3 Lessons Learned From A Minimalist Christmas Recording

2012 Dec 07, 2012

Last year my band at church decided to record a few Christmas songs. More than that, we wanted to track it all together live, with only 8 inputs. The process was a fun challenge and I documented a little bit of hit here. Today I wanted to share that Christmas EP with you for free and also offer three critical lessons I learned from the experience that might prove fruitful in your recording endeavors.

1. You Can Get A Monster Drum Sound With Just 3 Microphones

I think my biggest surprise (a pleasant one) with this project was just how big and balanced of a drum sound we captured using only three mics. This tracking session is what officially sold me on the recorderman overhead approach, mostly because we got such a solid snare and tom sound in the overheads. With no close mics other than on kick drum, the overheads had to capture the cymbals cleanly but also maintain the punch and snap of the snare and toms.
Since we were recording live, in a living room I knew I needed the overheads close to the kit to avoid bleed and bad room tone. The recorderman approach gave me that direct, punchy picture of the kit with just enough cymbals to sing nicely. Lesson of the day: sometimes fewer mics is the way to go!

2. Minimal Mixes Come Together Faster

The blessing of recording only 8 tracks was that I had a really small and easy to manage mix. Even with adding vocal overdubs and some keyboard parts later on, each mix had max 15 tracks. Talk about simple! With fewer tracks competing for my attention EQ came together very quickly and my compression decisions were clear. Sure I was limited on some sounds and had to be creative at times to get the fullness or separation I’d prefer, but it still came together very fast.

When you don’t have to sift through 100+ tracks, you stay more focused on what matters, the song as a whole. No one cares about individual tracks. In the end the listener wants to hear a stereo MP3 or Wave file that blows them away. With only a handful of tracks to mix together I believe I had greater musical clarity and vision for this project.

3. The Intangibles Of Recording Live Are Wonderful

Whatever sonic quality or control we sacrificed in order to record all together live, at the same time, was cancelled out by the intangibles of playing together like a real band. Just the fact that we could look at each other and feed off each members energy was invaluable. The drum performance had character and dynamics because my drummer could look across the room at me singing and feel my vibe. My guitar parts had passion because I could feed off of the cool nuances that were happening live with my lead guitar player and bassist. It was awesome.

At the end of the day all we’re trying to do is capture a sonically pleasing and accurate representation of a passionate performance. Playing live like this in a house allowed a real performance to occur and for us that equated a recording with character and charm. We love this EP, even a year later, which is rare for me since I’m such a perfectionist.

Download Your Copy For Free!

If you’re looking for some Christmas music this season, check out our EP. It’s free. Just click on the image to the left and download away! Merry Christmas and thanks for listening.

Discover The 6 Steps for Creating a
Radio-Ready Song from Scratch"

Enter Your Email Below To Receive The Free 17-page PDF,
"6 Steps To A Radio-Ready Song"

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.