguments in the studio. Maybe you make a decision at the end of all that and you go with it. But how do you know that you made the right one until you put it out? So I think if you’ve created a plan and a vision for the record beforehand, then you can kind of test.
Any of these new ideas and these crazy weird ideas against it, just to see if it’s going to work. Do you know what I mean?
JAKE: [00:09:08] Yeah, I mean, I don’t know when it, when it comes to me, I write with, with other people sometimes. And I think it’s just good to have like a solid, I guess like what you’re saying, like a North star, but not that there is a North star, but to have something that you can go back to as a reference for, like, this is like what we are going for as a whole, does this line up with what we’re going for?
If you’re working, if you’re, if you’re working with other people.
KOBY: [00:09:38] right. Yeah. what we’re going for, right? Yeah. That will be what I would consider the North star in that situation. and I it can be an unspoken thing where you’re just kind of all on the same page. Everybody’s vibing together. Like we talked about in the collaborating episode like that.
Kind of comes down to chemistry between people a lot of the time. but in a situation where it’s like an engineer and a client where there’s kind of like that business relationship and in this case, maybe the song, the songs are already written before you get into the studio, usually. Hopefully the songs are already written, so there’s already kind of a direction there.
I just like to get out in front of it and be like, what’s the end goal with this direction? Like we have a direction already. What’s the end of that path and try and figure that out. So. I mean, that’s really where, where I’m coming from with all that. So also if you go back and listen to episode two, you can kind of learn how to create this vision that we’re talking about.
Like we talked about creating a fan avatar in that episode, and, and making a record is the exact type of situation where I think having a fan avatar and having a release strategy is. Of the utmost importance. Like those two things are going to dictate what you do in the whole record making process.
So I think that’s, those are just good things to have. And I try and kind of tease that out of any of my clients before the project starts. So we kind of know what direction we’re going in overall. I would say, just make sure that you’ve given it some thought and that you have a direction that you’re not just going into the studio being like.
I’m going to record some stuff. If you have more than that, that at least you’re headed in the right direction. Alright. So onto studio mistake, number two. And this is one that I see a lot, unfortunately, and it makes me sad because it can really take a project’s potential from great to just, okay. And it is.
Not having a budget for each of the steps involved in making and releasing a record. So not having a full thought out yeah. Budget at first glance, I realize this might sound a little self serving since Jake and I are both studio business owners and we make records for money, but it really isn’t because.
I’m actually not even talking about paying for recording, mixing or mastering necessarily. I’m also talking about budgeting for the things that come after the record is finished. So at the same time, of course, you also have to budget for studio stuff too. So I’m going to start there and we’ll talk about that really quickly.
And really there are three steps. In the recording and production process that you need to budget for, right. Recording and producing the first step mixing and mastering. Those are kind of like the three major steps that you’re always going to have to deal with. Yeah. And I run into this all the time as a mix engineer where artists will spend all of their money on recording and then they don’t have any left for mixing or mastering, or for me, even just as bad.
They are able to afford hiring me to mix, but they haven’t budgeted anything for mastering the mix afterwards. To me, that’s almost as bad because. I mean in that case, a lot of the times people will ask me to, you know, just do a quick master on it. And I hate doing that because mastering is a second separate job for a reason.
Yeah. It’s its own discipline. It’s kind of the last quality control check in the whole process. And it makes sure that the mix that I worked really hard on. It’s going to translate to all the playback systems that I might encounter. So it’s going to sound good in your car. It’s going to sound good in your headphones.
It’s gonna sound good. I don’t know, in the elevator or wherever it’s going to get played, you know what I mean? So if somebody asks me to master the record after I mixed it I mean, I. Would even say that they’re not going to end up necessarily with the best product there. That’s not something that I want to do.
Cause I want the master to be the best that it could possibly be. And that’s even aside from fact that most people, if they’re asking me to master our record, after I mixed it, they’re hoping that I’m going to do it for now additional cost. So free work. In other words, Jake I’ve, we’ve talked about things like this before.
