As is my custom, I was listening to the Home Recording Show the other day. They mentioned a comment left on Episode 121 that I thought was awesome.
Here’s the comment, by Edward Mowinckel:
I used the steak analogy. You can burn a steak, but after you burn it, it’s burnt. You can cool it off, but it’s still burnt. If you cook it medium, you can still cook it more, or just enjoy a medium steak!
He was referring to the process of recording with levels too hot. Some people think you have to peg the meters to get a good recording. His point was that, when setting levels for recording, you don’t have to go in NEARLY as hot as you had to in the analog days.
And if you record TOO hot, you end up with clipping, which, like a burned steak, can’t be undone.
While this applies to levels, it also works nicely for using processing (like EQ or compression) on the way in.
Commit…but don’t overdo it
I mentioned in yesterday’s post about how you should try to commit to the sound of your recordings more.
It’s fun to use analog hardware. It really is. But it’s very easy to over-compress or over-EQ something.
You get caught up in the excitement of seeing meters bouncing and turning knobs. Always give it a listen before you start tracking a bunch of takes.
If you think you might regret it tomorrow, back it off a bit. Subtlety is your friend here.
Have a Plan
You need to have a plan, a goal for how you want the song to sound.
I’m not saying be a big dork and spend 3 months planning everything out in excruciating detail. But you do need to have a fairly good idea of the overall sound you’re going for.
That goal will inform all of your decisions along the way.
If you know you always squash the life out of your bass recordings when you mix, then maybe you experiment with crushing the bass on the way in…save yourself some time and processing later.
It all comes back to doing things on purpose. If I was to sit next to you in a session and ask “Why did you do that?” for every decision you make, you should have an answer.
Don’t compress because you think you should. Compress because you know what a compressor will do to the sound, and that’s the sound you want.
Want some compression training? Check out Understanding Compression.
What do you think about the steak analogy? Are you over-cooking your recordings?