Studio Days

I have spent the majority of my life in an art studio of one description or another. Lately I’ve entered the music studio stage of my life, and it welcomed me with open arms, like I was coming home. One of my mentors calls it the peace that surpasses understanding, and I must say, doors have been opening for me that I never expected.

Recently I was asked by a buddy, Jim, to sing backups on his album. I was so honored. We had met over a year ago at one of my regular events and regularly admire each other’s work, so of course I agreed.

I was a little nervous before going, having only recorded in my own home recording booth thus far – but it was a very positive experience. The sound engineer Brian was very welcoming and down to earth. I loved watching the workflow in general; as I observed, I had good instincts and practices in my own recording and editing, and even my choice in equipment.

When it was my turn in the booth, I took to the environment like a duck to water. I was decisive as to whether it was a good or bad take or if a certain phrase needed tweaking. As at home, I knew listening through the headphones gave me much more detailed sound so I could really hear and give feedback to both songwriter Jim and engineer Brian, to cooperatively refine the tracks. I easily articulated what needed doing; asked what they thought; we found solutions together.

As a natural harmonizer, I hear harmonies all over the instrumentation in a piece. I know I have choices and I know I don’t have to stick to one part; I can go between parts or sing in unison or drop out in different areas of a song to leave the spotlight on the main vocals, in order to interpret the intensity of the lyrics in each part or to help the song to build and to resolve. As I listened to Jim’s songs, I honed in on the story being told and made some suggestions, as he humbly gave me a wide latitude of artistic license. He heard many and we discussed options, and he liked my instincts. On one song, I asked, “Can you give me a separate track in addition to the one I just did, so I can experiment? Do we have time?” I got their respective blessings and did what I was thinking of, not even being able to hear my other harmony track. When Brian played back all the tracks together, we learned that I harmonized in perfect time and relationship to my other harmony. They were both reacting, “How did you do that?” and I said, “I can still hear the other one in my head; I just thought this area might like a little more roundness for emphasis.” They thought it was genius concept and execution (thanks to already having familiarized myself with the songs ahead of time, I even laid down a couple tracks in a single take with almost no editing needed) – and even though it was unplanned, it was a keeper for the song, and we did the same sort of thing on the next song because he was so happy with the results. Jim’s praises and trusting my instincts were very validating!

After the last session, I stuck around briefly, talking recording process and equipment with Brian, who was very gracious and generous with his knowledge and his feedback with where I had already gotten on my own. He was so encouraging and it inspired me, because he has a degree in this field and many years of experience. I couldn’t wait to get back to recording my own work at home, armed with bolstered confidence.

I have to say that in the information age, almost any knowledge you want is available if you are willing to search for it, and it’s helped me to do everything from learning web design to repairing several engine issues in my truck to learning languages, and now…sound engineering and recording, as well as music business. But machines and books can never replace that human experience and exchange of ideas; the open, spontaneous, sharing communications of humans are key for all growth and creation. One doesn’t create in a bubble; we have to get it out there! And I will, but I’m taking the necessary time and effort in order to do it right.

I have the blessing of many wonderful musicians in my life, a driving passion and hungry mind that God gave me, and more than one family and growing number of fans who cheer me on. May you each find your niche and support system as well.

 – Eilee




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