How often do you run into things like that? Where people just haven’t budgeted enough for all of the steps
JAKE: [00:14:13] I don’t know, probably good. Cause the thing is, is like I work, I work in hip hop, so my vocal chain, my default vocal chain, like already sounds pretty good. And the beats now, like most of the time sound pretty good. So most of the artists that I work with don’t even pay for extra, not extra mixing, but mixing and then mastering at all.
So, yeah, just no budget for that period.
And as far as the other clients go, obviously there’s a budget for what they’re having me do, but I’m not sure, you know, what the, what the other stuff looks like, unless I’m directly involved with the project.
KOBY: [00:14:49] right. yeah, a lot of the times you don’t even know. and I just like to check in because like here’s why budgeting is such a big deal. I think, because. Even the artists who do budget for all of the recording parts, the record making steps that we just talked about, recording, mixing and mastering afterwards, there’s more to budget for, to, to actually have a successful release.
So a lot of artists, don’t also budget for marketing and promotion of the record. And I think that’s just as bad and just as important for you not to do because. You can, you can then have made this awesome, beautiful piece of art you’ve made a record heard and it’s amazing. And now nobody’s going to hear it.
So the whole thing kind of becomes a waste of time and money at that point. I think like if you’re not going to promote it and nobody’s going to hear it, why are you doing this? So, I don’t know. My argument is just to think ahead, think of all the steps that you’re going to have to go through and make a budget for every single one of those steps.
Sit down, choose how much what’s our budget for producing and recording. What’s our budget for mixing what’s our budget for mastery, and you can find. like you can ask people what their rates are. I get people who inquire about rates sometimes, when they’re just kind of like trying to figure out what their own budget is.
That’s okay to do. I’m happy to talk to you about, a mixed rate if, if you’re kind of in that phase in the process, and a lot of other mixers are too, but you need to have some sort of plan, some sort of budget. So, yeah, so to kind of recap, give all the steps that you might need to budget for recording production, mixing, mastering marketing promotion, and you might even have to budget in some for duplication and distribution. If you’re planning to sell hard copies of something, maybe you’re going to make a vinyl press of, of one of your releases.
and there, there can be. other fees that come along with distributing your music as well. So just be smart with your money and don’t run out and shoot yourself in the foot before the process is over and before people have actually heard all of your work. So that studio mistake, number two, let’s move on to studio mistake, number three.
And I think this is the easiest and most avoidable mistake of all of these. And it also may be the one that I see the most, and that is a lack of pre production going into a recording. I don’t know about you, Jake. I think probably 90% of the problems that come up in the recording process come from this mistake.
the other 10% are just like acts of God that are completely unavoidable. Like the singer gets sick or the band’s van breaks down,
JAKE: [00:17:37] or a hard drive crashes.
KOBY: [00:17:39] yeah. Yeah. The studio blows up or something like just things that are, can’t be avoided, but that other 90%. Is a major, major part of it that you can avoid.
So what is preproduction, if you haven’t heard that term before pre production includes everything that you need to figure out ahead of time to make the recording process move along quickly and efficiently. So involves a lot of things. It’s a lot of work upfront involves demoing out the songs.
Deciding who is playing, which parts. If you have a band or who you need to hire as a session musician for a specific part, if you have a solo artist project, it’s setting the tempos and the keys of each song, that’s a big one. If you get like halfway through recording a song and then you decide it would be better, a few clicks slower, or I don’t know, a whole step.
Lower tunes down then you could have potentially just wasted. It did a bunch of time because you’re now maybe going to have to go back and retrack a bunch of stuff that you could have just done in the right key the first time around, you know what I mean? So those are all things that I can kind of set you back.
And if you just sit down beforehand, do the preproduction, demo it out. You’re going to find all of those things first. I know probably for the like hip hop stuff, Jake, like a lot of people aren’t really demoing out necessarily. Or do people usually do that for, for those types of sessions?
JAKE: [00:19:11] I would say it’s, it’s like 80% freestyle, not freestyle, but like people go in there and just write it as they go bar for bar.
and then the other 20% is, is people that come in with the song already written, ready to go?
