What to Know for Your First Studio Recording Session

What to Know for Your First Studio Recording Session

An Interview with Stewart Tuttle of The Altar Studios LA

Has being inexperienced kept you from booking time at a professional recording studio? For those starting and nervous about working in a new space or with other industry professionals, Stewart Tuttle of Altar Studios in Los Angeles took some time to answer common questions about working in a professional recording studio. Check out the interview below for our discussion, which includes his professional opinion on booking your studio time, expectations of the experience of recording in a studio, and studio etiquette for your first studio recording session.

Stewart Tuttle is featured seated with his head down on the left side of the image while a screen featuring the Altar Studios logo in red and black is on the right side of the image. Stewart shares about your first studio recording session.
Stewart Tuttle of The Altar Studios

What to Know For Your First Studio Recording Session

Photobombshell: Hi, Stewart! Thank you so much for your time. Today, I want to dive into some helpful information for independent artists and folks interested in getting started in music. I know so many people know you from your social media presence and huge personality, but for those who have not met you, could you please share a little bit about yourself and your studio?

Stewart: My name is Stewart Tuttle. I am the owner and head engineer of The Altar Studios in Los Angeles, California. I am a producer, guitar player, and musician who works with artists of all genres. I started working with artists around 2011. At the time, most of those artists were my friends, and in 2018, I started growing my business into my full-time job. I now have over 75 artists in and out of my studio all the time.

Photobombshell: That is awesome! Congratulations to you and your business on the massive growth in such a short time. I know even more artists are itching to get into the studio for the first time and might be holding back for numerous reasons. I hope we can help remove some of those obstacles by shedding light on professional recording and how it works. For a new artist or someone who has never stepped foot into a recording studio, what are some things they should keep in mind for their first studio recording session?

Stewart: I think artists coming in for their first studio recording session should expect not to feel judged when presenting their music to the world. When recording that music, they should feel at a place where they can experiment and explore the ideas that they have in their head. The studio should be a safe place for all who enter, a respectful environment for themselves and anyone else in the studio. Music is sacred and should be treated as such. Understand that being in the studio is something you have to get good at. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen after one session. With each session, there is something to be learned. 

Photobombshell: I agree with you that music is sacred. I also love how you pointed out that getting better in the studio is a process, and artists will improve with time and experience. When considering booking studio time, when inexperienced, how much time should an artist book for a project?

Stewart: I think a four-hour session for someone’s first time in the studio is a really good amount of time. How much time they will need depends on the amount of work they are trying to do. You have no idea at what pace you will work at in the studio, and generally, things take longer than you think they will take. It’s always best not to rush any ideas, and I think four hours is solid for a song. It will give you enough time to explore what you need to explore. It is also good to take some time to talk with the engineer you’re working with, and let them know about yourself, why you love music, and why you’re in the studio. A 30-minute conversation will set the tone for the rest of the session, and the music will be that much better because of it. 

Photobombshell: Thank you! I think the time allowance and a conversation with the engineer are solid, practical tips that anyone can use. That’s great. Outside of warming up the voice and memorizing lyrics to the best of their ability, how should artists prepare for their first time in the booth?

Stewart: I think mental preparation is a huge factor in coming into the studio. Being hungover on the day of your studio session will reflect in the music and work against you in creating the music you need to create. Simple things like eating before you come, but not too much. As a vocalist not being hungry when you’re in the studio is important so that you can focus on the music you’re making. Also, your mental state is important. Coming into the studio after something like a breakup, for example, could be the type of mental state that you need to fuel your performance for that particular record. Above all, just being aware of your mental state and how much it will affect what comes out in your performance is something to consider.

Photobombshell: OK, we have the mental state tackled. What should artists bring or not bring for their first studio recording session? 

Stewart: Don’t bring anything that will distract you from the work at hand. That could be people, or things like a Nintendo Switch, for example, or something like that. Also, make sure you have water! Most studios provide water. My studio provides water. That is a huge thing to have. Room-temperature water works best for singers and vocalists. Tea is also super helpful.

Photobombshell: Water is so simple but so easy to forget. I also love a good peppermint tea for a vocal warm-up. Great tip. What is some studio etiquette that newbies might not know, but need to learn quickly? 

Stewart: I think one thing that is not talked about as much is that if your engineer is working, to let them work. I know you may feel the urge to tell them, like do this or do that, but let them finish up what the ideas are in their head. They’re working with you to make your song as good as possible. Give them the space they need to do their thing. Also, don’t feel bad asking any questions. 

Photobombshell: Love it. I find, there is a natural dynamic, in the studio, between the artist and the engineer. Particularly for the first studio recording session, who runs the session? Is there guidance?

Stewart: You run the session. The artist who leads the way. I, as the engineer, am here to help guide the process and make sure everything is running smoothly. But at the end of the day, wherever you want to go, the engineer should be following. Remember it’s your session. It’s your money.

Photobombshell: Can someone bring their engineer or have their tracks mixed and mastered somewhere else when they leave the studio? Is that something you would recommend?

Stewart: Most definitely, artists can book sessions where they bring in their engineers, and all I will do is provide the space. As far as mixing and mastering go, the same thing. If you record something in my studio, feel free to have it mixed and mastered somewhere else. I will say that if I am recording something, I will generally be pretty quick at mixing and mastering it because I set my sessions up for me to knock that part of the process out as quickly as possible.

Photobombshell: That’s awesome. Is there any advice you would like to give artists who are anxious about booking studio time?

Stewart: Remember to have fun. My goal as an engineer is to wipe that anxiety clean as soon as you step into my studio. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer, but literally, that is the first thing I am trying to overcome with artists. It is super common. Many artists are very insecure and very shy about sharing their work, and it’s a very vulnerable situation to share your work in front of someone unknown. That is why I try to talk with my artists before we start anything.

Photobombshell: I love that energy and how you approach working with artists and musicians. I know not all studios are the same, so what are things to look for in a great studio?

Stewart: People make the studio great, not the gear. Find an engineer that you can vibe with and stick with that person. Grow with them.

Photobombshell: Amen! Stewart, thank you again for your time and contributions to independent artists and musicians. It has really been an honor to cover this topic with you. I hope it gets more artists in the booth and creating out loud. 

To connect with Stewart Tuttle or the Altar Studios in LA, follow @thealtarstudiosla

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