Studio and Recording Q&A with Scott Cooke of Mountain View Studios
MB: Do you have a studio check list for artists?
SC: Here are a few things that you will need for sure:
Strings, picks, new drum skins, lyric sheets and well cared for instruments. Consider renting or borrowing instruments if you are lacking in that department. Most importantly though, a good positive attitude!!
MB: What does an artist need to prepare on their own before stepping into the studio?
SC: 1. Take practice seriously. The studio is a much different animal than live. Many live players put on a great show but when it comes to the studio your technique needs to be refined.
Practice with a click, this is so important today, everything gets edited down, loops added etc. If you can’t play consistent to a click you’re in trouble! Guitar players, practice playing in conrtol, don’t hammer on the strings and pull everything out of tune. Drummers, smashing the kit is not the best idea, it’s all about balancing the instrument. For example when you are smashing on that high hat, it’s going to cause a lot of leakage in the snare mic, engineers hate that sort of stuff. Singers warm up your voice and take care of it. Screaming is not a warm up.
2. Rehearse. Rent a space a rehearse your songs until you are blue in the face. Remember, rehearsals not practice! Can’t stress that one enough. Practice your individual parts at home, execute and work on song structure at rehearsal.
3. Pre-Production. Have your producer come to the studio and rehearse the songs for him or her. Let the producer work with you to make changes to arrangement and lyrics, that’s what they are there for. Just because you came up with the idea, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. Remember to let go.
4. Mental Prep. You will be put under the microscope and it’s going to hurt sometimes. Be open to people changing lyrics, riffs, arrangement etc and remind yourself it’s all for the greater good. If you’re a great songwriter but have never tracked in a studio, consider bringing in session players. It doesn’t matter how you get there as long as the end product is the best it can be.
MB: Is there any studio etiquette you like artist to show up with?
This one is very important. Respect and listen to others. You’re going to be locking yourselves in a room and judging each other for days, weeks or months on end. You have to remember to respect the people around you. People can feel very insecure about performances, lyrics, their ideas and it’s very important to listen to others and be sensitive to what they are feeling. Telling someone a part “sucks” does nothing to help the process. Try to explain what needs to be improved and know when it’s time to give someones else a crack at it if things aren’t working out.
MB: what has your favourite studio experience been? and why?
I had the pleasure of working with Mutt Lange during the Nickelback Dark Horse album. We were all excited about working with someone we all really respected and wondered what it was going to be like. It turned out he was the nicest most humble person I had ever met. It didn’t matter who you were, he made you feel like you were respected and listened to, I thought that was just amazing considering the level of success he has achieved. He would work on parts for hours on end until they felt right, nothing was ever rushed it was all about getting the best performance out of everybody.
MB: What do you think is the most valuable thing in todays recording industry?
Your creativity. You don’t need a big studio with lots of expensive gear to create a record anymore. Technology has broken that barrier down for us. If you have the drive and talent you can create an amazing record at you kitchen table! I can do pretty much everything I need with a laptop and a set of headphones. It’s an amazing time.
MB: What is your main roll in the studio?
Most of my work is editing everything to be in time and in tune. I work with producer Joey Moi for 95% of my projects and we have a great system going. It’s funny, with all the plug ins and tech of today, the “engineer” role has changed drastically. We work all in the box with plug in amps, eq’s, compressors, etc. So there isn’t a lot of traditional engineering to do anymore. I also engineer, mix and play bass as a hired musican. In my time out of the studio I tour with country artist Dallas Smith as the bass player and back up singer.
MB: Do you feel artists should leave the producing up to the producer? Or is some involvement encouraged?
Normally there are 1 or 2 people in the band that have the vision. These are the people that do most of the communicating with the producer to make sure that vision is achieved. Most producers I have seen welcome involvement as long as it’s constructive. Where you run intro trouble in when the band can’t decide on their vision within the group.
MB: any other additional info you want to include for up and coming artists?
The music industry is tougher than ever today. If you want to make it, you have to be prepared to be the absolute best at what you do. Good isn’t good enough. Listen to others, especially those who have had success and take their advice seriously. Also remember to have fun, that’s why we started in the first place isn’t it?