KOBY: [00:19:28] Yeah, I mean, I would say for me, it’s, almost all people who have already written all their music and if it’s not, it’s like jazz or something where, I mean, there’s not really. Much pre production that you could do. Cause it is just all on the spot. but I would say that the next part of pre-production, that’s important and this is important for all of those things too, even for freestyle or for, for jazz, where there’s improvisation going on.
I would say that practicing and rehearsing your parts critically is a really, really, and part of pre production. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat for hours trying to help somebody figure out how to play a part in that time. Just because like, they’ve practiced it a bunch of times, but they sorta like glossed over the tough spots or they didn’t really like listen critically to themselves while they playing it.
So they they’ve kind of practiced it in a way that’s sloppy. And they just didn’t nail everything down. I mean, I don’t know. You’ve probably had to do this Jake too. Like I’ve, I’ve even had to come up with editing techniques to fake somebody actually playing apart because we just couldn’t get it. And we were wasting too much time.
JAKE: [00:20:39] Bans. I will tell you this and I will also speak for Koby because Koby is too nice to say it himself. This is the easiest way to annoy your engineer and to have him not take you seriously. And with every take on the drums, Steven slates. Drummer five is looking more and more appealing.
KOBY: [00:21:02] It’s also just like, it’s a money saving thing though. Like if you come in rehearsed, like you’re going to spend less time in the studio.
JAKE: [00:21:09] Less time, less money. It’s going to be easier. Everyone’s going to be happier. Like just do the things,
do these things.
KOBY: [00:21:17] absolutely. And, and the other part of that I would say is that a lot of people practice a lot, but I think too many people are practicing just with performance in mind and that they’re not practicing with recording in mind. And it’s a whole different ball game, I think like, for example, playing to a click.
That is huge. If you’re a guitarist or if you’re a drummer, like practice playing to a click track that is going to help you so so much when you get into the studio and you have to do it, if the first time that you’re actually trying to play tightly to a click is while you’re sitting down to record, like, I don’t know how anybody can expect to, to have a great product after that.
I mean, It sounds like it’s an easy thing. You’re just playing to a metronome, tick, tick, tick, tick, like play on the beats, but it’s just not easy even for experienced people. Like it’s not easy to play perfectly in time with a click. so, so yeah, don’t let the first experience be. One of those weird, awkward sensations where you’re, you’re trying to give your best performance and also trying to figure out this whole clock ticking in the background going on.
I mean, I would say the same thing for vocalists too. whether you play to whether you sing to a click or not. I mean, I don’t know, I don’t always necessarily have singers sing to a click. Some people do. so it might be something that’s worth practicing. But what I would say is worth practicing is singing with headphones on, into a microphone, like where you’re hearing your own voice through headphones.
like Jake, you’re a singer too. Like I know for myself that was a skill that took quite a bit of time to kind of. Get hang of and to not feel like really weird and really awkward when I was hearing my own voice through a mic.
JAKE: [00:23:07] Hmm. I don’t remember. I don’t. I mean, I’ve always hated hearing my voice back in recordings, but I’ve never, I don’t know. I don’t, I don’t remember the first time I heard my voice back
KOBY: [00:23:20] Oh, really. I very clearly do remember the first time singing into a mic with headphones on I won’t say the name of the studio. It was in a studio in this guy’s basement that my high school band used to record. I, this was, this might’ve even been in middle school. That way you’re down there. and yeah, we tracked everything live, like all the guitars, bass and drums live, except for the vocals.
And then everybody was sitting in the control room, listening to me sing while I was tracking the vocals, hearing my voice on a mic in headphones for the first time. And it was awful. So it made an impression on me. But that’s just another one of those things that’s awkward, but you can take care of that ahead of time.
If you practice that, then you’re going to show up and you’re going to be a pro and you’re going to look like you’ve been recording your entire life. And even if you have been recording your entire life, it’s, I think it’s still something that’s worth doing every once in a while. If you’re recording your demos yourself or something like that, that’s a good time to just get used to that whole sensation.
