Do you want to know why your studio time is such a waste of time? Well, let’s start with these 10 reasons. Take these with a grin, a grain of salt and a nudge towards efficiency in getting the most out of your art. Just know that these are not only my pet peeves but I’ve conversed about all of these things with many many producers and engineers. Thus, these things stand out as the primary reasons why Studio Time Is A Waste Of Time.
So in the words of KRS-ONE, “Let us begin…”
10. The Entourage
This is such a huge problem. If you come to work, you don’t bring your entire crew. Sure you should have fun at work, but more importantly you should be focused on the work. When you bring every Tom, Dick and Harry to the studio with you, there will always be huge distractions. All of these people have no purpose in the studio. Purpose should dictate who belongs in the lab with you. 5 “hangers-on” with blunts, foul attitudes and delusions of celebrity status hanging onto your coat tail in the lab is just useless. Simple problem, simple solution… If cats didn’t come to work, they should come at all. Oh and let us not forget, they can’t come to put in work if you haven’t cleared it with the other parties (producer, engineer, studio owner etc.) first either.
09. Drinking and Smoking
Don’t drink and smoke if you come to the studio to work. You should leave all extracurricular activities outside of the lab. I know some people need a little drink and a little smoke to get in the zone. But from my perspective as the sober cat in the room, artists are usually not as productive as they could be otherwise. Now on that note, I will say that I dig high Eminem better than sober Eminem and I’m certain some cats will forever be at their illest when tilted.
I’m just saying, be conscious of the environment you are in. This is the age of the basement (attic, bedroom, den, family room, living room etc.) producer. You should be more respectful of someone’s time and space.
When I’ve invite people to collaborate my number one rule is no drinking no smoking. Don’t even come in here smelling like smoke and don’t come in here acting like you had a drink. Respect my space, my time and in many cases, respect the homie’s family (cause you know they are just in the next room or so). I am a proponent of a “no-buzz” recording zone.
This should go without saying, especially if you’re paying for studio time. If, for instance, someone has donated their time to allow you into his/her creative space you should be prepared to work. Maybe you should consider having your lyrics already to go on your smartphone. Come on, son! Use those smartphones for more than fancy texting and Facebook devices. These are pocket computers with calendars, note pads, dictionaries and a gang of productivity suites available to make you the “preparedness wizard” that you should be. Don’t stumble in to my space wasting my time. Be ready to go!
Nothing gets me more than hearing someone say they have a 16 bar verse written but when they get to the studio they only have eight bars and they spend several hours fumbling around trying to come up with the next 8. Perhaps a little worse is the person that says I’ll freestyle the verse but when they get there it takes them hours to output a measly the 6 to 8 bars. Then they rumble through more half-baked antidotes and expect you to record this massive puzzle of rhyme bits and put it all together with your magical cut and paste wand when they leave. This is simply not acceptable! The resolution? Come prepared or don’t come at all.
As for beat makers, I’m sure the routine varies. Some cats make beats and bring them in and others make the beats with the artist in the lab for a more organic and tailored experience. But if you come there with the track already chosen, and everybody supposedly knows what they’re doing, then you damn well better be prepared to track or record tracks or whatever it is that you need to do. No one should ever have to hear that you forgot this cable or that you forgot some disc or drive with some sample etc. etc. You should come ready to work too. Be prepared.
07. Stay in your lane
So, this is the problem that I think people have really bad. Unfortunately, most don’t realize it. When I say stay in your lane I’m speaking of gifted artist and producers. Some of these folks think that their gift entitles them to be the expert in all aspects of recording. If you have an engineer or you have someone who is proficient in operating the equipment allow them to do their job. Believe me, it will be to your benefit. You don’t want to allow them the space to compromise your art but you do want to recognize that they are the expert on that side of the mix board. For instance, if you have a producer, and you respect that person’s gift, just listen a bit. Simple as that. The producer is there to make sure that your best performance gets captured. At least consider giving it a try their way and speak up if you need to (that’s called collaboration) but don’t try to be the expert in everything all the time. Great artist typically know this to some degree. We never stop growing… so find your lane and stay in it until it’s necessary to merge into another.
