There aren’t a ton of ways to get great recordings.
You just have to focus on the basics, and on the first few elements of the music production chain.
So, great recordings don’t start with mastering, or mixing. If you’re not getting the sound you want, do not look for a solution on the mixing side.
First, work hard to become a better musician.
Work hard to make great songs. Work on your arrangement. Practise a lot. Study your instrument to make it sound great.
Developing your talents is the first step to get great recordings. If you write good songs and can play them well, with feel and energy, then you’re on the right tracks.
Make your instrument sound great.
Tune your instrument. Learn how it sounds and how to play it well to make it sound great. Take care of your instrument.
It’s surprising when I record bands to see how guitar players really care about their guitars. They just love their guitar. Then I come in to record drums, only to see a crappy drum set with worn out drum heads and cracked cymbals. And afterwards, they complain about their drums sound. Seriously.
Change your strings, replace your heads, and tune them. Change them a week before so that you can play them a little before recording. And take care of your voice if you’re a singer.
This is getting right at the source: you, your song and your instrument.
Once this is right, you can focus on the recording aspect.
Plan your session.
Know exactly what you’re going to record. Only choose your best songs, and record only one instrument at a time. That way, you’ll only need a small USB interface, a laptop, and one or two microphones.
Don’t under-estimate the time you’ll need to record each instrument. To be sure, just record one instrument per session. Record drums this weekend, then bass next weekend, etc…
That may take some time, but each of your session will be shorter and you’ll simply have more time to focus on microphone placement, and more time to practise in between sessions.
Don’t try to record everything in a single session.
Use few microphones and use simple techniques.
This is a lot simpler when you only have one or two microphones. If you have ten microphones, you’ll be tempted to test them all on each instrument. This is massive waste of time. Just test one or two and move on.
Use microphone techniques that work. If you want results, use what’s proven. I’m not saying you should not experiment, but start with something familiar, simple to set up and effective.
Do not take useless risks. Record mono tracks, and avoid complex stereo recording techniques. Or, again, you can experiment but have a simpler back up plan.
Focus on microphone placement.
Where you put the microphone plays a huge role in the sound of your tracks. Sometimes angling it a little or moving it 6 inches is all you need to get what you want and tame harshness, or pick up more low-end. Moving the microphone should be the first thing you do if you hear something wrong with the sound you’re getting.
Record full takes.
Don’t worry if you missed a chord or two, or if a drum hit is slightly out of time, or not consistent. You can fix that later.
However, what you can’t fix is the lack of emotion, feeling and power in your song. And you can’t play with emotion and power if you interrupt your song every section.
Your song is a whole. You should play it from start to finish, as if you were playing it for an audience. It’s okay to punch in a section if it doesn’t sound good, but keep punch recording to a minimum.
If you follow these simple principles, you’ll get smoother recording sessions and in the end, you’ll get great recordings.
Mixing is not the secret pill to get great sounding songs.
Your mix will only sound as good as your recordings.
So, focus on the beginning of the chain, and get your recording sessions right.
Hope that helps.
Make some good music.
PS: For more information about this topic, I wrote a detailed step by step guide about how to approach your sessions, with simple but proven microphone techniques. You’ll learn everything you need to know to get great recordings, from gear, to planning your sessions, to microphone techniques and placement for all the common instruments.
Check it out here: Simple Steps To Record Your Band
photo by: bokeh burger