CHAPTER 2 : Getting Started
Focus on Your Instrument
Keep it Simple
Get it Hot
Target Your Frequency
Limit Compression & EQ When Recording
Avoid Phase Cancellation
There is one constant, true for all recording studios and situations: keep experimenting. The
only way to know what sounds good and what
to avoid in your home studio is to try different
approaches to the same scenario. So much of
the art of engineering, producing, and recording
comes from trial and error and constantly
honing your ears and your technique.
“I’ve learned a lot watching creative engineers
at work,” says Drew Raison. “Steve Albini worked
in my studio, and he was laying microphones just
above floor level. There’s an evil little echo, that
first reflection echo you are typically trying to avoid. He wanted to harvest that. To me, that was a huge question mark. Why would you want to do that? And then I heard it and I was like, ‘Well, boy, there it is.’ It is an acquired taste, but his management of acoustic space was eye-opening.
“I rarely use what I learned from him in my own
recordings because I’m not looking for a radical departure from a given tonality, but you should
never hesitate to experiment. This is your opportunity. Analyze and decide, ‘Did this work or didn’t it?’ and ‘What can I do to make it better
next time?’ That’s what makes a home recording
enthusiast become a producer over time.”
Keep it simple
Don’t run too many devices in series with one
another. Limiting the number of components in
your chain will usually provide a fatter tone. If
you’ve got a mic preamp, an EQ, and a compressor in the signal chain, you’re probably doing that for a reason, but sometimes that can
negatively affect the sound. If you’re not happy
with the tone you’re getting on record, try
going right out of the preamp into the console
and deal with the EQ and compression later.
Sometimes simplicity is the way to go, and
getting a more natural tone to tape should be
Get it hot, hot, hot
Always try to get the hottest signal you can to
tape. If you don’t, you’re missing out on some of
the sound from the source. Get the level as hot
as you can without going over the threshold.
Some A/D converters have a feature called a
soft limit, which can help with this.
“Let’s say you have a really dynamic part, a section of the song where the vocalist is hitting it a little too hard,” explains Weiss. “You can try to
anticipate the trouble spots and pull the gain
down on the preamp a little, or you can use soft
limiting. It’s kind of like compression but it just
limits the output of the digital signal.”
Target your frequency When you’re recording and mixing, you don’t want to have lots of overlapping frequencies. If you’re cutting percussion, for instance, and you don’t need anything below 80 Hz, you can use
a high pass filter and allow the highs to pass
through while cutting off the low frequencies so
you’re focusing that instrument into the frequency range you want it to occupy in the mix.
Maybe the air conditioner that’s blowing air in
your direction is producing low frequency rattle,
or the artist who’s tapping her foot or moving
around in the studio is producing low frequency
energy that doesn’t need to be recorded.
A high pass filter can eliminate those requencies
from the recording. Conversely, if you’re recording bass guitar, you probably don’t need all of the top end, so take some off the top with a low pass filter. Filtering out the frequencies that don’t need to be there will help keep the mix articulate and clean.
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