The Ten Recording Studio Commandments

Earlier this year I spent time making a little pop music (to be revealed next month!) in a few different recording studios around Brisbane. It was something I'd always wanted to do, and as expected, I found the process to be thrilling.

But I also found it to be emotionally draining.

As TED speaker Brene Brown says, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change". And boy, did I feel vulnerable in those studios! Anxious thoughts would rush through my head like, "Maybe I'm not making the right choices. Maybe people will laugh at me. Maybe I'm wasting everyone's time. Maybe I shouldn't have had those triple-choc-chip-fudge cookies instead of an apple".

Often, I'd leave the studio feeling gloomy.

After one particularly disenchanting session, I finally put my foot down. Or at least, I put my pen down...on paper. I'd had enough of feeling so sensitive in the studio. It was counter-productive. So...I WROTE A LIST! 

I thought hard about how to make the studio experience a positive one, and came up with about seven points. At my next studio session, engineer/producer Andrei Maberley contributed his excellent ideas (drawn from many years of experience), and we ended up with a guide that would make Moses proud. It works wonders! (Especially Commandments One and Ten). Drumroll, please...


1. Thou shalt not go hungry or thirsty.
Fed, watered musicians = happy musicians. Stick to healthy snacks + good quality chocolate! Carrot and celery sticks = rock 'n' roll.

2. Thou shalt come mentally prepared.
Don't let small worries and disorganisation get in the way of big ideas!

3.  Thou shalt not use the word 'no'.
Instead, maintain morale and ask 'how' it can be better. Some may disagree with this point.

4. Thou shalt remain positive.
Disillusionment will only hold you back! 

5. Thou shalt write fearlessly.
Borrowed from Pat Pattison. Fortune favours the brave!

6. Thou shalt have FUN.
Isn't that what you're here for?

7. Thou shalt take breaks.
Give your mind some space!

8. Thou shalt protect thy ears
Keep volume to a safe level. 

9. Thou shalt be decisive.
Because, as Steve Jobs would say, "Real artists ship".

10. Thou shalt bounce and take away!
At the end of the studio day - even if you think what you've done so far is lame - a recording in the hand will give you a proud sense of achievement. This is a powerful one!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these commandments. Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of the points - or if you'd like to add your own. Feel free to share!

Sing in Turkish? Well, ah, okay?

Sometimes, it’s the projects you start with a carefree attitude that give you the most pleasant surprise...

Early last year, my friend (and beautiful singer) Katina Heard came around to my house for a music jam. Not just any music jam, mind you; this was for my friends who play Balkan and Middle Eastern music. And not the sort of crazy songs you see on Eurovision, either. I’m talking about the traditional music played by the grandparents and great-grandparents of current-day Eurovision contestants. Kinda like how Chinese kids are really digging Mozart today.

I’d never heard Katina sing before, but on this particular night, she pulled out her guitar and played a stunningly beautiful Greek song. Her voice was soft, sweet and earthy; it gave me shivers! We discovered we had similar tastes in music (pretty, melodic, gentle), and so after 1am when everyone else had gone home, we tossed around the idea of starting a band. Our guitarist friend Brody Willys soon joined the team, and our band Rose Water was born!

Brody sent us all a link to a Turkish song he’d found on youtube called “Debreli Hassan”, suggesting it might suit our sound. I’m always apprehensive about singing in different languages. What happens if - through mispronunciation - you unknowingly substitute the word for “love” with the word for “garbage bin”? Nevertheless, the song was too gorgeous to pass up, so I consulted a Turkish friend on the pronunciation...and now it’s one of my favourite songs to sing!

A couple of weeks ago, our good friend Amber Hansen made a demo recording of our version for her Masters folio. It was a quick, one-take job...but the result came as a pleasant surprise! The recording features me on clarinet and the top vocal line, Katina Heard on piano accordian and harmonies, and Brody Willys on guitar.
While mixing, Amber said we sounded like floating white clouds, so she put together this little video. I’d love to hear your feedback! 

Rose Water - 'Debreli Hassan' (Demo 2011) from Amber Hansen on Vimeo.