SESSION DOS AND DON’TS BY RICH TOZZOLI
Do it right or don’t do it at all. We all know there’s a lot of truth to that
saying, so why is it that some people don’t
take the time to actually do things right?
I bring this up because in the past week
alone, I was on three separate sessions
where the musicians I was recording were
not prepared to work. This got me so mad,
I decided to review “session etiquette” with
the goal of making life better for you and
those you record with. While some of the
following may be obvious, these simple
ideas can help you achieve better tracks and
a more rewarding end result.
Be prepared. Okay, you knew I would
say that. But wow, in all three sessions I
did, none of the musicians were ready to
go! If you’re coming to my studio to cut a
part, listen to the song before you arrive.
How much is that to ask? It will make the
overall flow of the session go much smoother than if you require time to learn your
part on the spot while I keep looping the
track. Plus, you’re pissing off the producer
(me) and engineer (me).
On the second session, I was cutting
guitars for a drummer with a home studio.
When I arrived, he hadn’t yet bothered
checking that the lines on his drums were
all hooked up correctly. So the tracks were
all over the place, and it took an hour and a
half of me dialing in his rig before we even
dropped a note. While we got everything
done, it was a vibe crusher to arrive ready to
play and then realize the equipment wasn’t
set up. When clients arrive at my studio, I
have every mic, DI box, and line checked
ahead of time. They literally walk in, say
Be prepared like fretless bassist Joe Capozio.
around. I even have several different headphones available, if they’re not comfortable
with the ones I’ve initially given them.
Show up on time. Pros get to a session
early. Don’t come 45 minutes late (which
happened this week). If you’re going to
be late, have the courtesy to call. It shows
respect and is the right thing to do. The
engineer’s time is valuable and so is yours.
So don’t waste it by showing up late (unless,
of course, there’s a valid reason).
Have backup gear ready. As mentioned
above, I always have extra headphones on
hand in case a set goes down. I make sure to
have extra mic cables, stands, picks, strings,
When someone comes in to play, it helps to have session
templates—setups with tracks and mixer channels correctly
configured in your recording software—ready to grab those
spur-of-the-moment creative ideas.
hello, get some levels, and we’re ready to go.
I call that my “no thinking” strategy. I don’t
want musicians to think about the part or
the process, I just want them to do it.
Have your headphone mixes ready.
This directly relates to the point above.
When the client is ready to go, so am I.
I’ve already checked the headphone levels
before they arrive, and I’ve got extra exten-
sion cables ready in case they want to move
capos, slides, guitar stands, hard drives,
speakers—even full recording systems. For
example, I’ve run Pro Tools LE sessions on
my laptop when my HD rig was bugging
out, and that backup laptop rig has saved
my butt a few times. If something can break,
it will—at the most inopportune time.
RICH TOZZOLI is a Grammy-nominated engineer and mixer who has worked with artists ranging from Al Di Meola to Ace Frehley. A life-long guitarist, he’s also the author of Pro Tools Surround Sound Mixing and The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook, as well as a composer
for shows such as Fox NFL, Pawn Stars, American
Restoration, and Gene Simmons Family Jewels.