Jonathan Dolese has been busier during the pandemic than he was before it. This anomaly of a human excels at songwriting, recording, and giving advice to bands large and small. Here are five bullet points with explanations from the man, the myth, the Dolese:
1. Fresh Strings, Fresh Drum Heads, Fresh Mindset
Let’s get the basic things out of the way first. When going to the studio and recording with your producer, you should be prepared to bring numerous packs of strings, drum heads, tea or throat-coat, midi files, and even Guitar Pro tabs. I normally prefer Guitar Pro tabs of the tracks because they contain midi files that allow you to apply reverb, delay, and panning onto pieces however you see fit for your track. That definitely gives your producer something to hear, especially if you were unable to prepare demo recordings of the songs. Now, for the hardest part to prepare before working with the producer you hired: Make sure you completely forget about all past, bad experiences before getting into a new environment. I’ve seen many artists destroy their relationships with new team members or producers based off of the horrible work ethic other producers showed them. I promise that going into a new environment with a fresh and clear mind will result in something much bigger than you believe.
2. Who Is Recording What or Who Is Best at What
Look, this sounds very simple, but so many artists come into the studio not knowing who is playing or recording what parts, or even who is best at said specific section. Now I do have to say, the studio environment will show and help you learn this more when working on a record, but it’s best to have this knocked out of the park beforehand. Learn your band, who has the strongest picking, and throw that member on rhythm guitar tracking. If the rhythm guitarist is better and stronger at picking than the bassist, have them record the bass parts with the bassist. Who can help the vocalist write lyrics if they get stumped on a section? Find him/her and get that individual rehearsing for cases like this. Again, I know it sounds super simple, but it’s definitely often overlooked and can really make a band unbelievably efficient in the studio. Some feelings may get hurt in the process, but you have to understand, it’s all about the final product and bigger picture.
3. Don’t Get Upset When The Producer Gives His Opinion
When hiring a producer (a real producer), understand that their job is similar to a director of a film. They are supposed to make the vision of the artist come alive from start to finish. With that being said, your producer will tell you things like, “This transition makes the chorus very lackluster, let’s fix it up,” or, “This guitar lead really interferes with the vocal lines that are there, let’s try and write something to better match what’s going on in the song .” Sometimes that’s very hard to get over and as musicians we emotionally connect to our music note-by-note, so having a producer come in afterwards to tell you that it needs work is very difficult and heart-wrenching at times. However, it’s definitely for the best. Getting over your First Version Syndrom (FVS) is really the first step and best thing that you can do to allow your producer to tie your vision together as best as they can. So, if sometimes sacrificing that ONE lead or ONE drum fill helps carry out the emotion and message of your song, so be it. A motto I try to keep when working with new artists is “always have a reason for each piece in the song.” Sorry, but “because it sounded cool” isn’t a good answer. Mic drop.
4. Know What Songs and Ideas Will Be Used
Now this is a hard one. Many musicians like to come to the studio with two to three ideas, but hired the producer for a ten track LP. This isn’t always a problem if the direction and vision is lined up and discussed with the producer prior to, but making something out of nothing, on the spot, isn’t a great idea. Have your ideas all organized together in a folder. Say you have a riff idea for a song, then a full song finalized, and then just a drum section. This isn’t a bad thing if it’s all in line with the vision. I prefer artists coming into the studio with 15-16 song ideas (yes, even if unfinished) and crunching that down into ten absolutely amazing tracks. With a catalog of so many different pieces, we, as a team, can go over the tracks and finalize each and every piece to make the album perfect.
5. Have a VISION
I know I’ve mentioned this numerous times throughout each piece, but I cannot stress this enough. Have a vision. Your producer is not creating the vision for you. The producer will sit or call with the band before starting the project and jot down the ideas for the record. For example, I had a meeting with a band and this is what it resulted in: “Jonathan, we want this record to feel beyond massive, aggressive, spacey, raw, and in your face while maintaining a beautiful underlying tone from start to finish.” I know many people reading this will read that thinking, “How the hell can all of that fit in ONE record,” and that’s okay. But, by hiring a producer, they will help that come to life. Trust them, and give honest feedback. Expect them to do the same for your band.
Overall, by having a fresh mindset, a clear understanding of your team, a strong knowledge of the material, and a clear vision, together we can make an everlasting record that people will listen to for years to come.