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10 Recording Studio Etiquette Tips

Mary Carewe explains how you can look like a professional in the studio and avoid making rookie errors.

Mary’s extensive work as a session singer includes movies such as, Pirates of the Caribbean and Beauty and the Beast and backing vocals for artists such as Joe Cocker and Westlife.

Here are her top 10 etiquette tips for when you are in the recording studio:

1. Wait your turn

Never enter the studio unless you know the previous recording has finished! Bursting in, apologising for being late, just when someone else is doing THE take of their life will not go down well!

2. Keep it down

Keep chat to an absolute minimum when in the control room – someone in there is likely to be using their ears maybe editing or auditioning takes and they don’t need to be distracted by you!

3.  Don’t noodle

Don’t enjoy the sound of your own voice too much when you are testing the mic or between takes. Your fabulous and funny vocal impressions will wear thin very quickly!

4. Communicate clearly

Do be very clear about what you want to hear in your headphones – the balance is the most important thing for you and you may need more keyboards, less guitars, more or less click, more of you and less reverb etc. The engineer will be delighted to try and give you what you want especially when the result is a better vocal! Of course, when you are part of a group of singers you will have to compromise.

5. Fix your headphones

You may find it easier to tune singing with one side of the headphones half off an ear or even completely off. If so be aware that there may be ‘spill’ of the backing track into the mic so press the headphone to the side of your head to minimise this.

6. Get in the zone

Don’t be afraid to sing over the intro or the few bars before you come in – get into the vibe of the song, make sure that the first note is in your head and in your voice. That way you will be in the zone for the first note of the song – possibly the most important note of all.

7. Be consistent

Similarly when you have to make ‘drop ins’ sing along with the previous take so that you are emotionally and vocally in the same place as the line before. This will help to make the recording sound like it was done in one take – not hundreds!

8. Warm up

Vocal preparation is basically the same whenever you sing. No one should do a gig or enter the studio without warming up first. Recording mics are generally incredibly sensitive and show up everything so you can’t get away with coming into a studio cold.

9. Be precise

Be precise when double tracking or recording BVs. As you multi track, any discrepancies to do with the starts of phrases or the endings, ‘s’s and ‘t’s, tuning, rhythm etc. all start to get more exaggerated. If you are precise and do the same thing accurately again and again then the result will be polished – and the engineer doesn’t have to spend hours cleaning up tracks.

10. Have a professional attitude

Remember the personality traits that producers and engineers love: Consistency, concentration, ability to be flexible, positivity, sense of humour, objectivity.

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Tenui Tenui - The Fall

This looks and sounds good technically. You have a good tone in your voice but perhaps it was sometimes a bit unexciting? If I was to compare this with Oasis’s Wonderwall for instance the vocal on that song has such a lot of withheld rhythmic energy and that’s what drives it along and even if the melody doesn’t do an enormous amount but you are engaged with Liam Gallagher’s voice right away. This is an art in the recording studio – it isn’t only about being ‘perfect’ – it’s about energy and grabbing the listener’s ear. Maybe next time think about using more variation in your vocal phrasing and tone to help connect with the listener.

Mary has long been established as one of the UK’s most in demand and versatile vocalists. Her experience includes work as an international concert soloist as well as a highly regarded session singer. Her vocals feature on the classical chart-topping ADIEMUS recordings and she is sampled on the Aphex Twin track XTAL. She has sung BVs for artists including Steps, Westlife, Pulp and Joe Cocker, on numerous Hollywood film soundtracks such as Dr Strange, The Hobbit, Pirates Of The Caribbean and Disney’s Beauty And The Beast, TV shows like Pop Idol, Stars In Their Eyes, French And Saunders and Benidorm, and many TV and radio jingles most notably ‘Autoglass’ for which she apologises! As a soloist, Mary has recorded film music, theatre songs and classic pop repertoire for releases by EMI, Universal and Readers Digest and she performs around the world with orchestras in iconic venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. www.marycarewe.com