The Record Button Is Not A Starter’s Pistol

Hey there!

I was producing a remote demo session with one of my lovely Pro clients, Mark Avis, connected via Zoom (that’s how I connect with demo clients not in Los Angeles), laying down the voice tracks for his commercial demo. He was running Audacity at his end, locally recording the raw voice tracks, and sending me the raw WAV files.

About 5 minutes into the session, after I’d watched a few of his first takes, I noticed him doing something that wasn’t serving him.

What he was doing was negatively affecting his performance at the beginning of each one of his takes. It’s a bad habit many of us have when we’re recording – and it’s totally worth breaking. Watch the video below in which Mark was sharing his computer’s screen with me, and you’ll see what I mean (and how to solve the problem).

Easy peasy.

Now, in the old days, when reel to reel tape was the medium we recorded on, being efficient with your work was a money-saver. But even then, that little moment when you set yourself to neutral after the engineer says “Rolling!” was essential.

No need for any of that in today’s digital, tape-free and self-producing world, especially since jumping right into your delivery the moment you see the waveforms being laid down can severely affect your performance. Your take can sound rushed, or pushed, or any number of other negatives that are completely fixed by not looking at the clicking of your record button like you’re pulling the trigger on a starter’s pistol.

Take your time.

You’re in control.

It’s not a race.

Click the record button, then set yourself to neutral, and start whenever you damn well want to.

Is this something you find yourself doing? If so, what thoughts were going through your mind? Did this relieve your anxiety? Let me know in the comments below.

And thanks to Mark Avis (who absolutely killed it on the voice tracks during our remote demo production session!) for giving me permission to share this with you.

Hope this helps.


8 Responses to The Record Button Is Not A Starter’s Pistol

  1. Madeline Mrozek July 13, 2018 at 11:44 pm #

    Brilliant advice! The title of your post made me lol because all too often I’m guilty of this exact thing. I shall take your advice to heart and pop a virtual chill pill next time I hit the “record” button. As always, thank you for all you do for us. Much gratitude :)

  2. Arnold July 14, 2018 at 7:54 am #

    Hi David.

    When it comes to doing pick ups, what I tend to do is talk right into hitting the record button. For instance, if it’s in the middle of a sentence, then I’ll start at the beginning of the sentence, and as I get closer to the pick up, I’ll hit the record button.

    If I need to start at the beginning of the sentence, then I’ll probably start in the middle of the line before.

    Otherwise, if I’m starting anew, then I do what you teach in terms of starting when I feel comfortable.

    • David H. Lawrence XVII July 14, 2018 at 7:58 am #

      You’re making this way too complicated. When doing a pick up, just record as much as you need to be able to edit to your pick up. Don’t add the burden of trying to time hitting the record button at just the right moment. You’ll find it a lot easier to do it that way than the way you’re currently doing it.

  3. Paula Leinweber July 14, 2018 at 8:20 am #

    Hi David,
    It occurs to me that if everyone was required to do at least one audiobook on ACX, it might help to break that habit as well…since we have to leave the space at the beginning of the chapters. I know that has helped me a lot to just relax and take my time when I hit the record button. I also use that space of room tone to paste over any loud breaths or clicks through the recording.

  4. Cylinda July 14, 2018 at 11:31 am #

    Great advice David and like the idea of taking your time and not be in a hurry.

    Thank you so much,

    Cylinda …:))

  5. Joey Eugene July 14, 2018 at 2:43 pm #

    I was absolutely doing this and I had to stop myself. When I would start a new chapter I would count to 3 so I could start talking immediately after the 3 seconds, but then I realized, oh yeah it doesn’t matter. I can just delete the extra silence later on. This also really helps when I’m recording dialogue back and forth between characters, feeling like I have to get the pauses and beats perfect on every take. Sometimes on playback it would sound too rushed, and the dialogue wasn’t enunciated well enough because I was thinking about the pause between the next line. Thanks David!

    • David H. Lawrence XVII July 14, 2018 at 3:52 pm #


      …I think these are two separate issues. Simply allowing yourself to start a recording, or pick up, whenever you like is one thing.

      But recording dialog with proper pacing is something else, and something you need to rest assured you’re able to do. The only way you would think it was “too rushed” is if you were going back and listening to your work all the way through. And the only way you would be recording dialogue in the manner you think the article addresses, is if you were A) recording each line of dialogue individually, and B) going back and editing each line of dialogue to get the pacing “perfect.”

      Don’t do that. Trust that you have the story telling skills to simply do the work and professionally narrate the dialogue completely, in the flow of the narration of the book, and that you not micromanage the dialogue pacing or try to perfect it with editing. Doing the latter can completely ruin the flow and feel of the dialogue and story. Make it authentic and a great story, with some inevitable slight variants on your pacing, not trying to perfect it through editing.

      You can do that. You don’t need to whip out the digital razor blade. I can only imagine how long that’s taking you to produce and master.

  6. Marlon July 14, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

    Right. Right. That’s good advice both at home and especially in a recording studio with clients on the other side of the glass. I’m not sure who originated the most important phrase for actors to remember, but I believe this is a quintessential example of “owning one’s space”.

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