I watched a video interview with Eddie Kramer a few weeks ago. He was talking with the folks at Waves about some of their plugin emulations of analog gear.

He was recounting the way they recorded back in Jimi Hendrix days. They would record everything to one 4-track machine, then mix those down in stereo to two tracks on another 4-track machine, leaving two tracks for additional overdubs.

They would repeat this process over and over, adding new parts as they went.

The really interesting thing is that they were not only adding new parts, they were mixing as they added them.

Back then, you didn’t have the recording phase then the mixing phase. It was all kind of mashed into one big creative process. Once you mixed those first four tracks down, you couldn’t go back and tweak things.

“Fear of Commitment”

Several times Eddie referred to the “fear of commitment” so many engineers encounter today. We’ve got a million plugins and settings to choose from, and we never make a decision. We always wait around until later to really commit to something.

While options are good, they can really thwart creativity.

Imagine sitting in that studio with Eddie and Jimi. You’re getting ready to bounce down the drums and bass. Once it’s bounced, you can’t undo it. Talk about a rush!

You had to make decisions. You had to commit those decisions to tape…literally. Then you moved on to the next step.

“Commit to the final sound” from the beginning

That’s something Eddie said that stuck with me. They had to commit to the final sound throughout the entire recording process.

That means you had to KNOW what you were aiming for, what sound you were trying to produce. You couldn’t just record a bunch of garbage and make sense of it later. Technology forced you to commit.

Sometimes I wish that was the case today.

How to limit yourself

You may think limitations are a bad thing, but they’re just not. Without limitations, you’ll never finish a project. You’ll just mix it into oblivion.

Here are a few ways to practice limitations:

  • Set a timer. Editing a bass track? Give yourself an hour. And STOP at the end of the hour.
  • Don’t go back and tweak. If you always EQ, then re-EQ, then re-EQ…try mixing without “undo-ing” a single decision. Once you decide on an EQ setting, don’t allow yourself to go back and make changes.
  • Set deadlines. Really…it’ll help you finish things.

Are stuck on an endless merry-go-round of decisions? What are you going to do about it?

[Photo Credit]