4. Do not slack off attention
When you’re the music producer, it’s up to you to have the bird’s eye view on the recording session. The singer’s job is to sing and emote and become one with the music. Now a great singer certainly knows what’s going on and how it’s all turning out, but even so, it’s not her job to worry about it and the fact that she’s wrapped up in the exhilaration of singing means she does need someone to have her back.
What you do not want to happen is to find out a week later that there is some little problem. Maybe you forgot to record something, but more likely it’s something small, something easy to miss. A flat note, a hiccup on the recording, the volume went too loud and now there’s that distortion and most importantly, the performance which seemed fine at the time, didn’t actually nail what it was supposed to.
If the session is an hour, if it’s 4 hours, if it’s 8 hours, your job is to NEVER LOSE FOCUS. It’s your job to catch all this stuff.
The producer’s best friend is the engineer. They not only run the boards but they catch most of the little technical details, like if the volume was too hot, or there’s a hum coming from somewhere or any number of tiny little details. I cannot recommend an extra set of ears highly enough. Even those of us who do most of our recording in our home studios have a few trusty people we send stuff to whose ears we know are good at catching stuff we might have missed.
I had the Cthulhu:The Funksical album and needed vocals for the one song that Cthulhu sings. The Cthulhu Funksical is a 20 minute song cycle that tells a humorous story based on some famous H.P. Lovecraft monsters. Lovecraft is the greatest horror writer of all time, but i wanted this to be fun and humorous, so the actual song the dread Cthulhu sings is a sweet heartsick soul ballad. Just… trust me, it works.
A vocalist who sang for the band my friend and fellow producer Minja Boskivic (from the 17 post) runs is Zoe Kidah and she had the PERFECT voice for such a song. One thing i incorporated into the song however, was a melody that required a great deal of improvised vocals riffs in between phrases. While Zoe had the voice to do it, she had never been asked to do such a thing before and certainly not to the degree the song required.
We gave it a try and it became clear that she most certainly could do it, she just needed time to go through the number measure by measure, phrase by phrase and build an entire pallette of vocal riffs to sng while recording.
It was an extremely long session. That’s how it goes sometimes. Long is not a problem when it’s clear that it’s all working.
During this, it was VITAL my attention never waver. She needed me to weigh in on whether a riff was cutting it or not, whether we were building the right riffs, whether she was going in the right direction, losing focus, nailing it… not to mention that in what she was expecting and counting on me to keep eyes on the overall song. It was my job to keep perspective and listen to each tiny thing without forgetting the emotion of the overall song arch.
The singer needs to fly. You need to attend the details.
Sessions are fun because they’re very intense and focused, at least they should be. Well… that’s how i like them. I come to work. This sounds all type A uptight, but the thing is, i really really really LOVE to work. I’d rather be in the midst of a session than relaxing, having coffee and shooting the shit while the microphone and mixing board sit there untouched. But i digress, the point is, keeping focus is what keeps you from having bad takes and sub standard results. Trust me, i STILL don’t catch things or think about a better solution too late. The point is to stack the deck as much possible and that requires unbroken focus.
All right, enough rambling. Here is the Cthulhu song. While as i said the song cycle is humorous and the idea of the song is supposed to be funny, it only really works if the song itself is in fact serious and emotionally impacting.
Performed by the stunning Zoe Kidah, who sings with Zemlja Gruva and hit this song out of the park:
To listen to the full Cthulhu song cycle click here.