Home Recording Lessons – Tighten Up That Kit

A few months ago I spent a couple of days visiting with my friend who is a very good and very experienced recording engineer.

I’ve been doing my own recording and engineering at my home and having a blast.  I’m learning a ton of stuff.

I’m learning about the technology that makes home recording possible and I’m learning a lot about recording drums versus live performance.

I’m learning about the subtleties of drums and drumming and how those subtleties are almost non- existent in live performance but stand out in the studio and can affect the entire recording.

I have been cutting tracks and sending them to my friend for writing and performance critiques, as well as engineering help, of which I am in desperate need.

Being able to sit with him in person, watching and assisting in mixing tracks was invaluable.

In two short sessions I learned some valuable lessons that would have taken me months to figure out on my own.

I’ve watched videos and read countless articles about mixing but there is just something about the one on one personal experience that contributes to a gut understanding of the process.

Although I have a good understanding (or at least I think I do) of a few principles of recording, it will take me years to get good at the application of those principles.

I’m not suggesting that now I think I’m a recording engineer.  No way, I suck at this but I feel that I have been pointed in the right direction.  It’s like I was swimming in circles in an ocean of sound.  I’m still out in the middle of nowhere but at least someone has pointed me in the direction of land.

I thought I would review some of the basic things that I learned from these two short sessions.  To some it may be obvious but to me they were eye openers and now I need to get to work at using what I learned.

Remember I’m just using the basic Garageband package, no plug-ins, just what you get out of the box with the Mac Book Pro.

First thing we did was eq’d the drum tracks.

Originally I waded into this process by myself, a virgin to it all, and the first thing I wanted to do was make my kit sound better.  I basically set up the kit to sound how I like it when I play live.

When I tried working with the tracks by myself I started by fooling around with the eq, boosting frequencies that I thought would make them sound better.  My Q was pretty low so I was boosting a pretty wide range of frequencies.  After a while they would kind of sound better but it was not what I was looking for and my master level was peaking.

I had this ringing live kit and I was making it ring more hoping that at some point I’d find the sound I wanted.

So what is the first thing we did when I was with a good engineer?

He recognized all the overtones and generally bad sounds I had going on with these tracks.  He flattened all my eq’s and went looking for whoops and bad overtones.  We steepened the Q, swept the frequencies finding the culprits and removed them.

Immediately the kit tightened up.

Then we went back and did some minor boosting of frequencies to “fatten” the sound and add some “shimmer”.

So now I’ve learned my first lessons.

First I need to go back and work with my kits and tighten up the sound at the source.  I’ve got to eliminate the bad sounds that really affect the track without removing the good sounds that I am trying to capture on the track.  This will be a learning process, a trial and error type of process.  But I have to make sure I eliminate the bad tones because if they are too much you may eliminate the good in an effort to get rid of the bad.

Remove your bad tones and the good ones should be left.

But really, start out by making sure what is going into that microphone is the sound that you want.  So get your drums sounding as good as you can for the recording environment before you begin.  It makes life a lot easier on the engineer.

Next post I’ll write about another lessons I learned, three dimensional thinking.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2016. 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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