I’m not sure if you know this or not: I’m not the world’s greatest audio engineer. In all seriousness, I spend a lot of my time teaching people like you how to record, mix, and produce music in the home studio, but that doesn’t somehow make me some super engineer that knows it all.
I’m just a home studio guy, like many of you, who has learned a lot over the years, made a lot of mistakes, and continues to hone this craft. I’m proud of the work I do and the mixes I create for clients, but today I’d like to get real with you guys.
Via Stewart Butterfield Flickr
Some Of The Dumb Things I’ve Done
Today I’d like to start a brief little series of articles and videos called “Confessions Of An Engineer.” Over the next couple of weeks I want to share a handful of the dumb (read: amateur) things I’ve done in my home studio adventures over the years.
There are two goals here: 1) I don’t want you to think too highly of me. I’m just a guy who’s been blessed to work with some talented people and make some fun music. I feel blessed to teach tens of thousands of people worldwide every week how to do what I love to do, but I’m still just a guy.
And 2) I hope that by sharing some of my studio “fails” you will learn from my mistakes. There is much to be learned in failure, especially other people’s failures. We’ve all made mistakes. That’s part of the fun, but maybe you’ll avoid some of mine and get better than me, faster than me. That would be awesome.
Recording Drums Without Listening To Them
Confession: a few years back I recorded an entire album’s worth of drums for my band without doing any mic placement or even listening back to the drums themselves.
Exactly. You see our worship band wanted to record an album at our church. So I brought my Pro Tools rig to to church, rigged some line outs from the console into my audio interface, setup some tracks in the DAW, and hit record.
The thing is, the drum kit was already on stage with mics already setup. Clearly they were setup for our live church services, but I didn’t even care. They were “in place” with cables already running to the console. All I had to do was get that signal into our Pro Tools session and capture our drummer playing to our guide track.
I Had No Idea What They Sounded Like
This might be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in recording. Signal “looked” good in my DAW so that was all I cared about. I may have listened back during his tracking session on headphones, but he was in the same auditorium blasting away on the kit so I really couldn’t hear clearly.
After a take or two I would say “Sounds like drums to me!” and we’d call it a song and move on. Lame.
After all it made sense that the mics were already in a good spot, that’s where we keep them on Sundays anyway. What else could we possible do with the mics??
Mixing Was Impossible
As you can imagine, mixing these drum tracks was near impossible. When I took them back to my house and opened them up come mix time, everything sounded thin and out of balance. I used EQ and compression as best I could to “fix” my crappy sounding drums, but nothing helped.
Maybe I should have actually listened to what our tracks were sounding like on recording day. Maybe I should have touched the microphones, moved them around, and tested some more.
Yeah, that would have been a good idea.
What about you? Ever made this mistake? Any other confessions YOU’d care to share?