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.
An Interview with Stewart Tuttle of The Altar Studios LA
What to Know For Your First Studio Recording Session
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. As an engineer, 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.
Recording Session Best Practices
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 and it doesn’t happen after one session. With each session, there is something to be learned.
How Much Time Do I Need?
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 in the studio, and generally, things take longer than you think they will take. It’s always best not to rush any ideas. I think four hours is solid for a song. It will give you enough time to explore what you need to explore. Take some time to talk with the engineer you’re working with. 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.
How to Prepare for a Studio Session
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.
What to Bring and What to Leave
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.
Stewart: I think one thing that is not talked about as much is that if your engineer is working, to let them work. 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.
Will Someone Guide the Session?
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.
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.
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.
Choosing Your 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.
Connect with Stewart Tuttle
To connect with Stewart Tuttle or the Altar Studios in LA, follow @thealtarstudiosla
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