Red Light Fever

Conquering the fear of recording

We’ve all been there; the record button is pressed, the red light goes on… and we freeze. Red light fever strikes! There’s a very specific kind of pressure that forms as soon as someone presses the record button and you embark on what you hope to be your best performance, forever captured on record. It’s a common story, you’re not alone in the struggle!

I’ve tried to cover some of this ground in a previous post about recording at home, but this time we delve a bit more into the psychology of recording.

 Embracing the moment

The psychological process that occurs when a human being is put under pressure is a fascinating one. Professional athletes train for it; being able to block out all external distractions and focus in to perform and compete. I suppose the crucial difference between athletes and musicians is the difference in competition; where there’s a winner and a loser. In music, subjectivity is king. There is no right or wrong, just a difference in taste. The requirement is not to beat anyone, but to be in control of your musical output at that time and place, delivering the best version of that piece of music which will exist forever. It’s a big ask… 

The recording environment can be an incredibly influential and inspiring place. When you’re situated in a purpose built space filled with great gear designed specifically to aid the recording process, you start to feel like the room is providing you with a special energy that you harness as you play. It’s the sporting equivalent of having ideal race conditions, allowing the competitors to compete fair and square, without the impedance of environmental distractions.

There are ways to utilise and feed off the energy and adrenaline that flows in that environment, and it’s that very energy that can ultimately lift a performance and create the perfect take! 


A big factor in combatting red light fever and feeling relaxed in a space is how much time you spend there. Your childhood bedroom or hideout will always be a place you feel calm and safe, because of all the years you spent there. A studio can give a similar experience once you’ve got used to it. I find there can be a real sense of peace and stillness in the studio, especially in the larger rooms. I get the same feeling in churches and cathedrals; structures purpose built to amplify the human voice. There’s a feeling of stillness and focus in those buildings, to aid introspection and thought.

Try to immerse yourself in the moment, letting the outside world slip away. Turn your phone off! Remove all distractions, and concentrate on the here and now. Time will pass in this state, and you’ll start to feel more comfortable in that space. As soon as that starts to be the case, the performances will come.

Are you sitting comfortably?

This is a crucial point. You’ll never fully relax into the recording environment if you’re not actually comfortable. Some people prefer to stand, some prefer to sit. What ever it is, make sure it’s the comfiest version you can achieve! Turn the lights off, go barefoot, burn incense. Whatever it takes to put you in the right mood. Like anything in life, when you have no external distractions, you’re far more likely to be productive.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Preparation is a surefire way of giving yourself a better chance of success; if you know what you’re supposed to play, you can focus more on the performance and less on the actual notes. However, I’m a strong believer in improvisation; letting go of what you think you want to hear and just letting the ideas flow out. Of course, this method will undoubtedly push you into less explored territory, and making mistakes is a part of that.

The point of letting go of the rehearsed is that it can open up your mind to the magic of reactionary music making, with sometimes beautiful results. The majority of jazz is based on improvisation. Musicians just let go of the pre-determined and let their ears guide them, in a conversation with the other musicians.

Accidents happen. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t quite get the take. Give yourself some time away from it instead of slipping down the rabbit hole of self doubt! As soon as you feel yourself becoming frustrated with the process, you may as well stop. You’ll have shut off your creative brain and turned on your self-critique brain which is not welcome at this stage of the process! You must of course be critical of your performance, but first things first you need to record.

When it does come to listening back, make sure you give yourself 5 – 10 minutes beforehand. You often hold on to opinions from when you were recording that actually may not be as good or bad as you think when you hear it back. If you let those preconceptions melt away before you sit down to listen, you may well surprise yourself.

Have fun!

I know this is easier said than done, but try to enjoy the experience. Embrace the challenge, and give it time and attention, and you’ll be sure to come away with some great results. I have many fond memories of time in the studio over the years, and feel very privileged to get to do it day in day out. Once you get to the point of relishing the opportunity to record and create great music, you won’t want to stop! With a bit of luck, your red light fever will be a thing of the past.

For more information on recording with HCH Studios, drop us a line here.