Top 10 Recording Tips
You will find many articles on the internet with tips and tricks for mixing and making a song sound it’s best. The best way to make sure the mix, and ultimately the final product sounds the best it can is to record it with excellence. With that in mind, here are my 10 tips for making a great recording.
1. Commit to a sound
We live in the digital age, options are great and we can use any number of plugins to craft sounds inside of our DAWs. We have an unlimited number of choices. However, creative producers hear a sound in their head and strive to capture it during the recording of the song. Don’t be afraid to be creative and commit to sounds early. Committing to a sound fosters creativity and can inspire you to try unique ideas that take you away from generic production techniques.
2. Pre-Production is Key
When you’re working with an artist, pre-production is a great time to work on lyrics, melody and song arrangements before you ever begin to press record. Additionally pre-production gives you a chance to build a relationship with the artist or band you are working with. You can earn their trust and that will go a long way in helping you make a great recording with them.
3. Get it right at the source
This is similar and yet different than committing to a sound. Getting it right at the source can be making sure that the guitarist is playing a guitar that has proper intonation. You can create the greatest guitar sound in the world, but if the guitar is out of tune in the middle of the fretboard, then your takes will sound bad. Another example of this would be using a noisy piece of gear. It would be a shame to to capture a great performance only to have it ruined because there is an annoying buzz or hum throughout the entire take.
4. Use High Pass filters
Many microphones and preamps will have a high pass filter that you can engage with the press of a button to take away unnecessary low end. You will see this topic debated a bit on the internet, but proper use of the high pass filter can really clean up and tighten things in the low end of your production.
5. Use caution before you stereo mic something
Early on in my career I was stereo mic’ing everything. Whatever the instrument was I would place a close mic on it and then stereo room mics. When it came time to mix, it was a muddy, reverberant mess. Be choosy when you use stereo microphone techniques. Not everything needs to sound like it’s in a big space. Often times I mic my upright piano with a single ribbon mic.
6. Use the gear you know
Nothing can kill the vibe of a session quicker than having to stop to learn how something works. It’s a temptation we all face. You get a new piece of equipment into your studio and you want to begin using it to make music. It’s great to have new gear, but balance out using something new with using something that you are familiar with. This is especially true if you are working with an artist under time constraints. Using something that are you familiar with will help you keep the session moving forward and save you time.
7. Label everything properly
Label the tracks that you record and label them properly. We’ve all seen the memes where everything is labelled, Audio 1, Audio 2, Audio 3, etc. If you do this, you are inevitably setting yourself up for a slow workflow. You will have to audition all of those tracks one at a time to find out what they are. Also, if you are sending the song off to a mixer, they will love you when they open up your session and can see, Kick In, Snare Top, Snare Bottom etc. It makes their job easy and will make you someone that they want to work with.
8. Backup, backup and backup
You never want to find yourself in the situation where you have to explain to a client that you have lost their song (or worse yet, album.) Many IT professionals will tell you that if it’s not backed up 3 times it isn’t backed up. When I am working on a session I have 2 drives going at the same time and I use the software Synchronize! Pro X. The drives are mirrored and I have synched up exactly. When I get ready to send the session off to a mixer, I will copy it again on another drive and send that third copy to them.
9. Leave enough headroom when recording
There have been many instances where I have needed to record a track and had a mic preamp and no external compressor. We are working in the digital age, and one good thing about that is the super low noise floor that digital offers. Keep your preamp low, and you can always bring the signal up later. This will help you safeguard against nasty sounding digital clipping distortion.
10. Maintain your focus
You, as the producer and engineer, need to maintain your focus. If you bring in an artist that is new to the studio, they are looking for your to have as the person of authority. When someone is paying you to make a recording for them they are looking for you to maintain focus and keeping the project moving forward. Make the artist feel comfortable. Maintaining your focus will help the artist to focus as well.