I love the movie What About Bob. One of my favorite parts is when Bob is encouraged to take “baby steps” when dealing with any potential issues that he faces.

It’s not bad advice, especially for you in your studio. What am I talking about? It’s easy to overdo things in the studio, especially if you’re new to recording or simply excited about a song.

I would encourage you to take it easy and take things one step at a time, rather than making big, dramatic adjustments that could, in the end, prove harmful to the music.

1. Don’t go crazy with plug-ins.

Whenever you add a new plug-in to a track, it’s really easy to start turning knobs like crazy and doing something really dramatic. Very rarely is that helpful for me when I’m mixing.

I love to use plug-ins only when necessary and, when I do use them, I try to make subtle adjustments here and there to only improve the sound of the track, not change it dramatically.

If you’re in the habit of doing really big moves in an EQ or a compressor, try taking it easy and going more subtle. You may find that those big moves were only hurting things.

2. If you got it right at the source, you don’t need lots of EQ or compression.

That speaks for itself. I talk all the time about getting it right at the source. If you truly take your time in the recording phase to make the tracks sound like you want it to sound, you may not need any EQ or compression. As a matter of fact, I think that should be your goal. Your goal should be to record things in such a way that you don’t need any plug-ins at mix down.

Does this ever happen? Rarely, but it’s a great goal to have, and it will transform the way you record tracks.

3. The 3 dB rule

I sent an email to my mailing list recently talking about EQ. I told them about what I call the “3 dB rule.” The rule is simple. Whenever making an adjustment, only move things 3 dB at a time.

If you’re using an EQ, rather than doing a gigantic 10 dB cut on a guitar track, only cut it by 3 dB. Then, listen to the track and see how it sounds.

If you’re using a compressor, rather than yanking the threshold all the way down and compressing by 15 dB, only allow 3 dB of gain reduction. Then, listen.

This is hugely important because it allows you to take baby steps, incremental adjustments, to your tracks as you’re mixing. You’ll find that, while you thought you needed a 10 dB cut, it turns out 3 dB was all it took to make it sound great.

So the moral of the story today is take baby steps.

What ways can you implement this in your studio workflow today?

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