Studio or session etiquette could be thought of as all the
things engineers say and do to make the artist, producer, and musicians
comfortable and at ease.
But it's much more than "please and thank you" niceties. It's
a deep "thoughtfulness," because engineers work with people
during the heat of their creative process. As a facilitator, the engineer
becomes part of a process that's both personal and sometimes emotional.
Being both personal and emotional makes each individual's creativity unique
and valuable when brought together in the studio. Seasoned recording engineers
know this and comport themselves accordingly, to the demands made by that
Perceiving the subtle (or not so subtle) signs creative people emit to
get others to react, speak out, offer a suggestion or to shut up is a
slowly learned skill and important layer of your own session persona—part
of working at success.
The Meet And Greet
It sounds obvious, but everyone at a recording session should meet and
get to know each other by their first names. It should be the first thing
anybody does when they walk into a new professional studio situation.
Sometimes this is forgotten in the busy time of setting up and getting
I'm outgoing, so I'll break the ice and introduce myself if nobody else
does. I'll also make a list if there are several band members. Session
starts are tense enough with anxieties over performance expectations,
and little civilities such as knowing everyone's name helps relax the
Besides, remembering everyone's name, even after a month-long break, is
First introductions in the studio tell a lot about people beyond first
impressions. At that time, I've noticed some people wanting to immediately
establish their place in the production team hierarchy to me.
Confident & Motivated
This is the engineer's confidence test: strong willed, successful people
want to be surrounded by and work with the similarly motivated. Interestingly,
you'll get messages by unspoken implication such as: "I'm a diva
so take especially good care of me!" or "I'm the boss and you
work for me."
The "boss" intro happened to me by accident on the first day
of tracking for a new Waylon Jennings album. Meeting the late Waylon Jennings
for the first time was unusual and a little tense. He was three hours
late and "appeared" in the studio first without saying hi to
the producer, record company people or anybody in the control room.
The producer had the band already set up, jamming and working on new tunes
for the record. Waylon sat down in his chair and started playing acoustic
guitar and singing into muted vocal and guitar mics.
Back in the control room, I was totally unaware while talking with the
producer and had my back to the studio glass when someone yelled and
pointed: "Hey there's Waylon!"
I immediately rammed the faders up on his mics and, since Waylon had his
phones on, he could now also hear himself. When he saw he now had everyone's
attention, he glared and yelled at me saying: "You sure did that
at the right time Hoss! Don't you know you're f#$%/>+#; with a legend!"
My reaction was mute: I was embarrassed a little but not humiliated -
after all, he set me up to be the fall guy for his grand entrance! As
it turned out, once I got to know him, Waylon was one of the kindest artists
I've ever worked with.
He just had his own way of meet and greet - probably honed from years
of dealing with unsavory music business people.