Well, well, well. Here it is, a month before I leave on tour for 4 weeks, and I’ve got 3 new projects in the chute, ready to start pre-production. I try my best to keep everything in order and on track, but open-ended “yeah, we’ll get there when I get home”s can be the beginning of a slippery slope. As much as I try to be as loose scheduling-wise as possible, I’ve found that adding deadlines (even to simple tasks) can be a lifesaver. That includes setting firm start times as well as finish times. On several levels, this may seem like common sense, but it really can’t be stressed enough that open-ended schedules in the studio are generally a bad idea.
Setting deadlines can come in many different forms. The more obvious being related to when a session gets booked, when a final product is to be delivered, when the coffee is to be made etc. But it can come in smaller, less universal, forms too. How long do you spend mixing the drums? How long do you give the guitarist to get that solo right?
Let’s look a little deeper into some of these.
Delivery of product:
A set delivery date is common, but I get tons of clients who are mainly focused on getting the project done right, and don’t really care how long it takes to do so. This is a wonderful place to be from a creative standpoint, but I’ve done many projects like this that end up sitting on my hard-drive for multiple years! Not that this is a band thing, but the point is they don’t need to take that long. Most people will take as much time as you give them, and gently suggesting a “finish date” can not only keep things fresh for you and them, but it will also keep the sanity of the project intact, and save money.
(Who am I kidding? “sanity” and “recording” don’t really belong in the same article.)
Needs no elaboration.
How long do you spend on the drums:
This is obviously applicable to more than drums, but I’ll use it as a metaphor. It’s important to get the right sound. We can all agree on that, and most engineers will stop at nothing to get there! Blood, sweat, tears, fader-blisters, and more all pay out in the end! Or do they? Well on one level, yes. Those little details that no consumer will really notice add up, and help contribute to things on a level the public will notice. But you need to keep things in perspective. In an effort to keep things fresh, maintain energy, not lose your hearing, and have time for coffee, take a guess at how long the task should take, and force yourself to stick to it. End of the day, you’re your own boss, and you can always fudge the timing to make it work in reality.
Getting that guitar solo right:
This one gets tricky. It’s important to make note of how the people you’re working with perform in the studio. Some people keep getting better with every take, some get it right the first time and keep getting worse every try, and some get a little better, level off, and then crash downhill.
For an example, let’s take the guitarist who’s coming in on day 4 for overdubs. He’s doing the guitar solo for the single, and it’s gotta be great. Many times, applying a slight bit of “We’ve only got 28 minutes to do this part” pressure is a good way to get people up to their best. You’ve gotta be careful with this one because it’s very personal, and some people freak out under this kind of pressure. Understandably so.