In this article we just give a quick overview of a couple of things to watch out for during the recording process that could rob your track of punch and presence in the final mix-down. In other articles we will examine these things in much more detail but just so your head doesn’t explode with tech talk have a read through this first as a platform for latter understanding.
1st and most important …. Keep Your Powder Dry!
• AVOID REFLECTIVE SPACES
If you want your track to really smack you in the face, avoid using reverb with long tails or recording in live spaces. Typically Drums and Bass guitars add the punch to a song and too much reverb can really wash these instruments out. If you record in a room that has even a small amount of reflection, it will show up in the recording and once it’s part of the wave file you can’t really get rid of it.
• CLOSE MICING
We don’t always have the luxury of recording in a perfect space so by placing the microphones as close to the source as you can will cut down on the sound of the room. If you are in a bedroom try opening the closet up and singing into your clothes, you will find they act as pretty good reflection absorbers.
To understand it better try this exercise.. Put your hand right in front of your face and count to three, now move your hand away to arms length and count to three, notice the difference? When your hand is really close to your face it sounds very dry and quite trebly, as you move it away you start to hear the sound of the room around your voice and the natural reverb of the room is added in and the treble drops off. This is how our ears detect the proximity of our surroundings.
From this exercise you can tell that adding effects (especially reverb) on your track starts to send your instrument back into the mix, the more you add the more it goes back. This can be great to control the position of guitars and backing vocals etc etc, but not for the instruments that are supposed to be adding the punch and up front and centre.
• USING A COMPRESSOR
As its name suggests a compressor (among other things) has the ability to squash down the high peaks in a track and bring up the softer parts and thus can give a constant sound pressure level (SPL) to a track. This technique keeps percussive instruments like kick drums nice and even throughout the song.
To understand this better try clapping your hands together four times in a row, here you will notice even over a short period how hard it is to make each clap the same volume as the last. Now imagine a drummer using a kick pedal hundreds of times throughout a song and trying to strike the kick drum exactly the same way each time! ….. A good sounding compressor is worth it’s weight in gold.