Recording with or without effects

“Jim, Should I record with effects like reverb or delay on the track?”

recording-with-effectsAs a Music Producer and audio Engineer, this is another question I get frequently. Typically, the answer is no, but it comes down to personal taste.

Personally I record a lot of my guitar effects thru the guitar amp as if the player is performing live. Why? Because I LIKE THE SOUND of guitar effects thru the amp while the guitarist is cutting the track. “But Jim, then you cant change it”. Correct, but I LIKE IT… I have made a production decision.

That being said, my preference is to record vocals dry with no effects and adjust them later according to the mix. I do however record vocals with some level of compression. The amount of compression I use is dictated largely by the genre of music the track is for. Pop music is very compressed so I’ll use some compression while tracking and maybe a bit more when I mix. When recording and producing a Jazz record, I will use much less compression while tracking as this genre dictates that.

A lot of keyboards have built in fx. Again, If I like the sound, I’ll use it. If I don’t, I’ll have the player remove them.

When recording Bass guitar, I’ll usually take a direct line straight from the bass and maybe a line from the amp so I can add dirt or distortion if need be. Both of these will get a bit of limiting (high ratio Compression) and I will blend the two later.

When recording Drums, I rarely ever use delay or reverb while tracking. BUT I use a fair amount of compression on the overheads and rooms. Why? Because I love the sound of compressed drums. I will also put a bit of compression on the Snare and kick when tracking. You need to be very careful with this as snare compression can pull unwanted hi hat into the snare mic. We will pay very close attention to mic placement so we usually don’t run into the bleeding hat problem.

A lot of how I record is based on my opinions, preferences and experiences. Some engineer/producers prefer to do all effects/ compression at mix. I do a combination of both. The point is, if you love the effect or sound ….record it. You may not get a chance to get it back later.

Hope this helps, Jim

Recording with or without effects

Preparing for your next Recording Session

Preparing for your next Recording Session
So, a lot of what I’ll say here is obvious yet, so often overlooked.
I get into a lot of sessions where a little more gear preparation would have saved a lot of money and made the entire recording process better.

1.) Have your instruments (guitar and bass) setup.
Bad intonation is one of the biggest time-wasting, vibe-sucking elements that has ever plagued a recording session. When we have to retune for each different section of the song because guitar or bass intonation is out, it not only adds stress to the player, but it is easily avoidable. Realize that it becomes obvious in recording if these problems exist and tuning programs seldom fix this. Set up your instruments before your session!

2.) Guitar players:
Change your strings the day before your session so they can settle on the guitar. There will be a lot less retuning if your strings are settled in.

3.) Bass’s are a bit different.
If you want a bright piano like tone, new strings will work better. If you want a warmer r+b kind of sound, older strings are usually OK. Again, have your bass setup as well so we can avoid intonation problems.

You can usually find a guitar tech or at least get a name of someone who can set your guitars up at your local music store or online. Better yet seek out other players and find out who they use.
4.) Drummers:
“Wow, I should have changed these heads”. I’ve heard this a few times. Your drums typically don’t record with much tone or presence with old drum heads. Change them the day before your recording session so they can settle.

If you’re using the studio’s kit and you’er booking a fair amount of time, ask them to replace the heads for your session. Usually this is not a problem unless you’er booking only a few hours.
5.) Piano:
If Piano is a big part of your sound and you are using the studio’s Piano, make sure the Studio knows this so they can have the piano tuned. Some studios tune their pianos all the time, some don’t. Big time sucking problems can be avoided with some forethought and a simple phone call.
6.) Hard drives:
Since we now live in the digital age and you are probably recording to a hard drive, check with the studio to find out what hard drives they use. You will need TWO hard drives. One drive to record on and one drive to backup on. Hard drives are not expensive anymore. This is the cheapest and one of the most critical points to attend to when prepping for your recording session.

Hard drives can crash! If you have hours or days or weeks of work on your hard drive and it crashes with no backup, you’re possibly out of luck. The studio is not responsible for your drives and the hard drive manufacturer usually only covers the drive, not the content on it. Don’t cheap out here. Buy a backup!
Hopefully these 6 preparation points will help your next Studio Recording Session go smooth as butter.
That’s it for now… Jim