If you’re new to home recording, then you are probably at a point of your worst recording ever. It’s just the way it goes, so try not to take offense to it. You are a complete newbie to a form of art which requires many things like technical knowledge, talent and experience. You are going to make a lot of mistakes along the way just like I did. I still make many mistakes, because it’s part of the process.
Problems, Problems and More Problems
With all the problems aside, if we can reduce the amount of mistakes we make and the pain involved than there’s a good chance that we can make better and faster recordings. Plus, I’m here to help you. There’s many little things that can go wrong in the recording process but today I’m only going to be talking about a couple. I’m going to highlight the common mistakes I see in home recordings and then try to help you reverse them so you can make better music now!
Missing A Guide Track
Even before the record button is pressed, some of the biggest mistakes are made by people. By creating a new session in your Digital Audio workstation, getting your mics set up, and getting started on your recordings, you are setting yourself up to fail. Setting up a guide track early on is the best thing you can do for your session.
Having something like a guide track will give a clearer picture to both the engineers and the musicians and where they are heading. Here’re a few things to include in your guide track:
- Demo of the song
- A metronome that’s tempo matched
- You can add some optional demo loops
- Laying down markers which label the sections of the song
If you do those four things than you are setting yourself up for some pretty grateful musicians. They’ll be able to here the tempo, know where they are on the track and ultimately will deliver a much better performance. Instead of focusing on where they are on the track, they will be laser focused on the part they should be playing. This is paramount if you want to try and get excellent recordings because great performance is key.
Ouch, I Think It’s Too Hot
Hot levels are something that spills over from the analog days. The analogy was to record your signal as loud as possible without actually clipping. The reason for this is because, in the analog world, there is something referred to as a “noise floor” which is any noise from the equipment that gets into the recordings. Another reason is that as you pushed into an analog console or tape, you get the inherent saturation as a result, which sounded pleasant to the ears. But none of those things occur in the digital realm.
So if you are recording to a modern DAW, you will get a really clean recording which has almost no noise floor. You shouldn’t have to push the signal very loud at all. In fact, the opposite is true for digital when you push things hard. Once you reach a certain threshold, the sound is going to crap out and not sound very pleasant at all. So for your songs sake, it’s best to record your levels pretty conservative. You can always achieve more volume later on if you need it.
For the Visual Folks, here a good video on Gain Staging:
Now Show Me What You Got
Now that you have received some insight into what can be done to make your recordings better go out and make some music. Tell me below in the comments if you see some stellar results!