Concerned Low End Provider

May 22, 2008

Dear Dude,

I play bass in a metal band, and we’re preparing to go record a demo in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been playing in bands and recording for about half my life, so I’m only mildly nervous about the whole situation. Our guitar players are both very talented and consistent players, but they both seem freaked out about going in and recording our first demo.

I suppose my question is this; is it normal for dudes to get so wound up over a recording? If it is a common occurrence, is there anything I can say or do to help? I want these guys to know that they’re going to be fine and that their guitar playing is top notch without seeming like I’m patronizing them.

Concerned Low End Provider

Dear Concerned Low End Provider,

Recording can be the biggest head fuck of all time. Many times when I was younger I would find myself freaking out in the studio over the most mundane little details. I remember one time being so afraid that one of the producer’s cats was going to hit the knobs on my guitar head that I would meticulously cover it every night before we went home. Needless to say it’s pretty easy to lose your cool in the studio. I have seen some pretty big rock stars lose their shit in the studio and it’s not really as funny as you think it would be.

Is it normal for dudes to get so wound up over a recording? Yes, totally. It’s pretty common for at least one dude to be nervous right from the beginning, and we’re not even talking about the dudes who get wound up once you get there. Be not afraid. Many other dudes have fought this battle. Here are some things you might want to try.

1. Suggest your dudes practice: I know, I know, it’s redundant, but it’s true. I have seen so many professional bands make up shit on the fly in the studio it would make your head spin. I mean do you think Born in the USA was written after the drums were tracked? Ah, No Sir! It’s sad, stupid, and fucking lame when you think that there are some bands out there who get thousands of dollars from record companies and show up with half written songs, while other bands work at taco bell all summer just to get into a studio. Anyway, make sure you have all your songs written. Like I said, you would be surprised at the amount of bands I have worked with who hadn’t fully finished every note and lyric before they started recording.

One suggestion you can make is to try practicing with a metronome. Tell them you heard that playing with a metronome a few hours a day can greatly improve your ability to play in the studio by improving speed, tempo, clarity, and rhythm, amongst other things. Ask if they have ever done that. Then mention that you were thinking about doing the same thing, but only on a few songs that you don’t feel that confident with.

This will show them three things:

a. You are thinking about practicing and the upcoming recording process.

b. You found that a solution for your nerves is practice.

c. They might be able to cure their nerves the same way.

2. Take them by the studio to check it all out: Some dudes who haven’t spent a lot of time in or around recording studios think it has to always be this religiously laborious process. You need to be able to mentally envision the home studio inside the professional one. Maybe you can check out a session for a second (you, of course, have to check with the studio to make sure that’s cool before you just roll by). Really, what you’re trying to show them is that the studio can be a pretty normal place. All those knobs, lights, and chords, can be intimidating at first (I still to this day get intimidated by fancy gear sometimes), but they need to remember they are all just instruments. If you look at it that way it’s just like being in a room with access to an endless assortment of instruments. There’s no way any musician wouldn’t think that’s exciting.

3. Record at home: This might be a little complicated to pull off at first, but there now are ways to record anywhere, at any time. Even if it’s recording on a laptop in Garage Band (that’s free for apple users), it just helps to get your brain in the mode of ‘recording’. I suggest a Digidesign MBOX. Every guitar shredder should have one. It’s the best way to document your ideas and get super comfortable with the recording process. It’s really easy to use and was for me the gateway to start producing bands. If I hadn’t bought that first MBOX I wouldn’t be even able to think about recording anything! It will bring both you’re playing and writing up a level, just being able to analyze and document your playing like that is so valuable, especially for a guitar player.

In the end you can try any of these suggestions, but they all require you to do one thing; communicate. Look, you have had the experience before so you can take the lead and help facilitate a really good first recording experience for your dudes, you just need to open that first line of communication.