Today I want your opinion on something.

What makes a “great recording engineer”? If you hang around recording circles, you hear people talk about folks like Eddie Kramer and Bruce Swedien, who recorded great acts like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Michael Jackson.

What made these engineers great? Was it their engineering skills? Or was it the fact that they had the opportunity to record these amazing musicians?

Wouldn’t Jimi have been famous regardless of who set up the mics and hit record?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. If I was in the right place at the right time, and I got the chance to record the next U2…would my skills (or lack thereof) really make a difference? Or would the talent of the musicians, and the quality of the song and performance outshine anything I bring to the table?

I know there’s no simple answer. And I’m certainly not suggesting that Eddie Kramer isn’t dripping with talent. But there’s an important lesson here:

You will never be a great engineer if you never record great music.

A great recording will always begin and end with a great song performed by a great musician. Your job as an engineer isn’t to take a mediocre song and make it great. That simply isn’t possible.

Does that mean you should ONLY record great songs and great musicians? Not at all. Use whatever talent you have available to hone your skills, but realize that your greatest work will likely be when you’re dealing with the most talented musicians.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, get it right at the source. Once you find a great musician with great songs, your job is to simply get it recorded and get out of the way.


Leave a comment below and answer these two questions:

1. Do “great recording engineers” really exist?

2. What are you going to do (specifically) to find your next “great musician” to record?

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