It has always been stressed that “a great music producer only frets over the most important things” and it can be rightly argued that the most imperative thing in music production is the recording. Contrary to widespread beliefs, garnering state of the art equipment won’t render such charms to your recording if you don’t know how to use them right. Sometimes, with prudent forethought, you can glean the best out of your ordinary paraphernalia, even in the confines of your home. Here are some top recording studio tricks that you will find handy down the road:
The angle of the microphone, the positioning, mounting, and even distance from the singer or instrument can have big repercussions on the finished recorded sound. While the optimum placement of the microphone depends upon the sound of the space it is in and the sound of the instrument, as a general rule of thumb, you can listen closely to scrutinize what contribution the room makes to that sound and where and how the instrument makes its sound. Your microphone should ideally be placed to achieve the most optimum balance between the two. In addition, by adjusting the distance and angle of the microphone, you can virtually ward off any sibilance or popping, even without using a pop filter.
Some bands prefer to use a boom and heavy floor stand. They place the counter weight of the boom opposite the singer so that it’s out of the way. In this case, the counter weight should be heavily padded lest someone fails to tighten the height of the stand adequately and it comes crashing down. You can always check with your vocalists if they have some definite preference in the way they wish to project sound towards a studio microphone. The microphone should also be angled downwards to let the vocalist sing straight into the capsule of the microphone.
While recording drums could incorporate 20 or more microphones, remember that it requires more tracks and more mix down time and it may serve no purpose in making the drums sound better. If you have the tracks and mix down time it simply lends to you more balancing flexibility later. You can always opt for a simple live sounding four microphone solution as a feasible choice, with a stereo pair of microphones over the top of the set (often referred to over heads), one mic on the snare, and one in front of the kick drum.
As you must be familiar with, most tracks are constructed on rhythmic foundations, and since you have got to start somewhere, getting your proper beats down first is the way to go. Not only does it help in shaping the feel of the track, it also gives the musicians something real to play. If you are going for individual track recording, you can lay down scratch tracks of the other band members playing with the drummer and either keep them in the end or make new tracks. This creates a solid foundation, and often helps with drummers where their meter is not as consistent, because the other musician’s rhythm tracks are already recording with the drums. It can also save tracking time if the scratch tracks are good enough.
Wet vs. Dry
You would most likely be looking to adjust and add effects levels (delay, reverb, etc.) for various instruments when mixing, so recording these instruments with your normal added effect sounds is a huge mistake. However, as with everything else, there are exceptions; such as the parts in an electric guitar, where the effects are a vital part of the performance and sound. Adding effects in the final mixing pulls the music together, because the effect is consistent on the full band.
DI and Mic
For bass and guitar, try recording the amps separately using microphones and the direct instrument signal using a DI box. This grants you a character rich amp sound and a clean DI sound providing the best of both worlds by balancing them in the mix down. Later, if you feel that the original amp sound isn’t cutting the bill, you can simply feed the clean DI recording track back through an amp or use an amp simulation plug-in to revamp the track.
Even if you serve up a flawlessly mixed headphone feed, it can be deceptive albeit the performer may think it’s great. Concentrate on keeping it simple and put all your focus on providing a fold-back of what is being played, a solid timing reference, and a solid pitch reference. This gives the musician all they need to give a great performance.
Overdubbing and multitracking would lay bare all your tuning issues. To finish the track without many frills, stay abreast of tuning at the recording stage. Between each and every take, check on your instrument tuning. If in doubt, listen back with the singer or other musicians, highlighting the problem areas and fix them.