A great song can sound pretty shoddy and still capture listeners’ hearts, no doubt. There are, however, so many examples of great songs falling short just because they didn’t “sound” very good. With the abundance of tutorials at our fingertips, all the information is out there. If you seek out the right teachers and really fine tune your listening skills, there is no reason you can’t make great sounding records. Here are some ideas to ready the foundation.
Practice makes perfect. You cannot spend enough time experimenting. Try out different recording techniques and be prepared for things to sound rubbish before they sound decent.
It can be difficult to brush up poorly recorded material. Sometimes there’s not loads of time to spend on getting the most perfect sound in the world before you hit record, but try to get the best sound you can with what you have. Pay attention to other unwanted sounds being picked up by your mics. Pay attention to the clanging of the dog tags the singer is wearing around his neck, or the extra squeaky guitar neck, or the hum of the electric guitar pickups because you are near a train line, etc. Yes, these things can add character, but they can also be really annoying down the line.
Technique is more important than expensive gear. I have several friends who have proved this over the years. The data is in: Good gear is a massive part of great sounding records, but I have heard so much great work over the years from very dedicated producers using very basic gear. Spend time learning the techniques. There is volumes of information online, especially on YouTube, on how to do everything. If you take the time, you can learn to make great sounding records without very much equipment.
Try to find people who are better record makers than you and hang out with them. Watch how they work and ask loads of questions. One thing I’ve noticed is that the really good ones who are secure in their abilities absolutely love to share tips with others. Learn what you can from working with others and then integrate the best of what you’ve learned into your own workflow where appropriate.
Trust the headroom. Don’t over compress. Especially when recording. Trust in the music that you are working on and let it breathe. Don’t slam things too hard. Listen to the music and let that lead the way.