If I had a nickel for every time someone wrote these two words to me in an email…

These two words are especially popular with people who are just starting out in recording. They’re eager to learn, and I’m certainly on board with their eagerness.

To this day, I still LOVE to learn new recording tricks and techniques.

But these two words, while well-intended, can lead you down a path that’s simply…neither fun nor helpful.

What are the two words you should never say in the studio?

“Should I…”

Here are a few examples of questions I get:

  • Should I use a condenser or dynamic mic on acoustic guitar?
  • Should I compress the kick drum?
  • Should I put my reverb on a separate bus or directly on the track?
  • Should I compress the master bus?
  • Should I use one mic or two on this instrument?

…and the beat goes on.

So, why am I so hard on “Should I…”?

Because, there’s an underlying statement to these questions, and it says a lot about the person asking the questions.

That statement is this: “I want you to tell me what to do. I don’t want to try anything on my own. I don’t want to use my ears to answer this question for myself.”

A bit harsh? Yeah, probably, but perhaps it strikes a chord with you?

Are you constantly second-guessing your choices in the studio? GOOD! You should.

But here’s what I suggest: rather than asking “Should I…” do this:

Just TRY IT.

Try it. Try it. Try it.

Try the idea you’re thinking about, then LISTEN to the results. Do you LIKE the results?

Then THERE’S the answer to your question.

See how THAT’s more valuable than having someone TELL you what to do?

I’m all for learning techniques from other engineers. That’s how I learn a lot of cool things, but I learn SO MUCH by simply trying things in my studio.

What say you?

Hey, I can’t tell you if you should use compression on a particular track, but I can surely show you how compression works, so you can make a more confident decision.

Go here:


P.S. I’m going to add some new videos to Understanding Compression soon, and I’ll also be raising the price. If you buy today, you’ll get all the new videos for FREE when I release them, no price increase for you, my friend. 🙂

9 Responses to “Two Words You Should Never Say In the Studio”

  1. Mike Sorensen

    Great pointer and one I have lived by for a long time. Only you know what that sound in your head is like so only you can play around until it hits home.

    I hope you don’t mind but I wanted our blog readers to take this in so wrote up a post about what you were advising and told them all to come over to check it out. Hope it brings some extra eyeballs to your blog.


      • Mike Sorensen

        Why thank you Joe. It’s been a labor of love and a long time in development to get them to that stage. I’m now onto two really exciting projects including building the sound diffusers in studio walls (so you never see them) and building a studio with a living roof! All great fun and challenging. Give me a shout if you ever want to test out the panels btw as I’m always happy to help indie studios if I can. That’s where all the best music comes from afterall!


  2. Michael

    When someone poses the questions “Should I use this…or this?”, “Should I do this…or this?”, I like to be a smart-ass and say “Yes”, then go on to tell the person “just try it”.

    In my early days of learning mixing (still learning of course!) I asked the above question of every experienced mix engineer I knew.

    Now years later I’ve learned I have more fun trying whatever comes to mind when recording than looking for how others have done it.

  3. Alex Grasley

    Too True Joe! I totally agree with you. I am all about experimentation and figuring out for yourself what works well. I like formulas and experienced people’s opinions, but I like to try them, tweak them, and make them work for myself. Just because Chris Lord-Algae can do something and have it work wonderfully in the mutli-million dollar studio he happens to be working in, doesn’t mean that I can do the same thing with my “multi-hundred” dollar studio and get the same results.

  4. Dave Marriott - Eclectic wonderland studios

    Apparently John Lennon never asked “should I”? According to the engineer Lennon wanted to sound like he was underwater and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. Although it didn’t work it sure gave the Beatles a giggle when the head of Abbey Road Studios popped in & they had to block him from seeing a mic from the precious Abbey Road collection wrapped in a condom sitting in a glass of water with John singing at the glass at the top of his voice!

  5. Hanzo S.

    Very true! Ultimately, you get all kinds of good advice, but we should always try do it and see the results for ourselves…Everyone has a different production preference, computer spec and workflow.

    Talking about compression, I’m still learning to understand and figure it out. It’s currently the thing I can’t seem to grasp clearly. Fun, but sometimes daunting.



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