20th February 2009
Tips & Techniques:Recording Advice From Me To You Pt. I
Here are a few tips and ideas to think about when doing your next project. Hopefully some of these can be of assistance, or give you new ideas to improve your recording. Not all of them are technical, but all of them can result in a better end product.
1.) Record with compression or limiting, especially when going to digital.
2.) Have an assistant move the mic around in front of the source to help you "hunt" your sounds.
3.) Take some time to learn your preamps' gain staging. Know how it reacts and sounds at low, moderate and high levels. Proper gain stage is at least as important as the quality of the preamp for sound quality.
4.) Try and put either a mono or stereo room mic on every source. Even when low in the mix it adds a ton of life, realism and space.
5.) Triple check the phase of your mics! Poor phase relationships pretty much doom your audio, so make sure to get it right. Very important when combining DI and mic sources together, stereo microphones, multi-microphone arrays, and any bass-heavy sources.
6.) On every session try to do at least one thing you've never done before, even if it's as basic as microphone choice. Always look for new sounds and techniques.
7.) Find ways to add elements to a production the band would have never thought of whether it's adding some shakers, a keyboard pad, some sound FX or an unusual but subtle effect.
8.) When doing a project remember that TIME is the most precious resource in the studio. Accomplish things quickly, but correctly. Understand that every minute spent "getting sounds" before recording probably saves you ten minutes of messing around with the mix. Also realize that clients are very sensitive to the pace of a session--get it moving and keep it moving!
9.) Knowing how to encourage and get the best performances out of artists is probably twice as important as anything that has to do with engineering. Probably makes the record sound better as well.
10.) Pull out your manuals and re-read them periodically. There's always something you never knew or forgot about a piece of equipment that can help you at some point in the future.
11.) Periodically check your cables to make sure they are up to snuff.
12.) If you work with assistant engineers, occasionally tell them to set something up how THEY'D like to do it and see what they come up with! You'd be amazed at the creativity young engineers--not locked into any particular methods--can be.
13.) If you work with assistant engineers or other helpers always be patient and kind, even with their mistakes--they are there to help you.
14.) Try to never lose your cool or self-control during a session, no matter what happens. (Admittedly, one of my weak areas I've been working on the last few years--I have a very short patience for equipment malfunctions.)
15.) Show up to every recording session one hour early to double check that things are going to go smoothly.
16.) Always bring snacks and food. You cannot engineer with the distractions of hunger or thirst.
17.) Try to do at least one charity session absolutely free per year. Real success is only achieved when you are able to help someone else in need.
18.) Test mics by having someone stomp near them to make sure the shock mounts are working properly.
19.) Make musicians tune their instruments between every take. Learn how to check the intonation of stringed instruments--probably 80% of the guitars or basses clients bring in to the studio to record on are poorly intonated.
20.) Speaking of tuning--make bands use the same tuner. There can be shocking discrepancies among tuners, especially analog tuners. The digital ones are usually pretty spot on, however.
21.) Cardiod pattern gets boring. Try to use omnidirectional and figure eight (bi-directional) whenever possible.
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