Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Getting Started into Recording

 I'm making progress with recording and mixing and all of that fun stuff. And I'm the first to admit I have a long way to go. But over the last couple of years I've learned a lot and I feel like there are some rabbit holes that are worth it and some that are not. So if your looking into learning this stuff I thought I'd start compiling a list of things. Some of these things are things I forget and need to remind myself. 

The order of importance

What's important? At the end of the day the song comes first, everything you do needs to be there to serve the song. To add to and not take away from, but this is subjective. And it's easy to think oh if I had a different DAW or Microphone (or pedal) or what did Stevie Ray Vaughn use? But none of that really matters. What matters first and foremost is the song. Is it good? Maybe. Now what about when it comes to recording... A great song recorded on a cassette tape through a cheap mic will be better than an ok song recorded at the legendary Ocean Way Studios and perfectly engineered by one of the masters. Ok? 

Second- The performance of the song is the second most important thing, and I think it's a close second. There is nothing like nailing a song on stage with the band and when recording it's the same. Yes you can time-align everything after the fact in most modern DAWs but when everyone nails their part it really does sound better for some reason. 

Third is the quality of the instrument.... ok we have a bit of a caveat here. Samples can go a long way to helping a lot of instruments and I've heard some incredible stuff done with samples. But it will help if the main instruments recorded. If your song is a just a vocal and a piano you should really try to find a real piano to record if at all possible. It will sound better. Are you playing an acoustic instrument? Tune it between every take. Is there a better quality acoustic guitar you can borrow for the recording do it, if not don't stress over it just make sure you nail the performance. 

Fourth is Mic choice and placement. If you look around on tutorials you'll find a lot of different mics mentioned but also a lot of people saying you just need a large condenser mic and that's it.  More and more I think that getting one large condenser mic and using that is fine for almost everything. But the reason for that is that it forces you to listen to the more important factor and that is PLACEMENT! How the mic and instrument and the room work together. One of the biggest pop stars on the planet right now is Billie Eilish and for her first two albums her brother recorded her with a $100 AT2020. Learning how to place the mic, and use it to get the best sounds is way more important than buying another mic. SOOOOO why does everyone spend all this money on more mics? Well they do sound different and some mics WILL lend themselves to different voices and instruments. But not nearly as much as placement. 

Fifth and way way way way down on the list is outboard gear. Preamps, compressors, EQs and all of that stuff is kind of fun, and expensive. Do you need it? nope. Can it be useful? yep. The fact is that most of that stuff can be modeled in your DAW by plugins. BUT I do believe it is better.... but only marginally. If you've got the budget then spend the money. If your trying to make things 2% better then do it. But if your mixes sound like mud (which mine did for a long time) no outboard gear is going to help. Sorry. 

Sixth and even farther way down the list is the analog to digital converters. The reason for this is that most AD converters these days are really great and you don't have to worry about them unless you going in and out of your DAW to run those sounds through rack gear. 

So if You don't need that what do you need?

Where should you spend your money? My vote for most people is lessons, there is a lot of people on YouTube showing you different ways to do things at different levels. But find a couple of people who explain things to you in a way that makes sense to you. Maybe that's Recording Revolution, or Joe Gilders Home Studio Corner, or Produce like a Pro, just to name a few. If you're on a budget sign up for their mailing list and then wait for a sale. 

The next thing is to start recording stuff. Do you remember when you started playing guitar (or whatever instrument you started on)? Could you play like Steve Vai right away? nope, I've been playing for years and I still can't. But if you're like most people you started learning easy songs, I think my first one was Rock you Like a Hurricane. Revisit those first few songs and record them, You'll learn a ton, including what you don't know and what you need to work on. 

I've messed around with recording for several years and it's only in the last couple of years that I find myself getting to where I am happy with the sound of my mixes. My vocals on the other hand, that's going to take a lot of work. haha

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