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Recording Studio Etiquette: An Audio Producer’s Guide

Audio producer giving a thumbs up to support an artist in the studio displaying great studio etiquette.

Are you asking yourself, “What is recording studio etiquette and how does it apply to me?” Etiquette is a code of conduct that is both universal and specific. Recording studio etiquette is the key to success as an audio producer. Since being an audio producer is often a collaborative, team-driven position, interpersonal interaction is a daily reality, and how we talk, act and behave will shape both our own success and the success of others. First, let’s look at what is inside a recording studio.

What is Inside a Recording Studio?

A recording studio is a facility designed for all components of audio production, from recording to mixing and mastering. These facilities are designed to capture music, such as a live band or orchestra, as well as dialogue and voices. Thus, a recording studio is the primary agency of production for music, podcasts, advertisements, and sound effects.

The standard recording studio consists of two general parts: a room called the “studio,” where the sound, or music is recorded, and the “control room,” where the mixing and audio design takes place. Many recording studios also have an isolation booth, or vocal booth, which is a transparent-walled room for the singer or instrumentalist(s).

The studio is typically equipped with the following items:

  • Microphones/mic stands
  • DI unit (for electric/electronic instruments)
  • Mixing board
  • Amplifiers
  • Speakers
  • Keyboard instruments
  • Grand piano
  • Synthesizers
  • Acoustic drum kit

However, not all recording studios provide instruments or amplifiers. Many musicians, such as guitarists and drummers, are expected to bring their own recording gear (e.g., effects units and snare drums).

The control room typically includes the following:

  • Audio mixing consoles
  • Effects units
  • Computers
  • Sound-design software
  • Monitor speakers
  • Headphones

The audio producer is primarily involved in the control room. However, these professionals also operate in the studio or isolation booth to provide technical assistance for the performer(s) and ensure the best possible recording quality.

Etiquette Tips for Audio Producers

An audio producer must adhere to a certain etiquette in the recording studio in order to gain respect to control the environment. An audio producer must be respectful to everyone involved to keep everything on track. It shows others that an audio producer cares about them, their space and their time.  An audio producer must be helpful because most of what happens in a recording studio is a team effort. Being helpful is based on intuition, common sense and empathy. An audio producer needs to be conscious of what is going on, so it is top quality. How an audio producer thinks and what they think about determines what they do and how they do it. By adhering to these basic recording studio etiquette tips, an audio producer can get the best out of everyone in the room as well as themselves.

Etiquette Tip #1: Be Respectful

When in doubt, be respectful. It may sound simple and cliché but showing respect in the recording studio cannot be overemphasized. Furthermore, we may think we are showing respect while still practicing habits that are disrespectful. Respectfulness means consistently acting, speaking and thinking in a way that is caring of other individuals.

Respectfulness is based on habits, including what we do and how we think. Habits are based on repeated actions, and they can become so ingrained in our routine that we hardly give them a second thought. Developing respectfulness requires us to identify these habits and evaluate whether they are acceptable or not. Showing respect, ultimately, is the opposite of complacency.

Imagine that you are working in a small recording studio with some colleagues you have known since high school. Some of the performers are even close friends of yours. In such an informal environment, it might be easy to let things slide. You might be tempted to bring coffee and a bag of chips, guffaw over last night’s gossip with your friend on the phone or watch videos when you have nothing to do.

While these are small things that may not even amount to a big deal with your colleagues and friends, they are habits that could detrimentally affect yourself, and everyone around you. For example, if you tried opening your bag of chips at just the right moment, the recording could be ruined with crinkling background noise. You might spill your coffee on the mixing console. Worst of all, your ringtone could go off right in the middle of a session, spoiling the entire process.

Even if these things don’t happen, you have developed habits that will, sooner later, affect your career as an audio producer. For example, imagine that you just got a new job mixing at a prominent studio that produces music soundtracks. The facility is a large space with a variety of moving parts, including a full orchestra. This is your dream job, and you are trying hard to make a good impression.

However, without thinking, you show up on the first day with your breakfast smoothie. You forget to turn off your cell phone during the recording sessions. Your old habits have carried over into your dream job, and you don’t even know it, until you’re fired.

Being respectful shows others that you care about them, their space and their time. It means performing a thorough self-check to identify harmful habits so that you can consistently and accurately follow the rules and code of conduct within the recording studio. Most of all, it means valuing the greater good more than your own personal comfort.

Etiquette Tip #2: Be Helpful

Beyond merely following the rules and adopting a professional demeanor, being respectful also entails being helpful. This is especially important for audio producers, whose careers revolve around assisting others, collaborating with colleagues, adjusting equipment and completing administrative tasks, to name a few.

Helpfulness is more than just fulfilling specific duties. Rather, it is based on intuition, common sense and empathy. For example, it is not helpful to clean up the studio when a session is about to start, and you are needed in the control room. This action is helpful in and of itself, but at the wrong time, it can become an impediment.

To be a helpful audio producer, look around. Consider others’ needs before your own. Pay attention to details that others may overlook. Most of all, perform your duties, however menial or seemingly insignificant, with diligence and excellence.

Etiquette Tip #3: Be Conscientious

Both respect and helpfulness depend on our ability to be conscientious. This fancy word is just a term for diligently, thoroughly and honorably going about business, and it starts in the mind. How we think and what we think about determine what we do and how we do it.

As we just discussed, habits are the building blocks of character; they are repeated actions and thoughts that form our worldview, demeanor and aptitude for success. Being conscientious is the first step toward improving our habits. It means being thorough in evaluating every aspect from our career to our personal life because, whether we realize it or not, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Most of all, to be conscientious we must be aware, both of ourselves and of those around us, and uphold integrity, honesty and justice in every situation.

Imagine that you are working at a startup recording studio. A client comes in one day to record an album, and you discover that they have plagiarized some of the lyrics. While exposing this may be a costly move for you and the studio (for example, losing the client’s business), it will establish you as a legitimate and reputable company, ultimately promoting success in the long run.

Being conscientious means being able to look at any situation through an objective lens, identifying problematic areas and working to fix them, based, in part, on our own ideas but mostly on collective values. Ultimately, it requires us to determine an ideal and fight for it.

Furthermore, it is involved in our everyday lives, from dressing for work to cleaning and locking up the studio at the end of the day.

Final Thoughts

Has this look into recording studio etiquette inspired you to pursue a career in audio production? These are helpful etiquette tips and strategies for being a successful and respected member of the recording studio. Etiquette is important for any job, but it is especially imperative for the role of an audio producer and, in many cases, it is the difference between a sloppy fluke and a smashing success. With the character that results from being respectful, helpful and conscientious, you can take your career as an audio producer to a whole new level, while enjoying the process.

Audio Production Program

The Audio Production and Engineering Program  at the Institute of Production and Recording is an occupational degree program designed to train producer engineers who are entrepreneurs, musically and technically creative, and proficient in modern recording technology and technique. Throughout the program, students are involved in hands-on exercises and real-world studio projects that enable them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills.

At the end of the Audio Production and Engineering program, each student presents a portfolio — a selection of his or her best work to date. This serves as a demo reel for potential employers and clients — an audio resume with professional content that highlights the graduate’s talent and skill.

Contact us today to learn more about the audio production programs and starting a rewarding career.