The 85% Solution In The Studio

2012 Jun 04, 2012

If I’m being honest, my best recording setup only works well 85% of the time. And I’m OK with that. I’ll get the right mic choice and placement a good majority of the time, but without fail at least 15% of the time I’m completely off and my recording setup sounds like mud.

But guess what? I consider that a raging success. And you should too. Nailing it 85% is a beautiful thing. Let me explain.


Via Chris Breeze Flickr

No One Gets It Right 100% Of The Time

Did you know that you don’t actually need to get the mic choice or placement perfectly the first time, 100% of the time? In fact most professionals can’t do that themselves. They probably get it right 85% of the time. But then have to move and tweak a good chunk of the time also. That’s the big secret about mic placement, that what you see in the final studio pictures isn’t likely where those mics were initially placed.
Imagine for a minute that  4 times out of 5 you set up your recording chain just right for that solid sound you want. That would be incredible! Only being wrong once out of five mic setups! Not bad if you think about it like that. You’d be a solid and dependable engineer. Someone who generally gets the sound he/she wants early on in the session. No one will care that you have to experiment and move a few mics around after that.

85% Is Better Than 0%

If you’re like me, you want to be freaking incredible at recording and mixing. You want to deliver a perfect track every time. You devour audio books, blogs, and magazines as fast as you can, hoping to discover that magic bullet for pro recordings or at least trying to get all the pieces in place to be the next Chris Lord Alge or Mark Endert (Maroon 5, Madonna).

But what happens is you never actually make any recordings. Or at least you never finish a project. You’re too embarrassed. It doesn’t sound perfect. You didn’t nail it on the first try. Guess what? You’re human. Get over trying to shoot for perfection and instead shoot for 85%. If you were 85% as good as you want to be and got 85% as many projects completed as you desired, you’d still have WAY more quality music coming out of your studio than if you stubbornly nit pick your stuff and never finish a project.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

My heart in this post is to motivate you to actually get off your couch and go make music. That’s how you’ll actually get better. That’s how you’ll start to see improvement. That’s how your percentage of awesomeness per recording session will shoot up dramatically. Not if you just sit around debating which converters to buy next or whether or not LCR panning is God’s gift to mixing or just a silly idea.

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out and know it all. I sure as heck don’t know it all. But I’m getting after it as much as I can to learn, improve, make great music that moves people and encourages people. Don’t try to be perfect. Just get 85% of the way there and you’ll be just fine.

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