So. All of this just takes, it takes it’s more than just running through the songs. If you were rehearsing for a live show, that’s kind of the point it’s breaking down the entire process and making sure that you can nail the performance when it really counts, because it’s going to be there forever when the recording’s done.
So always keep that in mind that anything you do, it’s going to be there forever afterwards. So make sure that you’re really, You’re really getting it under your fingers or, or whatever it is, so that you can, you can perform your best.
JAKE: [00:24:51] you’re going to save yourself and your engineer. A lot of headaches and a lot of frustration and a lot of passive aggressiveness. If you just do the preproduction
KOBY: [00:25:01] Yeah. And it’s going to be more fun,
JAKE: [00:25:03] it’s going to be way more fun because everyone’s job is going to be so much easier. Everyone will have to try a little less hard, so you can just hang out and it will be vibey rather than everyone’s feeling awkward.
And it’s a headache and it’s getting hot in the room and it’s awkward because he’s getting frustrated and, Oh my gosh, just do the preproduction.
KOBY: [00:25:23] and I mean, on top of that too, and this is, I think maybe. The, the biggest benefit to really doing the pre production thing fully is that when you’re not worrying about having to physically play your part or physically sing your part, then you can get like musical with it. And that’s the real, like good performances are going to happen.
And when you’re not thinking about the technique or the mechanics of making something happen, you’re just thinking about like, Playing your guts out, or like singing your guts out and, and really injecting energy into this whole performance. You can focus on performing. So again, that’s something that I see all the time and it’s the easiest thing to not have to worry about.
You just have to be prepared, do the pre production before your set. Alright. Let’s move on to studio mistake. Number four, and number four is not maintained painting or setting up your instruments prior to entering the recording studio. I don’t know if you’ve had any headache experiences. With this Jake.
I know. I definitely have, I once recorded an entire record with a guitarist who’s guitar had a giant crack in the headstock that had been glued back together. And man, was that a time project? Like the guy was a great player. Yeah. And the music was good, but it was such a pain. I mean, trying to keep that guitar in tune the whole time, it’d be like, I don’t know, play through like eight bars and it’s like, stop.
try to keep that guitar in tune afterwards. Just tuning up between every few bars. And Yeah. And that situation that maybe that was unavoidable because that’s just the instrument that we had to work with in that case. Like it was just a broken guitar, but I’ve also been in a number of other situations in sessions that had similar issues that I think were 100% avoidable.
Have you ever just like recorded a guitarist who’s guitar just needed to be set up.
JAKE: [00:27:35] yeah, all the time. I don’t think. Most of the guitars that I’ve recorded have been set up properly or ever. my favorite thing is when it comes time to record bass and like, they just do not care about, about the bass that bass could have the crusty highest rustiest strings on it. And they’re still gonna pull up and try to plug it in.
Like you’re not gonna notice. It sounds like a thumb.
KOBY: [00:28:00] Right.
JAKE: [00:28:02] but no, I haven’t, I haven’t, I haven’t really, really had any nightmare stories. I mean, people, I mean the, the most nightmare story I can say is like guitarists, trying to tune to each other by ear, instead of using the tuner that I have provided for them.
KOBY: [00:28:18] Yeah. Right. And, and if the guitars aren’t set up properly, that’s just never going to happen. You know, like. Tuning by ear, especially, but even, even tuning with a tuner. If you’re trying to tune two guitars, each one hasn’t been set up properly, you maybe you’ll be able to tune the open strings so that they are in tune with one another.
But as soon as anybody starts playing is going to be all over the place. So before you go to make your record, just make sure that you’re bringing in. An instrument that’s in good working order and that’s set up properly, like bring your guitars to a tech, make sure that the neck is in good condition, that it’s not like twisted or warped or whatever, make sure the frets are all in good shape that the intonation is set so that you’re not going out of tune.
