My First Two Lessons From Being My Own Recording Engineer

Here are some lessons I have learned during the short time span of being my own recording engineer.

They may be simple stupid but they were pretty important for me to learn.

Slow Down Take Your Time

First, slow down.

I don’t mean my playing.

What I do mean is my approach to my setup and mixes.

I caught myself going too fast.

With computer recording I found that I have all sorts of tabs and windows that can affect the track and they are all crammed into one little 15 inch screen.

I may be working in one window thinking I am affecting the track that I thought I was working in only to find out that in my haste I’m really working in a different track.  I just spent 30 seconds screwing up what took me 10 minutes to get the sound that I wanted.

Or worse yet, somehow what I am doing is affecting the master track and now I’ve screwed up everything.

Being new and somewhat ignorant to the whole process I now have no idea how to get it back to where I want it to be, so all I can do is start over.

Slow down, take your time and double check what you are about to start doing.

Keep It Simple Stupid

The second lesson is one that I am well aware of it’s just learning how it applies to this situation.

Keep it simple stupid.

Again not just my playing but my whole approach to recording and the tracks before, during and after I lay them down.

While I was doing research on home recording I came across this web site: The Recording Revolution.

The site offered me a free ebook called “The Number One Rule of Home Recording”.  Well for the price of my email address how can I resist.

It was worth the cost.  I read it and enjoyed it. I have become a fan of this site.

Although I’m not going to tell you verbatim the number one rule I will give you my take on it.

It basically says keep it simple stupid.

This past weekend I laid down some acoustic drum tracks which were for a sketch of a song that I have been working on.

Once I had what I thought were acceptable tracks I decided to work with these tracks.

The last time I tried working with acoustic tracks it didn’t go well. (Read my previous post, Home Recording, I’m Not an Engineer.)  There were so many effects and buttons and such that I think I tried to use everyone just to see what they do.

In my excitement I violated rule one from above and went too fast.  I managed to quickly turn a good base of a drum track into a mess.

This time I said to myself slowdown and keep it simple stupid.

I didn’t fool around with compression or add any effects.  OK maybe just a little reverb to the snare.  What drummer doesn’t want a huge snare?

I eq’d each individual track by quickly finding a few frequencies that made them pop the way I like and boosting those frequencies a bit.  That’s it.  Took me just a few minutes with each track, but first I slowed down and made sure I was working on the right track. Later I learned perhaps its better to cut some frequencies which will boost other frequencies plus leave you headroom.  Boy I got a lot to learn.

I did all this using my JBL LSR308’s as my monitors.  Then I stopped.  I resisted the urge to start tweaking and add this or that of effects where I have no idea of what I’m doing.

I’ve since played these tracks back on cheap headphones, old low end JBL bookshelf speakers and on the system in my truck.

They don’t sound too bad.  Actually I think the drums sound pretty good especially for being engineered by a drummer who is flying by the seat of his pants.  They certainly sound much better than my first attempt where I fiddled and fooled around with every button and knob and the more I tried to fix it the worse it would sound.

There it is my first two lessons of home recording.

1. Slow down, take your time.

2.  Keep it simple stupid.

Because in the end it’s all about the groove.

© 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.

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