Jamie’s Quick Rules for Recording

These are highly idiosyncratic and personal, so likely don’t work for everyone, but these are the rules I live by:

1.) If I need more than 22 tracks to say something, I probably can’t say it.
1a.) Recording guitar tracks in stereo is almost always a waste, barring unusual use of effects.
1b.) That goes triple for bass.
1c.) You can get amazingly good drum sounds with just four input channels. A few tracks of very good mics, placed well, beats the hell out of ten tracks of shit mics, placed poorly.

2.) When the temptation to punt on playing a part correctly and just edit it later rears its ugly head, kick it in the teeth. If it’s not right, GO BACK AND PLAY IT RIGHT. I have wasted ZILLIONS OF HOURS trying to edit shit when it would have taken thirty seconds to just play it right to begin with.

3.) Get your sounds right when recording. Never, ever, ever, fall back on the idea that you can fix something that sounds like shit later during the mix. I used to just throw up a few mics where they looked good on the drumkit, and then wonder why the hell my drums took a goddamn eon to get to “barely tolerable” during mix, and never made it to “good.” There were lots of reasons for that, actually (crappy mics, lousy preamps, gruesome monitoring situation, plus I didn’t know what to listen for), but the first one was that I didn’t take care to get good sounds to begin with.
3a.) Put new strings on your guitar before doing any serious recording. If you don’t, you will never forgive yourself for that dull, lifeless sound later, and there’s no good way to fix it.
3b.) That goes triple for bass, or maybe more.

4.) Recording the band performing together has way more mojo to it than doing it piecemeal, even with the inevitable mistakes. That being said, it’s not always practical.

5.) When you’re done recording, STOP RECORDING. It’s tempting to go back and endlessly re-record, striving for some unattainable goal of perfection, but a) you never get there, b) you learn more by finishing something and moving on to the next thing than you do by re-taking the guitar part sixty-five times over the course of two years, and c) you take all the spontaneity out in the name of clinical perfection.


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