Sunday, 25 November 2012

Old dog - Old tricks

New tricks surely?

Hang on you're thinking, that's not how the saying goes, but read on because I do have a point. Having spent 20+ years of my life involved in writing, recording and producing music in some shape or form I consider myself very much an 'old dog'. As such, I know I must work hard to stay up with the times and be sure to learn as many new 'tricks' as possible in order to keep my productions fresh and current.

With the advanced software DAW's and plug-ins most of us have access to today there are plenty of new tricks to learn. Some serve to add new mixing and production techniques to our arsenal. Some extend the depth of the audio soundscape we create, and some simply ensure our final mixes can complete with the professional recordings we hear on the radio everyday.

But even today, working with the latest in multi faceted audio software the core principles of recording, mixing and audio engineering still hold true. If you are working with audio and terms like "gain staging", "EQ", "compression" and  "spectral mixing" mean nothing to you I urge you to go look them up! Getting the basics right at source is still the real key to getting a great mix.

So what exactly are these 'old tricks' I've been alluding to? They really are too wide and varied for any singe blog post to cover i'm afraid. Some are techniques I learnt so many years ago that they are ingrained in my working practices, but every now and then I come across a tip somewhere that reminds me of a simple core principle technique that I'd forgotten about. It might be a neat vocal treatment idea or a best practice starting point for miking or EQ'ing a particular instrument - whatever. Point is it's very rarely new or complicated stuff, just great tools to have in the bag of tricks to get the job done. If your engineering 'toolbag' is empty it's time you went tool shopping!

Viva La revolution!

All this was brought to mind recently when I discovered The recording revolution. This brilliant site is an Aladdin's cave of tips, tricks, reviews and techniques. Some great new ideas here, but also plenty of the 'old tricks' we all need to learn and master so that they become second nature to us. It also has a youtube channel with a host of video tutorials to soak up and learn from. If you have any interest in improving your recording mixing and skills you should definitely take a look.

3 tips from me

In the spirit of a number of the posts on The recording revolution I would like to offer you my 3 top tips. Please take from these what you will but they work for me:

  • Stop hankering after the next piece of kit - We all get 'gear lust' every now and again, but assuming that you have some reasonable kit assembled in your studio then stop lusting after new gear and take the time to really learn what your existing kit can, and more importantly what it can't do. Once you really know your gear and your software you can remove the barriers between an idea and a recording and get work done. This will serve you more than another new piece of kit you don't know how to use.
  • It's 'Mixing' - not 'Fixing'! - Getting it right at every stage of the recording process will pay dividends when you get to the mix every time. Period. Most of us tend to mix as we record these days, but it pays to set aside a session to just mix your new track. Get all your recording, editing and arranging done and then break from the track. When you come back you can then concentrate only on the mix. Often I will remove all the plug-ins I added during tracking and zero the board so I can create the cleanest most focused mix possible.
  • Never stop learning - I still learn something with every mix I do. I still look for great tips (new and old) whatever the source. I still soak it all up. I still practice 'critical listening' to recordings new and old every day. I'm always still learning! And so should you be.
With so much great information available to us from some many sources both free and paid we owe it to ourselves and our music to seek out and learn as many new and old tricks as we can.

Happy exploring people!