Folk-pop-noir singer-songwriter and professional audio engineer, Ryan Hobler lives in a studio, mixing and recording on a daily basis. Drawing upon his 10 years of experience in both music production and audio post, here he offers his suggestions to avoid some common recording mistakes.
Brand Name or Bust
Hi-fi doesn’t have to be just for hi-rollers anymore! Think outside the “brand-name” box when it comes to buying preamps, microphones, or other professional audio gear. Sure, recognizable brands are, more often than not, rightfully expensive, but don’t overlook the little guys. Today, there are many boutique companies selling amazing, innovative gear for far less. I am a huge fan of FMR Audio’s RNP (Really Nice Preamp) a fantastic sounding, no frills, two-channel preamp. I also love Cascade’s amazing Fathead II ribbon microphone. Both sound great on vocals and acoustic guitar. They may not have brand name recognition, but they are superb products as user and professional reviews attest.
Do as You Were Told
Home recording handbooks point out typical mic setups that are great starting points. However, chances are the author never heard a note in your basement studio. Try this: Use your ears. Put one ear close to the instrument and back away until your ear finds a place that sounds great. Position your microphone there! You may wind up with an unorthodox setup compared to what you’ve learned, but if it sounds good, who cares? If it works, do it.
Measure Once, Cut Once
This is a bit of a catchall. Don’t go against the old carpenter’s adage: “Measure twice, cut once.” Do things correctly the first time, so you don’t have to keep redoing them, burning your creative energy.
Clipping: Don’t overload your signal when recording. Once you have clipping it’s very hard to get rid of. If you even can.
Overdubs: Nail your part! Instead of editing a bad performance ad infinitum, get that part right!
Arrangements: Don’t belabor a part that isn’t working. Think about what is most supportive and appropriate in the context of the song.
Don’t Cross the Streams
My Ghostbusters reference here is alluding to the 3:1 Rule. The 3:1 rule is a microphone placement guideline that attempts to solve potential phase problems (recognizable on playback by it’s thin, tinny sound). Phase problems happen when recording one source with two closely-placed microphones. To minimize phasing, the 3:1 rule suggests placing your second microphone about three times the distance your first microphone is to your sound source. For example: if your first microphone one foot from your guitar amp, and place the second microphone three or four feet from it.
–If you like this article you might also like our article on Building a Home Recording Studio on a Budget. Click here. —