Recording Session Management Techniques

Blackwater Recording in Wirtz, VA, Brings It All Together

Session management techniques from Blackwater Recording in Wirtz, VA, can help get the most out of your studio time. As we mention on our website, Blackwater Recording, Inc. consults on each project and can contribute as much as required. With our equipment available to area producers, we strive to make the most out of every recording session.

We begin by acknowledging that each ‘typical’ session can be unique. This is why we offer these versatile session management techniques. Recording an individual performance is different than capturing the audio of a choir or orchestra. Projects often include multiple tracks, so plan to take some notes. Multiple tracks alone require proper labeling of the various layers. Organizing the project may be a first order of business so it does not waste time or otherwise stifle creativity.


Structuring the Session Tracks—The What and The When

As you may be aware, digital audio workstations (DAWs for short) provide an enhanced way to manage the many layered parts. Each track contributes to a full musical tonality of the piece. Track organization can help a producer see how many takes there are of a certain part.

Of course, color-coding the tracks can help provide an easy visual reference. Choose a color structure ahead of time and assign one to each part or instrument. Being able to select tracks by color can bring added organization to work in the studio.

DAWs usually have ways of nesting tracks into playlists. Various programs offer several options for organizing track folders and subfolders. These can offer slightly different ways of organizing groups of related tracks.

You may choose to organize tracks as mix groups or placing them under the control of a VCA fader. This can let related groups of tracks be soloed, muted, or level-adjusted quickly. A structure such as this can save time during the recording session and later in the mix stage.


Naming the Audio Tracks for Better Identification

No matter how much studio work you do, it soon becomes awkward relying on the DAWs automatic naming of tracks. These standard “Audio_01, Audio_02” labels auto-generate with each recording session. Placing a slightly more descriptive name will also help save time if you plan to work on multiple pieces.

Think about it for a minute. Whether you’re tracking or mixing track naming is one sure way to help you spend more time with the music. Unless you enjoy the frustration of trying to remember which particular track you need.

It can be good practice to include some reference to the session in the name. Naming tracks does not have to be a confusing code. Consider a short, abbreviated version of the session, song, or date. Of all the session management techniques, using a memorable track name is a big timesaver.


Organize Instruments in a Sensible Way

Many engineers choose to organize instruments in a way that makes consistent sense no matter the project. From the bottom up, begin with drums—kick drum, snare, hi-hat, toms, and overheads—followed by guitars. Bass guitar and rhythm guitars lead to the keyboards and other lead instruments, and then the vocal tracks.

This organization may read from top to bottom in the edit window and right to left in the mixer. Organizing by instrument can allow you to select a group in the edit window and place them where you like.


Avoid Over-Processing with Analog Gear

Sometimes, a little analog processing on the way in may be appropriate. However, many engineers try to avoid analog processing as a valid recording approach. Keeping such permanent processing to a minimum or avoiding it helps keep options open later.

Knowing when to apply analog processing to what is being recorded can add some desired effects. If there is a flaw in the signal, however, it may require some correction. This could involve making changes at the source or moving the mic.

It may also help to slightly compress a highly dynamic signal on the way in. Such inbound processing helps with ADC overload protection and can offer more dynamic control. Gain reduction with a limit of 3 dB or so may work. You may desire compression as long as it does not impact the natural performance or make the track sound compressed.


Avoid Relying on Plug-In Processing

On the digital side of recording, we can monitor a track being recorded through plug-in effects. Some effects, however, may induce extra latency. These plug-in effects may affect what the player or singer hears during recording.

It could result in a performance that depends on those effects. Later, if those particular effects are found to be unnecessary or less desirable, it can directly affect the performance. Much of this may boil down to choice, and if the plug-in effect is important to the sound.

Being able to hear the effect during recoding makes sense, but remember it may be tweaked later during the mix. It may be best to keep plug-in effects off the tracks as they are going down. Certain effects that provide a performance benefit may be good to have while recording. You may choose to keep things as simple as possible to help maintain integrity of the track.


Utilize the Monitor Mix to Help Obtain Top Performance

Consider paying attention to the various levels that vocal performers will hear during the recording session. What the person hears during performance is critical to the output they provide. Hearing the best mix of their vocals with the other tracks helps them adjust their performance accordingly.

Some things to adjust on the monitor mix include the performer’s own part. Hearing too much of their own voice may result in them holding back and/or shifting their sense of pitch. Hearing too little may cause them to perform louder or cause excessive vocal strain.

A backing track that is too busy may impact a player from adding a more interesting part in the arrangement. Whereas, a track that is too thin may cause them to over-play or over perform. Finding the right monitor mix to keep performers ‘in the zone’ can bring top performance. Having the right monitor mix is a way to achieve this goal in recording.


Note Taking During the Session Helps with Recall

An additional trick or tip to a more accurate and thorough session may rely on the note taking you do. Much like naming tracks more definitively, keeping accurate session notes can be another time saver. Studio time can get expensive, so anything you can do to keep the session moving will help.

Perhaps you have to revisit a session or find a certain part. Having a record of the mics used, including their positions and settings or input levels can simplify things. Think of the many times a vocal or guitar part may need to be redone. There could be a lyric change or maybe the part may need augmentation.

Virtual instruments also benefit from having good session notes to track what effects the player had in mind originally. Subsequent tracks could alter the essence of what that expected sound was to be. Having the description or settings on record can help find the original patch or reset the track.


Session Management Techniques Add Value to Studio Time

With these session management techniques, we hope you discover some new tricks that add value to your studio time. Talk with the experts at Blackwater Recording, Inc. today about your project. We are always ready share our expertise with area artists and producers.



To consult or schedule with the professionals at Blackwater Recording, Inc., call us at  (540) 721-1413. All hours are by appointment only. Check back to read our blog regularly for more tips like session management techniques.