6 Common Home Recording Mistakes [Part 1]

2011 Aug 31, 2011

If you’ve just recently gotten into home recording, you’re probably making some of your worst recordings ever. No offense, but that’s just how it goes. You’re brand new to an artform that requires both technical skill, talent, and experience. You’re probably making a lot of mistakes along the way. But guess what, so did I! In fact, I still make mistakes. It’s all part of the process.


Via hobvias sudoneighm Flickr

Houston We Have A Problem

That being said, if we can learn somethings that will minimize our mistakes and the pain involved, then chances are good we can get to some better recordings faster, right? Don’t worry, I’m here to help. While there are so many things that CAN go wrong in a recording session, today I want to highlight six of the most common “mistakes” I see home studio owners falling prey to and how if you reverse these, you can improve your recordings right away!

Mistake #1 – No Proper Guide Track

The biggest mistake most people make comes way before they ever hit the record button. By simply creating a new session in your DAW, hooking mics up, and diving into the recording session, all without proper preparation, you are setting yourself up for failure. The best thing you can do is to put a few things in place early on, resulting in a solid “guide track”.
This guide track is usually a series of tracks that help the musicians and engineer have a clearer map of where they are going. Things to include in your guide track would be:

  • Demo of the song with guitar/piano and vocal
  • Click track matching the demo’s tempo (or vice versa)
  • Drum loops to follow along with click (optional)
  • Markers for each verse, chorus, bridge etc.

By taking a little extra time to set these elements in place, your band or musicians (or yourself) will be forever grateful as they can hear where they are in the song, feel confident about the tempo they should play to, and in turn will deliver a more musical and professional performance. They’re mind will be less focused on where they are and instead zeroed in on the music. And honestly, whatever you can do to get a better performance, your recordings will be better for it!

Mistake #2 – Recording Levels Too Hot

This mistake is usually a hold over from the analog recording days. We used to be taught “Record your tracks as hot or loud as you can without clipping.” This was mostly due to nuances of an analog signal path’s high noise floor. Plus, when recording into a nice analog console and to analog tape, the hotter you pushed the tracks the “warmer” a sound you could get because of the inherent natural “compression” or saturation that occurred. Neither of these reasons exist in the digital recording world.

If you record to any modern DAW or recording software, you have a super clean signal path with practically no noise floor. You don’t need to push the signal very hot at all. In fact, the hotter you push things the worse they can sound as computers don’t handle loud signal levels the way analog equipment does. Things can get a bit dicey if you are pushing you meters closer to the red. The best thing you can do is record very conservative, maybe 50% up the meter. You’ll be able to get more volume and signal out of your tracks with compression, so no worries. Just turn up your speakers and forget the old axioms of “loud, but not clipping.”

Click here for Part 2 of this series

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