9.16.2012 Compression, COMPression, COMPRESSION!
Compression it's dangerous in the hands of amateurs. How do you tell when compression is overdone? That's easy, just use your ears! Take rock for example, you want your rock music to sound dynamic, punchy, warm and exciting. The mix should make you want to get up, jump in the air, it should make you feel good when you listen to it. When a mix is over-compressed it loses its life and it makes you tired when you listen to it. The dynamics are no longer punchy and the song no longer musical. Over-compression creates a wishy washy, unintentional pumpy, horribly bad sound usually created by in-experienced engineers and people trying to master their own music (including engineers). Compression is a dangerous tool for those who don't know how to use it.
Lets take recording for example, some engineers are reckless and compress during the tracking process. This is irreversible, so if the track(s) don't fit in the mix later, well, maybe just add some more compression and that will fix it... Take it from the all star mixer Chris Lord-Alge, even he doesn't think that it's wise to record with compression even if you're sure it sounds great. Its just not a good idea and it doesn't make great records. You can however use a TDM compressor plugin for tracking with zero latency and save the analog compression for the mix where you can fine tune it. This is how you make a mix jump out of the speakers. When used correctly, compression is an amazing tool that helps give a mix a bigger than life sound. That superstar sound that everyone loves, the one that translates to people even through language barriers and cultural differences. How compression is used can be the difference between mediocrity and fame.
2.24.2012 Recording has to mean something
What is a recording all about? To me its all about creating a bigger than life experience for your listeners that will litterally change the way they feel. You can influence a great deal of people with your music, you can change the world! As an artist put yourself in the listeners shoes, maybe they see you at a show and you had an amazing performance that is stuck inside their head, most of them can't follow your tour so what can they do? They can buy your record which of course you have available after the show. The record has to give the listener an exciting experience just like the show, it can't be boring and it has to be excellent quality, In mixing the engineer can do wonderful things to make a recording exciting that are simply just not feasable during a live performance, the engineer exites emotion into the mix, emotion that the listeners will relate to.
On the other hand, listeners may stumble across your record online at reverbnation ect. and you want them to think "wow this band is amazing" If they can't relate to your music for whatever reason then they aren't going to listen to it. If you can relate to your listeners then they are not only going to listen to your music but, they are going to tell all their friends and start coming to your live performances. Having a great record is so cruicial to your success so before you even consider making a recording, ask yourself does it mean something to me? Will it mean the same thing to my listeners?
11.3.2011 Thinking outside the box for tracking success
The most common way of recording is to get the rhythm section down first, then move on to guitar, vocals, harmonies and other background elements. We use the same method that Neal Avron (New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy) employs in his sessions which is recording drums and then guitars. The reason for this is that bass is fundamentally low instrument and it is very difficult to tell if a bass is in tune when it is the only element. Its much easier to tell if rhythm guitars are in tune or not and then when you track the bass its easier to tell if its in tune. What we're talking about isn't the fact that a guitar is out of tune when you start, you spend alot of time getting instruments in tune and the intonation set perfectly. When you strum notes on a guitar they can become out of tune, especially on bass. You're looking to capture something special here not going for perfection. In recording, perfection is in the imperfections!
4.25.2011 Guitar Recording
There are a few things that people seem to forget when recording an instrument like electric guitar. To get a great guitar recording you have to start with a great guitar tone. Before you even consider setting up a microphone, take a second to listen and adjust the tone. If the amp is loud, turn it down and adjust the tone. Your hearing will quickly become cloudy if you are trying to get a good tone while the amp is set too loud. Get a good tone with the amp on low volume and then turn it up. Some engineers like to setup the guitar head inside the control room and although it works for some people, I think it is important to get the right tone in the room before you start placing mics. Micing the cab and trying to get a good tone in the control room adds another variable that will end up taking more time if the mic is not placed in the ideal position. Once you achieve a great tone, its time to mic the cab and make sure you are getting the same tone you just heard in the live room. If you're not getting a good tone in the control room, move the mic. Don't compensate for a poor mic placement with EQ or settle with a poor tone that you will "fix in the mix". If you are using more than one mic, make sure you are following the 3:1 rule and that the mics are in phase. If the mic's are out of phase you will lose a significant amount of the tone you were going for. When you finally get the tone coming through the studio monitors its time to start tracking guitar.
4.14.2011 Recording Great Tracks Takes More than Great Gear
It's a common misconception that great gear makes great music. I like to think of mediocre gear as starting to draw a picture with a dull pencil vs great gear as starting to draw a picture with a perfectly sharpened pencil. Just because you have a perfectly sharp pencil does not mean that you will make a great drawing.
I like to think there are several key factors that go into creating great music. The first factor that is probably the most important is having great players. A great player will always sound good because they have truly mastered their craft. The second factor is great songwriting. There are plenty of bad songs written by great players. Being a great player and/or going to music school does not automatically make you a great songwriter. This is why many great players have songs written for them by a songwriter. Songwriting can be the easiest and hardest thing in the world at the same time. The third factor is great production, without the right production on a song it may never reach its full potential. Great production should not be confused with perfection because no matter how hard you try, you'll never ever be perfect. Thats what humans love about music in the first place though, the minor imperfections truly make the perfect record. The last factor is great gear which imprints a certain flavor into the recordings that always tastes great. All these factors combined are behind every great record that has ever been released.written by AJ Sorensen