There aren’t many things that kill time in the studio more than a bad case of nerves. You have to learn to relax. Get out of your mind.
When you come to the studio bear in mind that you are there to give your best performance but your best performance is easier to achieve if you’re confident and relaxed. I know there is a such thing as “microphone fright.” It happens sometimes no matter how dope you are. Nerves happen in front of that microphone and especially when the homie on the board says we’re recording. If I recall correctly, Premier says he would always record Guru during the practice runs because those were the best takes. You have to learn to relax. Breathe and take your time. If you are prepared, you should do just fine. Ask yourself, why waste 50 takes for what you can do in a fraction of the time? Maybe this just goes back to being prepared?!
05. The Schedule
You know what I think is the best thing about technology nowadays? It’s that everyone could potentially have a studio. As a matter-of-fact, if you own a computer you can potentially own a studio. Some say that working from home may yield less productivity. True for some, mainly due to “the comfort zone” factor. Well you have to be able to separate the work from the fun sometimes. It’s tough to do when you’re recording at the homey’s house or even recording at your own house.
At the homey’s crib there may be some temptation to go and play video games and act as if we getting work done. You have to treat the lab or the homie’s house like it’s a studio where you’ve paid for a block of time. What I tend to do when I need to record is set a schedule. Say for instance, 8 AM until noon every Saturday the fam already knows that I have to be focused and ready to work in the lab. Do what ever is best to separate business from pleasure so that you can accomplish the goals that you’ve set for yourself in the studio. If that goal is to have your vocal recorded, set a goal to get the vocals recorded on a set day at a set time where distractions have been cleared as much as possible beforehand.
04. Personal differences
Good God… personal differences! There is no time for personal differences in the studio. Sure there will be debates on creativity and the best routes to take in order to achieve some tasks but personal differences have no place in the studio. I once heard that the Beatles recorded one of the most famous album when they were totally at odds with one another. Similarly, one of my favorite albums of all time by ATCQ, Love Movement (silence we can debate that album’s greatest some other time), was recorded in the midst of turmoil. Although I love that project, the artists usually hate those moments in their careers. You dont want regrets like these. Set aside your personal differences. It just makes things go a lot more smooth and at the end of the day who really has time to deal with these issues when we should be creating incredible music. Besides, maybe you shouldn’t be in the lab with cats with whom you have personal differences anyway.
03. Disorganization (cousin to #8)
There’s nothing worse than disorganize creative types (artists, rappers, singers and beat makers) cluttering up the same room. I’m of the philosophy that if you are going to the studio with someone, you should come with an idea of what you are doing. You should leave room for flexibility and creativity of course. But first and foremost you should be organized enough that your time is spent productively in the lab.
As an Emcee, I’d usually have all of my lyrics in the notebook. As technology came into play more, I’d have all of my lyrics on my smartphone or iPad. That makes it easy to keep things moving. Believe me when you are trhe artist and the manager and you where several hats, just having those lyrics in front of you during rehearsal or recording sessions will make a world of difference in time alone.
From a beat makers perspective the last thing you want to do is to not have the beats ready to go. You should at least be organized enough to be able to know which beats you need or if somebody says I’d like that particular beat, you should know where to go to find it and pull it up in the minimal amount of time so the cats can get down to work. And oh please DO NOT make the artist sit through a long drawn out session of tracking. This should be done long before they arrive whenever possible. Of course, some exceptions may exist.
Check your ego at the door. Better yet, check your ego long before you get near the studio. Ego is like a cancer. Certainly, as artists we need to have a certain amount of ego but there is a time and place for everything. Misplaced bravado and egotistic tyraids are definitely something you want to keep in check with your collaborators and cats in your camp. These are not the people with whom you need to do to celebrity superstar stuff. Ego in the form of your “larger than life” persona should come across on the mic or in your artistry but it shouldn’t be a hindrance to forward movement and/or productivity.
What place could a groupie possibly have in a productive environment? (hol’up – hol’up – hol’up- dont answer that!) …That’s all personal, the recording session is about business. Leave those personal things outside of the creative space. It’s all just a matter of removing the distractions. Everything has its place the creative space is not the place for the groupie.
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