Commit To A Sound When You Record

2011 Apr 01, 2011

In an age where infinite tweaks and undos are possible in our recording studios, one thing is becoming a lost art: committing to a sound. What do I mean by that? Well let’s just say that maybe the analog guys had it better than we do now.

Just the other day I was reading an article in an issue of Sound On Sound and stumbled upon this quote by Joe Barresi…

“Many people delay their decisions indefinitely. They’ll mic the kick drum inside and out and print them separately. But at some stage you have to make a decision: here’s the drum sound. Whether you have 20 or four tracks of drums, you have to commit at some point. And the sound of the drums affects the way the guitars and bass will sound. But people buy a computer rig nowadays and they never have to make a decision, because they have Mic Modeler and Sound Replacer and unlimited tracks. When I mix, I get a lot of projects in where I have to spend ages trying to work out what the actual guitar or drum sound is. It bums me out.”


Via marta … maduixaaaa Flickr

Delaying The Inevitable

Joe’s quote is spot on with this generation of audio engineers. We young bucks have jumped into the sea of recording with more possibilities at our fingertips than people could have ever dreamed of 20 years ago. But unfortunately that means we also haven’t learned the art of decision making.

We put some mics up on a sound source, maybe move it around a bit to get a better sound, but then just record the darn thing because, well, we can decide on its sound later. But has that really helped us? In actuality what we have done is not only set ourselves up for a longer than necessary mixing session, but we’ve created a vague recording vibe that leads the other instruments and parts nowhere.

Be Confident, Take A Risk

It’s time to change all of this. Don’t be a recording engineer who leaves the door wide open for any and all possibilities in the post production stage. Yes it maybe risky to commit to a particular sound or mic placement without any “backup plan”, but it’s that lost art of confidence in the studio that can help you capture magic and actually make compelling music, not just open ended recordings.

How does this look practically? Try a few of these ideas:

  • Limit yourself to a set number of tracks to record to in your DAW and make it work. If you’ve decided on 24 tracks and that extra room mic would put you in at 25, then forget about it.
  • Use one mic on guitar amps and don’t press record until that mic/amp combo is sounding like what you hear in your head. Get it right the first time!
  • If all else fails and things aren’t sounding good, don’t add tracks, take things out! Sometimes less is more and we need to strip down the arrangement in order to actually hear the song in all it’s glory.

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