It’s So Simple It’s Kinda Silly

When I interview people, I usually try to ask them for the one, single piece of advice they’d give up-and-coming home studio recordists.

What’s ONE THING we home studio guys and gals can do to get better?

I think we tend to get so bogged down with recording techniques and mixing skills that we sometimes miss “the vision” for the song.

Subscriber Max asks, “Are there any tips for developing the vision for a song?”

While it’s a seemingly simple question, it really gets to the heart of everything we do in the studio. Think about it. Who cares if the acoustic guitar you just recorded sounds amazing if it just plain doesn’t fit the song?

Or who cares if the bass tone is great if the actual part being played by the bass is completely wrong for the song? (more…)

Sound Quality or Song Quality?

Keys To A ClassicMy buddy Ben sent me this question:

Sound quality or song quality, which would you say impacts a listener more?

A few non-helpful answers come to mind.

Like “both” or “it depends.” 🙂

While they’re not super-helpful answers by themselves, I think diving into each one will uncover some stuff that might help you. (more…)

An Often-Overlooked Key to a Good Mix

I got a very nice email a couple days ago. The guy was simply writing to say that he really liked my song “I Won’t Fly Away” (from my latest album Out of Indiana).

He gushed about how he loved the songwriting, the arrangement, the mix, the vocal tone…”everything from start to finish” (or something like that).

I was flattered, of course.

But it made me wonder what it was exactly that made THAT song stand out so much to him?

It’s kind of an interesting story how that song evolved. (more…)

Barter? I Hardly Know Her! – Why You May Not Need to Spend a Dime on Your Next Recording Project

Empty PocketsThe day I sold my bass was a good day.

I had a problem.

See, I assumed that simply because I was capable of recording all the instruments on my recording projects that I should.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I bought that little Fender Jazz bass, thinking to myself, “Wow, Joe. You’re so impressive. Imagine how it’s gonna feel when you tell someone, ‘Yeah, I played all the instruments on this song.’ They’ll think you’re amazing. Heck, you’re like Dave Grohl.”

I’m not like Dave Grohl. If you’re dripping with THAT much talent, then yes, you can probably pull off playing everything on the record.

I’m not Dave Grohl, and chances are neither are you. (more…)

Step 4 – Mixing

mixing bowlMixing is ridiculously fun. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process.

Sadly, though, people tend to put almost too much emphasis on mixing, so much so that they don’t take the time to properly plan, record, and edit their tracks. Those steps really need to come first before you start mixing.

Once you’re ready to mix, though, let the fun begin! Here are 6 tips to help you stay on track with your mixing. This is what I do when I mix, and I love the results I’m getting. 🙂 (more…)

Step 3 – Editing

EDIT>Pre-Production? Check. Recording? Check. Now what? Mixing? Bzzzzzz. Wrong. 🙂

There’s an important step that comes between recording that last instrument and starting the mixing process. It’s called editing.

Editing can mean lots of things. Pocketing, cleaning up, comping, tuning, Beat Detective, quantizing, nudging, “flying,” copying & pasting, cutting out entire sections of the song — all of these could be put under the blanket of editing.

Let’s take a look at what editing is why you should make editing a part of your workflow. (more…)

Step 2 – Recording

Computer History Museum: Reel-to-reel tape machineNow that you’ve done some good pre-production on the song, the next step is to start recording, right?

Some people spend way too much time recording, agonizing over every single track until the song loses all its energy. Others breeze through the recording process as fast as they can, just so they can get straight to mixing. (Which of these describes you? I tend to fall into the second category.)

Whether you’re too fast or too slow, the recording process is so crucial to the rest of the process. These Production Steps all build on one another. If you don’t do a good job on one step and move on to the next, don’t expect awesome results. (more…)

Step 1 – Pre-Production

To Do'sAs I mentioned yesterday, there are really only 5 steps to the recording process. If that seems overly simplistic, then perhaps you’re overcomplicating things. The best way to keep yourself from being overwhelmed is to figure out how many steps you need to take to get to the finish line. Rather than saying, “I’ve got to finish this song,” you should be able to say, I’ve got to finish recording X instruments, then edit them, then mix then, then master them.”

You get the point.

Today let’s look at Step 1 – Pre-Production. (more…)