Most musicians have some type of multitrack home recording set up at home these days. These range from stand alone hard disk recorders and tape based Portastudios to desktop computers and laptops. These can be loaded with all manner of DAWs, audio editors, plugins, virtual instruments and mastering suites. It seems everyone is a producer now!
There is a fundamental difference between recording yourself and going into a commercial studio to record. In your own project studio you are everyone. Engineer, producer, artist, performer, tape operator and tea boy. Your focus is split between different jobs with sometimes opposing skill sets. The engineer’s job is a logical and procedural process whereas the producer’s job is a more creative process. The performer needs to be in the zone whereas the artist has to take more of an overview of the project. One thing I have heard said on a regular basis is that it seems to be impossible to finish a project and draw a line under it. There are many reasons for this and there are strategies that can be employed to help achieve this closure. Lets try and tackle these one at a time.
Mixing can be a particular obstacle as you need to be objective in your decisions. This can be hard with something you have invested so much emotional energy in. You want everything to sound amazing! I know in the past I would end up with all the faders up too high, too much eq, too many plugins. But it still wasn’t right so I would have to start again. I have set myself some simple rules to combat this problem. Some ideas are mine and some are from useful advice I have aquired along the way.If you can hear everything the mix is most likely fine! For an extra check, walk out of your studio with your track playing, shut the door and see if anything becomes too loud or disappears from the mix. If you need to adjust the level of these tracks, try to get a compromise between the levels in the room and the levels outside. This has worked well for me.
1. If you can hear everything the mix is most likely fine! For an extra check, walk out of your studio with your track playing, shut the door and see if anything becomes too loud or disappears from the mix. If you need to adjust the level of these tracks, try to get a compromise between the levels in the room and the levels outside. This has worked well for me.
2. If you are happy with your mix invite a friend to your studio for a listen. A funny thing happens when you play a track to someone else! It would appear you hear it from a different and fresher perspective and you will notice things that were not clear when you were on your own. Usually things like too much reverb or too much bass. Make some notes and adjust these settings.
3. If you cannot get things to sit together in the mix (ie vocal and electric guitar or two different electric guitars) try to use eq to separate them. This can be done by selecting a different mid frequency to cut on each track and then boosting the same frequency in the opposite track you cut from. Try to treat eq as a tool not a way of making something sound different. If you want it to sound different, re-record it with a more appropriate sound that sits in the mix better. This could mean re-amping the guitar or re-recording with a different mic placement, amp setting, type of guitar etc.
4. Make notes. It can be handy to have listening sessions, play the track back several times and resist making adjustments. Make notes of what needs to be done instead. Now you have a list of jobs which can you can work through. I have always felt that recording your own music uses left and right hemispheres of the brain more for one process than another. Making notes is a good way to separate the logical processes and the creative ones so they can be attacked separately.
5. Learn to use compressors!. They work well to help tailor individual tracks to make them smoother, more percussive or less percussive. Check out Rick Beato’s Everything Music channel. He has some great stuff up and I regularly check his channel out for more knowledge.
That should be enough to get you thinking! Read part two here.....