Home Recording: I’m Not a Recording Engineer

I am a drummer, a musician and consider myself an artist but one thing I am not is a recording engineer.

It’s one thing to use all the great sampled sounds that come with a lot of the DAW software but my first attempt at recording acoustic drums showed me very quickly I’ve got a lot to learn.

Getting everything setup, plugged in and working wasn’t a problem.  It all seemed pretty intuitive to me plus there is a manual for everything.

I took online courses (Lynda.com) on drum micing plus watched videos on the subject, so I felt pretty good about my mic placements.

I got what I thought at the time were pretty good levels on everything so off I went into recording land.

I laid down some tracks that I was pleased with and still am pleased with the results of my playing.

Next comes listening to the playback through the studio monitors.

Upon first playback I was appalled.  Not with what I played or the raw sound of the drums, but the overall sound.

Where was the punch in the kick and the snare?  Why is the hi hat killing me and why are the cymbals that are only being picked up by overhead mics overriding everything?  Where was this ringing sound coming from?  What is going on?

I then made my next mistake, I tried to fix it.

I was at least smart enough to save a copy before I started noodling around with it.

I started messing around with things I had no business messing with.

First I messed with the EQ.  I did get the punch into the kick and snare but at the determent of the overall sound.

I messed with compression and reverb.

I ended up with drums that don’t sound too bad if you can get past the fact that they sound like they were recorded in an empty aircraft hanger.

I like what I played and I like the feel of it.

I hate how they sound.

I liken it to a piece of furniture I would have made back in my woodworking days.

I step back and admire what I have just put together.  There may be a joint or two that’s not quite perfect but as I look at the unfinished piece of furniture I’m pleased with my work.

Next I decide it needs a finish.

I know what I want it to look like but I’m not sure how to get there.  I read articles about it and heard other craftsmen talk about it but I’ve never done this particular finish before.

First I try a stain that I think may give me the look that I want.  Nope it’s just a little too light so I’ll darken it, oops now it’s too dark.  OK maybe if I try some of this paint washed out it will lighten it up a bit.  No that didn’t do what I thought it would, let’s try a different color.

Next thing I know I have a nice well crafted piece of oak furniture covered with an ugly finish.

I know that what is under it is a quality piece of work but now it’s so covered in crap it’s hard to see the quality of the piece and I have no idea how to get it back to where I started.

I could just scrap the whole piece and start over but I don’t want to lose that base piece of work.

I should have kept it simple and just given it a coat of tung oil to enhance the wood grain and protect it.  But now I’m in way over my head.

That’s where I’m at with my first drum track of acoustic drums self recorded in my home studio.

Well that’s how I learn best, hands on.

For now I’m moving on but I haven’t given up on it.  I just keep on learning and figure it out.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One thought on “Home Recording: I’m Not a Recording Engineer

  1. Pingback: My First Two Lessons From Being My Own Recording Engineer | About The Groove

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