This piece is written from the point-of-view of an assistant engineer to discuss what’s needed to make a recording session go smoothly, whether it’s a month long, big-name session or a simple voiceover for a corporate client.
First and foremost is etiquette. One of the most important parts of a session is how you act, especially when it comes to dealing with artists. You can easily throw off the vibe of a whole session with what you say, so remember to keep your thoughts to yourself unless your opinion is invited. This also goes for communicating with the engineer and/or producer; you need to have a grasp on boundaries, and if it’s not your session, then it’s not your call.
With time, you should learn to be one step ahead, especially with outside engineers. Get to know their favourite microphones, what gear they usually use, and what they take in their coffee. These little things go a long way and give a great impression, which might lead you to being hired for another big session.
Also important is staying up-to-date with your DAW performance, regardless of the platform. The more you know, the better, especially when you’re working with the old school engineers who don’t operate their own DAWs on sessions. The faster and more efficient you can be, the better. If you can do something instantly for someone, you’ll become their go-to guy. Quick keys are a lifesaver; learn them and love them.
Next, get a tool bag together. You never know when you’ll have to open up a piece of gear, remove something from the rack, gaffer tape a drum head, solder an XLR cable, etc. This will make you an all-around benefit to any session.
Finally, stay up-to-date on the recording industry in general. It is always good to know what’s going on in the scene around you, such as incoming technology, new gear, new microphone techniques, etc. Being an engineer isn’t just a job or career; it’s a lifestyle, so why wouldn’t you want to immerse yourself in it?
Jeff Crake has been involved with music from an early age. Following high school, he became a club promoter, electronic music producer, and eventually a vocalist for various genres. After going through the Audio Engineering & Production program at the Metalworks Institute, Crake started as an intern at Metalworks Studios, eventually moving up to Assistant Engineer. He has worked on projects for Moneen, Comeback Kid, T-Pain, The Cranberries, and many more.