We always come back to discussing all these human factors when talking about recording music. "Keep the vibe positive." "Make the client comfortable." "Discuss goals and money before a project starts." "Take breaks when needed." There are a million suggestions that will help keep a recording session, whether in a pro studio or someone's living room, intact and moving forward. We probably all carry a list of our own preferred behavior around in our heads (subconsciously?), for ourselves and those around us. Sometimes we even write them down and discuss them — I've seen endless threads on the Tape Op message board debating such issues. But there's one human interaction during recording that is rarely discussed. I've been in and out of studios for 25 years, and as a visitor, band member, guest player, engineer, producer and studio owner, I have seen many a session derailed by the appearance of a studio visitor or guest. One colleague of mine mentioned that he really never got any work done when visitors were present, so "you should make the visitor time about them, not the work." Maybe these etiquette tips will help solve this problem?

Rules for Recording Session and Studio Visitors

  1. This may seem obvious, but make sure you were invited.
  2. Turn off that cell phone. Really. Now. Completely turn of that iPhone! 
  3. Remove that watch that beeps every hour and leave it in the car.
  4. Practice keeping your mouth shut before coming in the door.
  5. Talk quietly, please! No, really. Now.
  6. Picking the engineer's brain for home recording tips is a bad idea.
  7. Singing along doesn't help anyone.
  8. Playing that guitar that is "just laying there" in the control room sucks even more.
  9. You don't become "instant junior producer" just because you're on the couch.
  10. Please bathe at some point less than 24 hours before arriving. Deodorant always helps.
  11. No one needs you talking about your own music, band or sessions without prompting. 
  12. Children, uh, well:
    • If it's a musician's kid it might be positive for them to see each other. 
    • If the child is unrelated, consider that this could be disruptive.
    • Noisy toddlers don't work out too well... ever. Okay? Sorry.
  13. Want to spend quality time? Find out when meal breaks are and hook up with everyone:
    • But there might not be a meal break.
    • Meal breaks might not line up with your schedule.
    • Remember that "just a minute" means one hour in recording speak. 13d. Seriously consider that you may need to sit and wait somewhere for this to work.
  14. Bringing in food or drink will make you very popular:
    • Homemade baked goods are especially good.
    • Bringing a six-pack of beer might be nice — a bottle of whiskey could be bad.
    • Snacking foods are tops — nuts, chips, fruit, small candies, sodas and such.
  15. Want to be a hero? Show up at load in or load out. 
  16. Be aware of whose seat you've just taken.
  17. Doors that were shut when you found them need to be shut after you use them.
  18. Drugs... just make sure you're not doing something really stupid — for many reasons.
  19. Automatically retreat to the lounge or such if someone is doing vocal takes.
  20. Never ask the engineer, "Do you know what all those knobs do?" They've heard it before.
  21. Eating the engineer or producer's food will make you very unpopular. 
  22. Finish off the coffee? Make a new pot. (Don't run the grinder during a take.)
  23. Do you have a volatile relationship with one of the musicians? Meet them later.
  24. Don't smoke inside the building — even if others are doing so, you didn't pay for this privilege.

    25. Keep liquids away from anything electrical. 

  1. Don't step on those cables you see on the floor. Really. 
  2. Bring a book, magazine, crossword puzzle or something to do. 
  3. Set a time to visit the session and be prompt. 
  4. Never enter the tracking rooms without the engineer's permission. 
  5. Do not speak/sing/yell into any mics. You could damage the mic,
    speakers or ears. 
  6. Do not move a knob or flip a switch on any gear while asking,
    "What's this do?" 
  7. Remember that everyone in the room could be really stressed,
    and be sensitive to this. 

Hopefully these rules might make life easier for every artist, engineer and visitor. Pass them around! 

Please visit www.sonicfinger.com for the Virtual Studio Visitor plug-in

Disclaimer: While some of the above is serious, there is a tongue-in-cheek humor going on. If you cannot figure this out please try harder. This disclaimer releases us from having to print confused emails in the Letters section. Thanks to Mike Caffrey for THE point.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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