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Performing for the microphone (Page 1 of 2)
(c) 2002 Myles Wakeham

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One of the natural outcomes of the advent of affordable home studios and accessible studio technology, is that artists can record much easier today than it was, say, 10 years ago. This is a good thing.

However it would appear to me that there is a big difference in what is being recorded since the days when being a musician was as much about being on stage in a club as it was being behind a microphone in a studio booth. I am hoping that this article addresses what I perceive to be an increasing problem in music creation today - forgetting the audience.

In a world where musicians lived on stage, worked 3-4 nights per week in the clubs, and toured to promote their art you live in a world where you are face to face with the audience every day. And that means that the skill of being an entertainer is developed. You learn how to warm up an audience. You learn what songs get a favorable response from a crowd. You learn about the listener because you are face to face with them. This carries through nicely when a recording is made in a studio because you have the consumer in mind throughout the entire process.

But with a changing world, fewer venues to perform at, limited opportunities to make money as a live performer, etc., musicians still want to create music. And despite the sad tales of woe in the live performing arena, you can always rely on the recording studio to be a place to capture your art for the future.

And as music enters a new age of technology, where technology itself has become a critical instrument in the music, studios play a role that is far more critical to the musician. So its not without surprise that the musician would find studios to be a comfortable place and studio time would be a goal for many artists. Some would even save their money and attempt to build a studio at home, even if with only a smaller digital recorder.

Don't get me wrong - this is all good stuff. But here is the problem. I spend a large amount of my time listening to music. Most producers do. Whether its submissions from artists looking for a producer, or CDs from colleagues around the world, or new artist releases that I'm watching or even song competitions that I judge, I'm finding a consistent and growing factor.

Artists are forgetting the audience. This is particularly true of singers. There seems to be an increasing phenomenon that singers appear more worried about their vocal pitch and sounding "accurate" on tape, that they do about passion, humanity, and bearing their soul in the studio. I'm also noticing this with drummers. I've always believed that drummers control the feel of the music and holding back on this is a major NO NO for songs.

So how do you fix this problem? Well its easy as a producer to sit behind the recording console and tell the artist to "kick it" when they are in the recording booth. But if you are both the artist and the engineer (in that you are in a home studio) then you have to be very disciplined. With artists that I produce, I often line up a large amount of live performance time before entering in the studio so that the artist remembers who the consumer of the product is, and gives me a performance to die for. That's what I want to capture on tape - not some anal retentive, accurate rendition of the song. That doesn't convey to the audience and typically a great song can be lost with a lackluster performance.

 

 

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