As you’re moving around the neck. There are no. Buzzes or rattles or anything like that. And then, yeah, put on a new pair of string, put on a new set of strings and stock up on some extra strings that you can bring to change out later on in the, session, if you go onto another song or something like that, and your strings are starting to get a little, little crusty and sound kind of dull, put on a new set of strings, like have all that stuff.
Ready to go. and I think you could say the same thing with drums. Like take your drums to attack and make sure everything’s fitting properly. There’s no like hardware that’s gonna rattle. I don’t know. I’ve done that a ton, just like sticking my head around different parts of the drum kit, trying to figure out where the rattles coming from.
That’s like a classic engineer thing to do. I feel like trying to track down some noise, that’s leaking into a mic somewhere. And then just like with guitars, put new drum heads on and stock up on extras that you can bring and change it out. As stuff gets worn down. Like if you’re playing your heart out on this recording, you’re going to go through some drum heads.
So just have some extras there. I think that’s all part of just keeping up. With your instrument and maintaining it. And that’s another thing again, that you’re going to have to budget for. Like those things cost money. And you just have to know that in order to get the best recording and the best experience recording with the least headaches, you’re going to have to do those things beforehand.
So going back to, what was it? Point number two, just include that stuff in the budget. Jake, as a vocalist yourself, like. You you’d have to take care of your voice too. Before the session. Like if you’re spending a bunch of money to go in and record, you’re going to want to make sure that you’ve kept yourself healthy, leading up to the session.
I’ll maybe cool it on the partying for a couple of weeks ahead of time and get some rest. I don’t know, drink some herbal tea.
JAKE: [00:31:00] Herbal tea for sure. Throat coat, for sure. But I will say this and I do not condone nor promote smoking, but if you are a cigarette smoker and you’re not quitting, like a few weeks ahead of the studio, don’t stop on the day of this studio. Because that’s just going to mess your voice all the way up and you’re going to be angry. No, one’s going to want to be around you. You’re it’s just not going to be right.
So if you’re not, if you’re not quitting smoking weeks ahead of the, the studio session or the whatever, you know, don’t even bother. If you’re, if you’re thinking about doing it like a day or two beforehand,
KOBY: [00:31:39] is that something you’ve run into before?
JAKE: [00:31:40] no, that’s something I learned, a long time ago and I forget where or who I learned it from. yeah, me and all my friends used to smoke cigarettes. And I think some, someone somewhere along the way told us, cause that’s what, like our vocalist always used to do. Oh, I’m going to the studio. I’m going to stop smoking for a couple of dues.
KOBY: [00:31:57] yeah. Sounds right in theory, but
JAKE: [00:32:01] yeah.
KOBY: [00:32:02] yeah.
I mean, it’s whatever you really have to do to perform your best. You just have to think ahead and plan for that type of stuff. So if, if it’s, I dunno if it’s sleeping with a humidifier in your room, if that’s going to help you, like, just plan ahead and do that or whatever it is, because really, I don’t think it matters how good you are or how well you play your instrument.
If your instruments out of tune the whole time had to rattling all over the place, or if you’re losing your voice, every five takes because you changed something that you shouldn’t have changed right before the session. You know, like those are things that you can avoid if you plan ahead. So just take that time to make those plans and figure it all out beforehand.
JAKE: [00:32:46] And if, for some reason you find yourself not having the time to make those plans, the day of just get some spicy food and red bull or two,
KOBY: [00:33:01] I don’t know, man, that sounds like you would kill me
JAKE: [00:33:05] Yeah,
do not know what I’m referencing, dude. The one time I came and I had like two hours of sleep and my, my voice was shot we were recording breakup and we got, we got some spicy food and ADA in your office. And I, and I also got a red bull and then we finished recording the song.
That was it.
KOBY: [00:33:24] Now that you mentioned that I do. I do totally remember that. And it worked on that day. I think you were at, you were like burping up Thai food between takes or something.
JAKE: [00:33:33] wasn’t a good time.
KOBY: [00:33:34] Yeah.
