Tracking Techniques: Setting the Mood

We’ve come to the final technique that all great tracking engineers and producers know all about.

It’s quite possibly the most important thing to remember and execute when tracking.

And yet it sounds so silly.

That’s right, setting the mood. Here’s why it’s the most important step and how you can execute it perfectly in your home studio.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you’re a famous artist who is working on a new recording to be released next month. You go into the studio to sing your song – a sweet ballad – on a Tuesday afternoon. The producer and engineer are stressed out and not afraid to show it. You arrive five minutes late and get yelled at by the producer. You run into the booth and can’t even throw the headphones on fast enough before the engineer starts the track and expects an amazing performance. You struggle through the entire song, missing an entire line in the second verse. Before the song even ends, the engineer stops the recording and runs back to the second verse – punches you in, and says it’s done.

Whew – that was a stressful experience. Now, if you were a famous artist, that would never happen. That producer and engineer would never be working with you (they’re obviously terrible at what they do), and you would arrive 30 minutes late, not 5.

In reality, the best recording sessions are set up to succeed by the engineer and producer. The mood is set just right – for a sweet ballad, a glass of wine and dim lights are in order. The producer and engineer speak in clam, low voices. Everything feels right.

And it’s all calculated.

As people, we use our five senses to asses the mood of a situation. We see, hear, smell, touch, and taste things that make us feel a certain way. If you want to set the perfect mood for your session, you’ll touch on each of these senses:

Sight – the best way to control this is with the lighting. Set the lighting appropriately for the song. A dim light is best for slow, emotional ballads (usually), and a brighter or colored light is best for high-energy tracks. It all depends on the performer, however, so make your decisions accordingly.

Sound – this one’s easy. Have the cue mix set up perfectly and make sure it works for each and every musician.

Smell – this one’s important. Having a fresh smell in your studio will greatly improve your overall mood. It helps relax you and your musicians.

Touch – a little harder to control, however, it can be done. Just having a soft pillow on the couch, comfortable chair or stool, or a nice table to sit at can really help in this category.

Taste – offering something to eat or drink is important. Even candy goes a long way toward improving this sense in the studio.

If you can control each of these senses, you’ll be well on your way to setting the perfect mood in your session – which is critical toward getting the best performance possible.

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