think it is easy not to suck. This is sadly not the case. It requires a
lot of effort not to suck.
So here are some very basic rules that I wish to share with you (my potential clients, who are almost
as broke as I am.) Please understand that I make these points not as some arrogant techie whose
has the sun shining out of his butt, but as someone who has made every conceivable error in recording
and would prefer not to be an accessory after the fact, yet again.
#1. Hire a
The Producer's job is to keep your project from sucking. Unless you
produced at least three
projects (to completion and release) and/or operate your own recording studio, you are not in any position
to produce yourself. The Producer is responsible for every detail of the recording. Attempting to perform music
and yet be objective enough to make rational creative and technical decisions is ludicrous. I have seen evidence
of this repeatedly. Everyone wants to produce but almost no one is willing to put in the brutal amount of homework
necessary to do the job well. Find someone you like, trust and respect and pay them well to do the job.
Anything less is home dentistry.
#2. Garbage in, garbage out.
A recording will only be as good as the source material. If you
a crappy little
transistor amp or
those horrendous shrill tube monsters that does nothing but squeal, well then you ain't gonna' sound like
Hendrix, Vai, Dimebag, Page (insert guitar god of choice) etc.
If you want a specific guitar sound then buy that gear.
If you own a CB-700 drum kit, you are not gonna' sound like John Bonham and no amount of Pro-Tools
or other digital fetish is going to help you do so. I don't do fix-its. Get good gear and learn to play well
(this is just a suggestion.)
#3. The studio is
neither the place to jam, rehearse, write or party.
It costs money to
a recording. Use the time
your asses off before you get into the studio.
Rip the songs apart and put them back together. Edit like a MF. Get rid of tedious and redundant parts.
When you get to the studio, you should only be concerned with capturing great performances and great sounds.
All other arranging details should be fairly well set in stone. That being said, never be afraid to try an idea,
just don't waste a lot of (expensive) studio time.
# 4. Drummers:
a. A good quality set of drums, good cymbals, new heads, sticks and good tuning are the secret to a great drum sound.
Forget anything else that you may have heard. The best mics in the world will only accurately reproduce the sound of
the drums in the room. And no amount of reverb, chorus, phlanging or pitch shifting is going to change that.
b. Lose the
padding and dampening. That stuff is good for keeping the cops at bay,
but it is useless for making
a decent recording. I am not joking and don't even go near oil filled heads.
c. Crash cymbals
are cool and make a neat noise. However hitting them every four bars is
the mark of a mediocre drummer
and just sounds annoying. Use them sparingly or forever be forgettable. If you must relearn to play in order to accommodate
this concept, start now. If you choose to ignore this warning, I will take them away from you.
d. A creative
give each part of the song a different drum part. Verses should not sound like choruses. This is a common arranging trick
and does wonders for making a song unique and memorable.
e. If it is hard to get parts of a song and/or the band to lock-up then simplify your parts. Most drummers play too damn much.
f. Give your time
and accuracy an honest assessment. If your time sux, then start
with a metronome.
If you have accuracy issues, then start taking lessons from reputable teacher. I am not lying here. If your drumming is
shabby it will make your band sound like ass.
If you hit the strings too hard they will sound like poo. Also fresh strings and a pro intonation job will go a long way
towards keeping the rest of your band from hating you. Buy a tuner.
Don't be afraid to try different guitar sounds. Many a boring a record has been made because the same guitar sound
was used over and over. Make sure your gear is record ready. Really listen to your rig and be merciless with yourself.
Don't forget to restring and intonate your ax. Also, buy a tuner.
a. Microphones don't lie. Get an honest assessment of your singing. If you are not up to speed get some ear and vocal training.
The singer is what makes or breaks a band. And if you are writing the vocal melodies then study the best songwriters.
It will help inspire better content. A lame melody is a lame melody.
b. Sing in yer
frigging voice. There already is a Bob Dylan, a Misfits, a Slayer,
They are not going to pack it in
because you made a disc. Sing without affectation. Don't try to do tricky things, just sing the damned song, let the melody
and lyrics do the work. And if they ain't cutting it write a new, better song.
There is a time when a group needs to abandon their influences and preconceived notions of their music and trust their own voice.
If you look at every truly great album or disc you own, you will see that common denominator. I am not jiving you here.
Some of what I am saying may not sit too well. "Who is he to tell us what to do?" I am the guy who may be recording
your band and trying to make ya' sound good. I want what is best for both of us and I am not going to live long
enough to try without a specific degree of co-operation. I want bands and artists that I record to make great art,
work that they will be proud of, forever.
We won't get there by raising the limbo bar.
Luv' ya, Steve Blake