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How Many of the ‘Same’ Albums Have You Recorded?

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As a follow up to my last article, “Listen, And They Will Come”, I’d like to discuss a few ideas that some engineers and producers gloss over. Again, these ideas can fall under the general category of ‘listening’.

What’s the first thing you do when you get a new artist in the studio?

Of course, you want to be prepared and ready to go when they arrive.  But beyond that, do you listen to their tracks first?  Do you talk to them in the lobby and get to know them personally first? Do you start laying down scratch tracks right away? Fill in the blank with your own idea, then read on…

To me, the absolute most important way to make a great recording and have a happy client is to find out what motivates the artist, why they write music, and what they want to communicate.  If you don’t know these details, it will be impossible for you to realize what the artist has in mind. It will be impossible for you to guide them through the creative process of recording.  Many engineers and ‘producers’ always work a certain way. They always get a certain sound.  And you know what, every artist or band that comes to them ends up sounding the same.  Before you know it, the local scene has 10 bands that all put out the ‘same’ album. Now where do the fans go? To a new, inspired, talented act.  And it’s not because the band or artist isn’t good, it’s because they were pulled in a different direction than where they really groove and where they really feel the music. I believe fans are aware of this subconsciously.


Our job in the studio is not to ‘push’ all of our artists into the sound that we personally like. No! Our job is to listen! Listen and help the artist make music in their own way, in the way that they can feel best. And you can’t do that until you put yourself in the artist’s shoes and learn what drives them forward.

So next time you’re setting up for a session and you pull out your favorite microphone for guitar, your favorite microphone for vocals, and so on… think about your artist first. Do they really need or want that sound?  Does their music require something different? Do you need to try something you’ve never tried before?  No one can tell you these answers except you and your ears. Do yourself and your artists a favor and listen first, before you make the same album you’ve made for the last 10 years.  I know plenty of engineers who fall in that category.  Let’s not add another…

Charles Szczepanek

Internationally awarded and recognized, Charles Szczepanek has enjoyed performing for diverse audiences as well as engineering and producing for many highly-respected artists across multiple genres. Hailed a ‘Whiz’ and ‘Genius’ by some, Charles has collaborated with Grammy Award winners. Additional personal achievements include: multiple international prizes for piano performance, recognition by Steinway for ‘Outstanding Piano Performance’, as well as awards in music composition, ensemble direction, and vocal performance.