Welcome to Day 13 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.

Setting up for a recording session takes time. You’ve got to deal with mics, stands, cables, etc. It’s normal to want to jump in as soon as possible and start recording.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this. Three hours later…I’ve recorded a lot of material, THEN I listen. If it sounds bad, then I’ve wasted three hours of my life.

Front-Load Your Sessions

It’s understandable to want to rush through the setup process to get to the “good stuff.” If that sounds like you, I want you to try something.

Next time you have a session, make a conscious effort to to spend twice as much time setting up the microphones as you normally would.

Spending just a few extra minutes on mic placement can save you exponentially more time during recording AND mixing. I wrote about this in 7 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently on my Album. I rushed through recording the acoustic guitars. Granted, I recorded them quickly, but I had to spend a lot of time EQ-ing them during mixing to get them to sound right.

All that extra work could’ve been avoided if I had spent more time making sure the microphones were set up properly.

Listen

It should be obvious to us that we need to listen to our recordings, right? You’d think so, but it’s fairly common to go several minutes, even hours, without really listening to what you’re recording.

So here are the steps you should take to make sure you’re getting the best possible sound before committing anything “to tape.” (“To tape” is just a fun way of saying “to hard drive”…or simply “recorded.”)

  1. Know the source. Before setting up the microphone, simply stand in front of the instrument/vocalist and just…wait for it…listen. You need to become familiar with what the actual instrument sounds like in person

    You’d be surprised how many recording engineers will listen to the instrument for the first time through the monitors in the control room. How can you possibly know if your recording sounds accurate if you don’t even know what the instrument actually sounds like?

  2. Take your time setting up the microphone. Find a “sweet spot,” a place where the mic sounds especially good.
  3. Listen to it in the control room. Does it sound bad? Go back and move the microphone(s). Does it sound good? Great! Record a minute or so of the musician playing.
  4. Stop recording! Don’t get ahead of yourself.
  5. Listen to what you just recorded. Before you jump in and start recording 5 guitar takes, listen to the recording you just captured. Listen to it in context of the mix. Listen to it solo’d. Does everything sound as good as you want it to sound? Are there any changes you would make? If so, now is the time to do it. Don’t wait until it’s too late to notice that there’s too much low end, or that one of the microphones has a buzz in it.
  6. Once you’re content, then (and ONLY then) you should start recording.

Follow these steps, and you’ll save yourself hours of wasted time.

Day 13 Challenge

We’ve all wasted time in the studio. We’ve all been in such a hurry our recordings suffered. Leave a comment below and share a quick story about one of these such occasions that you have encountered. Sometimes it’s encouraging to hear that other people make these mistakes, too, and hopefully we can learn from each other’s mistakes. 🙂