All right. So that’s mistake number four, not maintaining your instrument, not taking care of yourself before the session. Studio mistake number five. And this isn’t just a studio mistake, but it’s especially important in recording, mixing and mastering the whole process, I think. And that is a lack of communication during the process.
I mean, communication is important in all aspects of life, I think, but my position on it from a studio standpoint is that in these sessions, Candor is essential. So as an artist studio, if you think something or you feel something about what’s going on, don’t be shy. Say it like voice that concern. If you don’t like the direction something’s headed in, say it right away.
If you think something might need to be changed. But you’re not really sure. Maybe you’re thinking, Oh, maybe it’ll fix itself over the course of the rest of it. No, say it right away. And even if I would say if like an idea pops into your head, but it might be a stupid idea or maybe it could be cool. Maybe it won’t work.
I don’t know. You should say it voice that opinion. That’s kind of the idea of candor. So. I, this idea kind of came to me through a biography that I read of ed Catmull, who was the founder and the CEO of Pixar, which is a company that I’m a huge fan of. I think it’s a, an amazing company, how they’ve kind of been able to just crank out, hit after hit, after, hit with really no duds for kind of like the whole.
History of the company. So I was reading this book to kind of try and figure out, like, what are they doing? And, and this is one of the things that the CEO ed Catmull talked about, this idea of candor. So Catmull and the other creators leaders at Pixar kind of stuff, set up a system where everybody in the company knew that their opinion mattered.
And they had a way to voice that opinion. So one of the, the ways was through daily viewings of the films that were in progress, where anybody who worked at all at Pixar could voice an opinion, whether you were super sick, we’re low man on the totem pole or your, the producer, or you’re working on another film.
They could come in view the daily real from the movie and say, okay, They could stand up and they could say, I don’t know, a whatever movie is Woody kind of comes across as a jerk in this scene and that would be taken into consideration by the director. So I think that’s an important thing and an important idea to bring to the studio because by contrast in another company, I think if a low person stood up and made a comment like that to a director, That could be a career ending mistake.
You know what I mean? And I’ve seen that kind of thing. Play out in studios too, where like somebody will voice an opinion and it’ll be like, shut down immediately. Like your opinion is, is not wanted. And I don’t know, a lot of the times that’s probably like an assistant or something who might be like jumping in at a weird time.
Yeah. Kind of breaking the flow. But I think for you as an artist in the studio, You are the boss really? Like, you should feel free to voice those opinions more than anybody else. don’t know. I don’t know about you, Jake. Like, do you feel like people are ever timid about that kind of thing? Like they’ll hold back something until later on in the process,
JAKE: [00:37:18] Yeah, I’ve got, I’ve got a really quick horror story, dude.
Um, okay, so basically, yes. happens all the time. And one time when it happened, I was working with a band and they told me they wanted it mixed similar to this one, very big rock band. I was like, cool. I’m going to listen to a bunch of that rock bands, music kind of figure out what they go for or whatever on that, on this record.
and then, so they, they come and, um, I’m mixing the drums with one of the members for like two hours beforehand. And then the drummer and the vocalist come, they come downstairs and they’re like, what are you guys doing? I was like, Oh, I’m just mixing up the drums. Like, we’re about to get this finished up.
And this is after already mixing the record one time and he sits down and he goes, he basically says he doesn’t like it. is fine. so if I can sum the whole story up the band told me to mix the record. One way I mixed it. So exactly that way, and then sent it to them.
They didn’t like it. And that happened two or three more times to the point where I said, I’m not working with you guys anymore.
and you know, it’s okay that they’re not happy with it, but what they told me to go to afterward, it’s like, man, like you guys really just like we’re totally off the Mark when you told me the first reference and then the second reference and then the third and it’s like, all right, you guys, you just don’t know what you want.
KOBY: [00:38:44] Yeah. And is it something, did you record them too? Is it something that you could have, like if they just voiced the opinion, right. From the beginning as things were happening, like all of that could have been avoided. You wouldn’t have had to go through three different revisions. You know what I
JAKE: [00:38:57] right, right, right. From a mixing standpoint, if they had had a clear, concise, maybe point number one, vision or end goal. And said something in the beginning and we had a direction that we were going towards rather than just shooting in the dark and then at the end, okay. Let’s sweep it all up together and like make something cool.
