Red light fever is that condition that seems to grip even the most seasoned performer. They can knock a song, guitar part or even interview out of the park without even thinking, then the minute you hit record they go to pieces. Here are my top 5 tips for helping to beat the fever.
Help Them Relax
The first aim of a producer is to harness the natural talent of the artist and to capture it in the most natural way possible.
The first cause of 'red light fever' can often be traced back to a producer ramping up the tension. The pressure of budgets can mean that we have a lot of work to do in a finite amount of time so we can be tempted to simply jump into a session with little thought and preparation. The British armed forces have a term called 'the 6 Ps' - prior preparation prevents piss poor performance. So the first thing to do is to set aside time at the start of each day just to chat things through and talk about expectations - this may take an hour but it can save a can save even more hours later on.
Don’t Tell The Artist You’re Recording
You’ve seen me say this before, but if you have a red light in your studio disconnect it, or a camera with a red light to show recordThe best way to reduce red light fever is don't have one. In my experience some of my best takes were the ‘rehearsals and 'decks for levels' or the 'just sing this through a couple of times.' Which leads me to my next one tip...
Leave your DAW in record and you’ll often capture the happy accident in a moment you least expected. It takes time to go through the stuff afterwards to review, but you’ll be surprised what you find on the cutting room floor. Even better set Pro Tools to 'Quick Punch' and it starts to record as soon as you press play, so even if you've not punched in you will find the audio in the track playlist. From page 412 of the Pro Tools Reference Guide:
"QuickPunch gives you the ability to manually and instantaneously punch in (initiate recording) and punch out (stop recording) on record-enabled audio tracks during playback by clicking the Record button in the Transport. Recording with Quick- Punch is nondestructive.
When using QuickPunch, Pro Tools begins record- ing a new file when playback begins, automatically generating clips in that file at each punch in/out point. These clips appear in the track’s play- list; and the complete audio file appears in the Clip List along with the QuickPunch created clips. Up to 200 of these “running punches” can be performed in a single pass."
Be Prepared And Make Sure Your Artist Is Too
If you have to keep retaking because the bass player keeps forgetting the chord progression in the middle eight, or the vocalist is reading the words that will just ramp up the tension for everyone involved. That goes for the engineer and producer too - make sure you know exactly what you are doing before starting production, which leads me to the final and perhaps the most important tip…
Stay Out Of The Way
I recently worked on what was for everyone involved a complex project with a band, it was a live recording and shoot of a band, so there's a lot of gear and crew to coordinate as well as thinking about capturing the band at their best. I sat down with them after the event and they paid the biggest compliment possible ‘we forgot your team were even there’ was their response to our presence.
As producers our job is to capture great performances from great performers, this is often achieved by staying out of the way, letting them be themselves and simply doing our job of making sure we get it right.
So, there are 5 tips, are there any you would like to add?