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Good Vibrations in the Recording Studio

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There is lots of talk about what mics to use on drums, what preamps to use on vocals, which monitors are the best, what DAW you use. You may spend years checking off all the boxes on your instrument and gear dream list. With all of that, there could be some things missing that could make artists run for the door.

How could it be? You have Neve pres, vintage Neumann mics and a nice live room with a Steinway. Isn’t that everyone’s dream? You may have a gear list to drool over, but there are other important things that make a studio. Things you can’t buy… Vibe!

Vibes and Stuff

What is vibe though? Dim lighting? Incense? Persian rugs? Those things are great, but mostly it’s your demeanor. When I’m on a session, I want to feel like being there. I want to feel appreciated and have your focus.

Musicians and artists are very sensitive to the vibe. In the end, it’s your attitude and relationship that makes people come back. The gear only gets them to walk in the door.

Gazing at the Glare

There is nothing that deflates my enthusiasm for a session more than looking through the glass during a take and seeing an engineer on their iPhone. There are a couple of reasons for this:

I know at this point you’re not paying attention. No matter how much you think you are, you aren’t. And the possibility of you missing something is increased. Multi-tasking is over-rated. You’re not just paid to be there, you’re paid to be present at all times unless it’s a break.

Seeing the glow of an iDevice tells me you’re disinterested. If I’m trying to get to a vulnerable place, it’s gonna shake me out of it. Performances are fragile. I don’t care how expensive the signal chain is, if I can’t get a great performance it’s worthless.

Creating music isn’t and shouldn’t be an assembly line process. One of the reasons we got into this line of work is to avoid that whole trap.

To prevent this, don’t check your email during tracking or playback. It sucks to come into the control room as you hit the space bar and proceeding to book your next client. The studio is and should be a bubble.


Private Eyes

We’re all connected to Facebook. If you’re liking posts and commenting on others posts it stamps the time. So, if we’re tracking at 2 pm and you’re commenting at 2:01 on FB, I know what you’re doing.

Get hip to technology people. Don’t send a text that you’re sick at midnight canceling a session only to post pics of you partying at 3 am. Duh!!


It’s perfectly fine for everyone to take a second and put a quick blast out. “Working with so and so today” (tag everyone). Send it out to the world. It’s good promo for everyone. But, it has its moment and it’s a short one.

You can only be present if you’re…… Present!!


Do you consider yourself a friendly person? Do others consider you to be a friendly person? Frowns and bitterness lead to a sour session. We all have personal issues. It’s important not to let them bleed into a session. We’ve all made that mistake and I bet a lot of us lost some work from it. Mistakes happen. Learn and move on. Don’t repeat.

Next time when someone walks through the door, remember they’re looking to have fun. Most people don’t get to record every day. This is most likely a memorable day. Make it a good one. Smile, have fun. Be social. Someone who says nothing can be perceived as a downer, even if you’re not. It’s important to be interactive. You’re all going to be together for several hours, make it like camp. Minus the bug spray, fire or anything weird you may do with a flute.

Life Lines

When I’m producing a session these days I find it important to make everyone leave their phones in another room. No texting or Facebook between takes. Ever!

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I was on a session once when on the last beat of a song, a musician was checking their phone with one hand as the last note was ringing out.

What could be so important that you had to check it right then? Nobody was ill or dying. Those are the only two scenarios I could imagine that being acceptable.

I love technology, but it can kill an experience. So many people don’t live IN the experience anymore. Just long enough to take a quick pic and then spend 10 min posting and commenting on it. We live in fast food moments.

It’s important to have everyone’s full attention when recording. Performances take investment. Not just investment of people’s skill, but focus and emotion.

Greetings From Space

When the artists arrive, immediately come out and shake everyone’s hand. Learn everyone’s name. Do not call them “you.” It’s disrespectful.

Don’t be a ghost. I’ve been on sessions where I’ve arrived and not met the engineer or producer for like 20 min. Fail! That doesn’t make one feel valued. An assistant or intern is not a diplomat. It’s nice to meet everyone upon arrival.

Trash Tongue Talker

This should seem obvious, but refrain from negativity at all times!

Avoid trash talking other producers, engineers, musicians, studios, bands, etc. It’s a land mine. You never know how you may offend someone. I’m definitely a fan of sarcastic inappropriate humor, but it’s never directed at someone else’s weakness.

Shelter From the Storm

There are enough distractions and negativity in everyday life. Take advantage of the few moments you may get to seek shelter. The mood is contagious. If you have cooties, make sure they’re smiling before you pass them off.

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at