Make it like sound cool and cohesive now,
KOBY: [00:39:18] it’s kind of weird because like I’ve had a lot of experiences like that too, that end up being headaches. And I think a lot of artists and bands feel, I don’t know if it’s, they’re, they’re nervous. Speaking up when they’re first hearing something like in that situation, like if you’re trying to mix something to be similar to something else, if somebody is hearing something that’s not going in the right direction, like what holds people back from saying something at that
point, when they
JAKE: [00:39:48] here’s the other thing. And this is why I don’t do attended Mixing sessions. a lot of times people don’t understand, like if you’re paying someone to do something for you, Most of the time, like, you don’t know how to do it. If I’m paying someone to come fix my plumbing, I don’t know how to fix my plumbing.
You know what I mean? So if you’re paying me to mix your record, you, you probably don’t necessarily know how to mix a record. So when you’re sitting here in the chair next to me and I’m, I just pulled up the first cue on the kick drum and I make a couple tweaks here and there, and you already have comments and we’re not even like on the path to, we’re not even on the yellow brick road yet.
Like the tornado is just getting started.
KOBY: [00:40:27] well that’s, I mean, that’s a good point. Maybe. So maybe this example of candor and speaking up works better in the actual recording and production phase rather than later on in the process, like mixing, because you’re absolutely right. Like if somebody is sitting there and you’re just making your first mix move and they’re already commenting on something like that, maybe candor is not the right way.
You’re not never going to get anything done. But I think during the recording process, that’s when this is really important, because like, For example, say, you’re, you have an artist and you’re producing, this record or you’re engineering, the record and the artist starts off with the thought that like, this person is a professional. They know what they’re doing. I hear something that I don’t know if I really like, but I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end. So they don’t say anything. Then later down the line days later, or a week later or worst case scenario at the very end of the project, when you get to the mixing phase, say they’re going to all of a sudden go, ah, I wish we had changed it up and done such and such in such in such way.
Can we fix that? And then the whole team now has to backtrack figured out and maybe retract something like situations like that consent days worth of work to the trashcan. And ultimately that just costs a lot of money for everybody involved. So I think moral of the story here is that communication.
Is key, making sure that you’re clearly communicating what you want, whether that’s beforehand or during the process, and then communicating clearly any issues that you hear as they kind of come up and especially in the recording process. So I don’t know, I don’t know how you manage situations like that.
Jaker how you try and go about it. I’m always trying to like anticipate the issues and ask the right questions to get the information that I need. But I mean, it’s hard. Like I also don’t want to be like, what do you think of that? What do you think of that? How are you feeling? Are you, are you sure this is like what you want to do?
Like, I don’t want to be the annoying person. Who’s just like checking in every five seconds, but we also need to have that communication the whole time. Like how do you go about managing that? Or is it just sort of natural?
JAKE: [00:42:42] I like to make people like comfortably uncomfortable. That’s how I get the answers. That’s how I, and because I know it’s a psychology game. As well, you know, as most as it’s, as it’s music, it’s also psychology. So if I have a group of people in here and we’re talking, you know, if, if someone has something to say about something and I turn around and I’m asking questions and I look like to see what everyone’s face is looking like.
And then if like, I think I see something in someone like they have a smile or they’re looking down or like, They’re looking at someone else like, Oh, we were just talking about this. Like, are we going to say something like, I’ll press them a little bit and like call them out in front of everybody in a way that like, makes them feel silly for not saying something about it.
You know what I mean? Like, yeah. It’s not a big deal. Like, you know what I mean? Like friends not, not friendly, but like they’re, you have no reason to
feel any other way than open to communicating with me. so that’s, that’s how I get my answers.
