Recording can be quite tricky at times. It is both a skill and an art and so much can go wrong, both technically and artistically. I know some will argue that you can’t go “wrong” when you’re dealing with something so subjective as art, but if you’re recording a rock band as if it were an orchestra, you’re gonna have problems.
On another note, there are many simple things you can do to ensure a higher quality in what you’re doing. It isn’t rocket science, and it can take your session from mediocre to great with little to no effort.
I put together a list of five ways you can take your next recording session to 11:
Without further adieu…….
5. Have water on hand. I know this sounds idiot proof, but try recording a singer with a dry throat and pallet. It isn’t fun and it is sure to set a mood. (Not a good one, by the way.) Musicians also get testy when they’re thirsty. It’s under $5 for a case of water. Save yourself the headache.
4. Headphone mixes. Before you make your own mix, make theirs. It’s not easy to listen back to something when you have a guitarist complaining that he can’t hear any guitars. Yes, even when the guitars are making your ears bleed, it’s still not enough. Take the extra minute or two to give the musicians a mix that they like. If you’re short on headphone mixes, give your monitor mix away. It’s not ideal, but again, it’s better than having a level monitor mix with whining musicians.
The Third One
3. Check your gain structure. Do it twice. I promise nobody will find out if you’re naughty or nice. (I’m sorry, I went there. Please keep supporting my blog even though I’m a complete cornball.) Even when you tell the drummer to play as hard as he’s going to play in the tune you’re recording, chances are he’s not. Make sure you’ve got enough head room in all of your gain stages. This means check your mics, pre-amps, compressors, and any other gear you’re using. I promise it’s better to take the time to double or triple check than it is to try to fix a clip. Notice I used the word “try”. You will not be able to fix a clip, you will just sit there trying. Don’t waste your time.
2. Make sure the musicians are comfortable. Honestly, this is a big one. If a musician isn’t feeling 100% in their zone, you may end up spending a lot longer getting performances and doing multiple takes. Whether it means turning off the light in the vocal booth, getting guests out of the room, finding a better chair for someone to sit on, or helping an artist channel the mood they were in when they wrote the song, do whatever it takes. It will make your session run much more smoothly and the musicians will feel better. Better feeling musicians=Better playing musicians. Trust me.
And the number 1 tip…..
1. Don’t be afraid to swap out gear. This includes microphones,pre amps, compressors, other outboard gear, and even instruments (depending on what you have available). We’ve all been in a position where we put up a mic, listened back, and just didn’t feel great about it. You have two options in this situation.
a) Proceed forward with what you’ve got, telling yourself that you will try to make it sound more in tune with what you’re going for after the fact.
b) Change out gear to get the sound you’re looking for at the source.
I think it’s pretty obvious that option b is the better one. Why take a satisfactory sound when you know you can get a better one? Sadly, it happens pretty often. Yes, it’s going to take some extra time. Many times, the clock is ticking and time is of the essence. However, it’s okay to explain to your client that you are simply looking to capture a better sound and that it will ultimately make their music sound much better. Most won’t argue that. If they do grumble about it, you’ll have to use your judgment and take it on a case by case basis. Regardless, at least put the option out there or better yet, just do it. Chances are, they won’t even notice.
So there you have it. All of the above are very easy things you can do to make your recording sessions more productive, timely and most importantly: sound better. While the technical aspects of a recording session are extremely important, often times it’s the little things that can turn a good session into a great one.
What are some tips that you use to make your recording sessions run better? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.