The Importance of Creative Anticipation
For audio engineers and producers, the key to building and maintaining a solid business is being able to anticipate the musician’s needs, even if they aren’t able to articulate this information.
As a supporter and facilitator of the creative process, it is your job to keep the artist moving in the right direction.
How can you know what an artist needs in advance? Ask yourself: “If I was the musician being recorded today, what would help me perform best?”
Here are some points of creative anticipation that come to mind:
- Ambiance: Examine your tracking room, iso booths, control room, and lounge. Would you want to do your greatest creative work here? If not, how can you improve the environment? Changes needn’t cost much; sometimes it’s a matter of re-arranging the items in each room to appear more visually pleasant, removing clutter from a room, or hanging some interesting pictures on the wall.
- Knowledge: Try every piece of your gear categorically. Get to the know the ‘flavor’ of each piece, and which gear is appropriate for every instrument, style of voice, and style of music. Know in advance what works. Hone your DAW chops as well — learn all the keyboard shortcuts, configure session templates, and create markers to jump around the session timelines quickly. The goal is to never keep the artist waiting because of technical issues. Do you know your entire setup inside-out?
- Patience: The artist should feel a hundred percent safe to express their concerns to you. Think in advance how you will earn the trust of the artist. This is best accomplished with a positive attitude — consider ways to comment on a performance both positively and honestly. When a record take is less than ideal, think of a way to let the artist know, while keeping them motivated to do the next take well.
- Structure: It may seem that patience and structure are in direct conflict with each other, but not so. Being able to time-manage musicians is crucial to staying on time and within budget. But remember, this must always be done delicately and professionally. Think in advance of specific situations that would require you to intervene, and how you would handle those situations.
In conclusion, anticipating the creative needs of a musician will yield your best results. By practicing potential scenarios in advance, you will be ready to support any artist request in real-time.
Of course, every artist is different, so be ready to adapt when the situation calls for another approach than you conceived of. Be prepared, and at the same time be ready to improvise!
Share your own knowledge — how do you practice creative anticipation before your sessions? Please comment below.
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