I just finished up playing simultaneously on 3 different records, and I sit down to plan another tomorrow morning, so recording is on my mind! It’s something I do pretty regularly and I have really grown to enjoy it.
Time is always crucial in a recording situation. Following are some things I suggest to make a session (with me!) go smoothly:
1.) Be prepared. Make sure that the engineer has everything setup, at least approximately, BEFORE the musicians arrive. Naturally, there will be some adjustment after they arrive, but have things approximated and *line tested* beforehand. ...this includes a headphone setup. Have a plan in mind beforehand on how you’d like to do things as far as setup, isolation, and tracking order.
2.) Be prepared. Make charts! I know you know your tune, but others trying to learn your tune by rote can be time-consuming and leaves room for mistakes while tracking. Sometimes, only a head chart, or even a basic chord chart with the form of the song is needed...nothing fancy. It's just a matter of having something to visually refer to when needed. This can be the difference of two takes or ten, or getting one tune done in a 3 hour block, or rocking out 4 tunes. Don't worry, having a chart does *not* take any of the vibe or feeling out of it. In this situation, it's merely a tool to help make things go smoothly!
3.) Consult your tuba player on mic selection. MOST engineers (even high-end, very accomplished ones) have little idea on how to make a tuba sound good...or worse, how a tuba should and can actually sound. In the past, I have had wonderful performances completely destroyed by bad recording practices. Nothing is more frustrating and tragic! I now will usually send the setup I prefer ahead of time to help in this process... I also do my best to utilize standard equipment with which most engineers will be comfortable. The mic setup will also affect how I approach the tone. Tuba tone is actually quite delicate and must be dealt with in a fairly specific way. Fortunately, these days with software recording, there are many options available and there is never a reason for a tuba to sound bad, gross, thin or rough!
Above all, realize the ultimate goal is to allow your musicians to communicate your music through their own horns and voices. Encourage and allow them to
communicate. It's easy to get caught up in the process and get bogged down. Put your music in the listener's ears and try to remember why and how they might enjoy your music.
It's really fun to record with the tuba as it has this tendency to really open people's minds. It has this incredibly versatile, yet somewhat unknown sound. It's not abnormal for me to go into a session to play on one song, then after the artist hears the tuba, they end up wanting it on many songs.
One last piece of advice I can give to artists using a tuba on their recordings is to take mixing and mastering seriously (especially the EQ side of it). Mastering is often overlooked in many DIY projects. (it's more than just sending the sound through a compressor plugin) Adequate approach to these steps are crucial in dealing with the unique frequency characteristics of the tuba. I PROMISE it's worth the effort.
The tuba has a beautiful sound, use it wisely, and use it often!! The tuba CAN rock, the tuba CAN swing, the tuba CAN elevate any ensemble to a new level. Do it!
PS - see my recording history here!