Author: Brodin

Informed Restraint

An empty patchbay during a recent mixing session.


“It took a few years for me to develop a sense of informed restraint…”                                     “…this in turn led to more and more commitment during the tracking stages of a recording, compressing vocals as much as you’d expect in the finished mix, distorting the drums with mic preamps, sculpting sounds till they are as you expect to hear them in the final mix…and THAT is the sound you record. (It has helped me tremendously to sort of) Imagine I am [you are] cutting the record live to 2-track, where the recording and mixing are done simultaneously. It sharpens the senses in a way, focusing energies into getting the appropriate sounds from the instruments rather than ‘cool’, ‘exaggerated’, ‘flexible’ or whatever sounds an undirected approach might suggest. Interestingly, the less flexible I remain in the tracking stage of a recording, the better the recording often turns out. This is probably a long way of saying that there is value in narrowing the window of time in which you are critically focused, and forced to make lasting decisions (as opposed to the nearly infinite window of home-produced laptop fiddling that’s become a hallmark of the modern recording era).

Digital Non-Use

A plain old EV635, waiting to capture some sounds.

Because the use of digital correction has become a primarily de-facto part of the modern recording and mixing process (my opinion, but probably not a controversial one), the non-use of these tools can (in some cases) be regarded as a kind of specific recording aesthetic. Rather than being motivated by a pseudo-moral position concerning the sanctity of performance or the directness of the creative process, the non-use of digital correction can simply be an artistic choice. Records without significant digital manipulation (or even none at all) typically sound different (due not only to the ‘breathing’ of instruments, characteristic of un-managed performances, but also because of the technical constraints put on the musicians involved…performances ‘rising to the occasion’, so to speak), and in so far as the decisions made by the engineers and musicians are intentional efforts pointed in a specified direction, the non-use of digital tools does in fact constitute a sound-choice. My 2 cents. Worth about 2 cents.

Drums and volume

Drummer Kris Kuss' used sticks at the end of Pile's recording session for 2015's "You're Better Than This".

-As an inaugural post, I thought I'd draw a little attention to the recording of drums and the role that engineer techniques can (or cannot) play in their final recorded presentation. Example: every engineer I've met will at some point, when discussing drum recording, lament the omnipresence of high-hats bleeding into the snare drum close-mic. There are many reasons for this regular problem, and just as many solutions. The piece of this example I'd like to draw attention to is the notion of 'solutions'. These are, sort of by definition, techniques to correct existing acoustic problems (in our example); high hats placed very close to the snare drum, dull snare drum that requires a high-end lift to achieve presence in a mix (thus increasing high-hat volume), drummer hitting the snare drum softly and the high hats loudly, plain old LOUD high hats, etc etc etc. We correct these acoustic problem with solutions based on their cause; adding a bottom snare mic to a dull snare, selecting snare microphones with strong off-axis rejection, etc. These are solutions not addressing anything having to do with drum selection, placement, playing style, tuning, etc. BUT, there is only so much that can be done in this regard; 'getting it right at the source' begins long before a recording engineer has anything to say about it. So, drummers (for example), select, tune, and hit your drums and cymbals so that they sound they way you'd like them to sound, in reality, in the acoustic space. You (for example) are the source, first and foremost.