KOBY: [00:43:39] Yeah. And I mean, you’re good at that kind of stuff like that works with your personality. Well, you can get away with like joking around with people and, and you have a good way about you with that. I don’t know. I find a lot of that interaction difficult for myself sometimes. So I don’t know, especially for me, I prefer if people are just like straight up with me, hear something,
JAKE: [00:44:01] it’s so awkward, but it doesn’t have to be.
KOBY: [00:44:03] yeah. It’s figuring out how you need to communicate for the given situation with the given people. Like it’s a, it’s a social skill at the end of the day. but it’s something to think about, make it, make sure that you’re communicating throughout the whole process.
That’s the take home point for all of that. Alright. So there you have it. Five studio mistakes that every artist makes at some point. And hopefully a couple of steps that you can take to avoid them when you’re going to the studio itself. Jake, do you want to just take a quick second and kind of run us through quickly?
All of them summarize really
quick so we can kind of wrap it up.
JAKE: [00:44:39] Yes. Number one first mistake you have no end goal or plan, no vision. So you’re going into the studio blind. You don’t know. What the plan for the project is afterward. You don’t have any concept for cover art, no lyrics, any notes, starting points, or ending points. No point a to point B. How are we getting there?
Number two, you have no budget. You didn’t allocate any money toward anything towards your recording. You’re producing, you’re mixing mastering marketing promotion. Mistake. Number three is lack of pre production. Now pre production is getting your ducks in a row prior to going to the studio who is playing, what do we have the demos? Did we practice to a click track?
Did we make sure our drummer practice to the click track? Did we make sure our drummer practiced to the click track? does the guitarist who didn’t write the parts, know how to play the parts that he insists on playing?
KOBY: [00:45:42] Ooh,
JAKE: [00:45:44] he’s a guitarist, you know, that’s that. Number four, mistake.
Number four, not maintaining or setting up. Your instruments. So get your guitars set up and intonated change those strings. Change the drum heads. Bring them to your techs. Find a good guy that does it. Good guy or girl. Good. Just a good tech doesn’t matter. Find a good tech out there. Ask one of your buddies.
That’s in the cool band. Ask them, they know the guy that does it. And take care of your voice singers. Take care of voice. Don’t be going out yelling the night before partying, you know, drink tea, bring throat coat with you. Be mindful of how you’re singing in the studio. Not to, I don’t know what the word I’m looking for is, but like tire out your voice too quickly, or wear it out or sing in a way that wears on it.
get the. Easiest parts out of the way first. So you’re not straining your voice in the beginning. That’s what I’ll say. tip that I put into use here at my desk daily. and last, but most certainly not least mistake number five, lack of communication during the process.
Tell your engineer, what’s up. Tell your producer, what’s up, your mixing engineer, your mastering engineer, your marketing guy. You’re a dude. That’s doing your graphics, your rollout, whatever. Yeah. Got to communicate with everybody. So everybody’s on the same page. And so you can have a successful and cohesive product when everything is said and done.
And if you don’t, everything’s gonna fall apart and it’s not going to be fun for anybody. And then everybody’s going to be annoyed and possibly not want to work with you anymore.
KOBY: [00:47:23] Alright. So if you can put a plan in place to avoid these five mistakes, you’re going to have a great time in the studio and making records is fun. So you want to have the process be as smooth and efficient as possible. It’s going to open up the door for more creativity and ultimately that gives you a better product.
And it helps you get that product out to more people. If you’re, if you’re doing all this planning properly. So if this episode just saved you a few weeks of headaches in the studio, make sure you go subscribe to self sign artists on your preferred listening platform, and then head over to Apple podcasts and drop a five star rating with a written review.
If you’ve been holding out and you haven’t done that already, we thank you in advance for that. And then. Tell us your studio, horror stories on the cell sign artist, community group page on Facebook. That’s self dash signed community. We’re audio guys. We’re studio people. We love hearing studio horror stories, and why you won’t be hearing any crazy stories from me there because all my clients are angels and unicorns.
Yeah, but tell us all about your experiences and help other people learn how to be studio pros. That’s all we’ve got for you this week. We’ll catch you on the next episode of self signed artists. Yeah.