Saturday, January 27, 2018

If I knew then what I know now....

It has been a long time since I posted anything.  It’s not that the Green Room has been dead, or even idle.  I just haven’t thought to post anything.

I don’t consider myself to be a “fountain of knowledge” or anything, but like most of us, I consider myself to be an “enthusiast.”  Over time, that means a lot of learning, a lot of incremental upgrades to the studio, and, most importantly, a lot of mistakes, oversights, and poor priorities.

If I could go back and do it all again, I still would, but I would do some things differently. I love recording, but along the way, you hear things, and your inexperience leads to you not appreciate the wisdom that is behind them.

1.  If there is a single take-away here, I would say this... a few hundred dollars spent on your physical environment will make a way bigger difference than spending a few thousand dollars on gear.  Treat your room.  Do whatever research you need to do, build broadband absorbers, bass traps, clouds, etc and get that room under control.  Honestly, you can make a far better recording with cheap gear in a good room than you can with expensive gear in a crappy room.  You won’t always hear it at first, but when you hear a recording done in a room before being treated, and a recording made in a room after being treated, then you really hear it.   Do this before you shell out on expensive monitors, expensive mics, or expensive preamps, etc.

2.  Read #1 again.  It is that important.

3.  Your first priority is making the performer comfortable and confident.  A mediocre recording of a great performance will trump a great recording of a mediocre performance every time.  I have had clients come to me from other more expensive studios on a few occasions where they have told me that the deciding factor was, “I feel comfortable with you.  I trust you.  The other guy was a jack@ss.”

4.  People will judge you on two factors.  First, on your work.  Your work will tell others more about you than an expensive gear list, or an exclusive client list or your glossy photos.  Second, they will judge you on the experience.  Did you treat them well and make them happy?  Did they have to wait for you to fiddle with stuff that didn’t work?  Did they have to hump gear over the bicycles and strollers in your basement?  Did they have to go down the street to use the bathroom?  So, quite simply, do your best work always.  You never know who will hear it and who will decide to - or not to - record with you based on what they heard.  And keep your personality, space and your gear in ship shape.  Be nice, and offer a nice space with stuff that works.  Have a variety of strategies for dealing with problems so that you can sus things out in a hurry and improvise if need be.  Make sure your client is happy.

5.  Read #1 again.  It is that important.

6.  Don’t underestimate the importance of good preamps.  Yes it does make a difference.  You know ho you have different mics for different flavours?  The same goes with preamps.  There is a subtle, but measurable difference between different types of preamps.  Whether tube or solid state, transparent or coloured, etc.   Sure, whether you record through a Universal Audio or an SSL, it’s going to sound great, but they won’t sound the same.  But you can bet they will sound better than a consumer grade Behringer, Mackie, Samson, etc.
6b.  Don’t underestimate the usability of cheap gear.  Yes you CAN make decent recordings with virtually anything out there.  Getting that extra 10-20% difference of quality will cost you money.  But if you can get 80-90% of the way with cheap gear, don’t let that stop you from getting a start on things.  Nobody is going to NOT buy your record because you used a Mackie preamp and an SM58.  If your gear is your excuse for poor recordings, you probably have something else you are overlooking that is a bigger barrier.

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