Producing music is all about routine, in the sense that once you get used to working a certain way in the studio, you’re all set and nothing’s going to change that. However, sometimes the way you do things in the studio might not be the best way, or there may be situations where you will need to do a few tricks.
It might be in a professional recording studio, or in your home studio where you’re laying down tracks, but regardless, learning a few new tricks will definitely help you out of a jam or even improve your workflow. Here are five of these tricks.
1. Make Your Own Pop Filter (With Pantyhose)
You might make your girlfriend/wife/mother/neighbor upset by stealing their pantyhose and using it to make a pop filter for your studio, but hey, it’s all in the name of science, right? (At least that’s what you should tell them.)
Last year I bought a pop filter for my microphone and it cost me about $50, which I thought was really high. Even though it might seem pricey, if you’re going to have a good microphone that cost you a pretty penny, then you might want to splurge a bit and get a nice pop filter.
But most of the time, money is a big obstacle. You may not have $50 to spend on a filter, so that’s where you need to channel your inner MacGyver and build one yourself. Here’s what you will need:
Embroidery Hoop (about 6″)
It’s quite simple:
Take the embroidery hoop (preferably a plastic one) and put the pantyhose around that, then use the spring clamp to lock the hoop in place. You can then cut off the excess pantyhose. It’s best if you take the pantyhose that you cut and fold it because otherwise it could be too thin.
Making the wire stand is a bit trickier because you want to make sure your pop filter attaches to your mic stand and stays in place. Make sure you get a wire that is strong, yet can bend. To make it look nice, put the wire through a black tubing, then take one end of the wire and secure it to the mic stand with a compression fitting that is normally used for water piping. The other end of the wire can be secured to the embroidery hoop with the help of the zip tie.
If you search around, you can find many tutorials on how to do it, especially on YouTube.
2. Always Subtract From Your Mix
When in doubt, take away, never add. One of the biggest rookie mistakes is to add more stuff to the mix. It’s not surprising though, because for some producers, when they mix, they get caught up in how the track sounds and forget about the big picture.
If a certain piece of music doesn’t sound too good, your first instinct could be to add some reverb to it. But by doing so, you’re just adding an extra effect to your mixer (which adds to the load on your CPU), plus the overall sound of the mix begins to fill up. After doing this a few times, your master meter will probably be in the red. Next stop: Distortion City.
It’s always best to take things out of your mix, like taking layers of clothing off. Begin with the basics and build your way up from there, but be careful with the use of effects. Too many can bury your track under a thick layer of processing.
3. Always Make The Performer Comfortable
This is always a controversial issue because it may involve illegal activity, but when it comes to recording music, some people will claim that it’s normal practice.
If you’re in the studio and getting ready to record a vocalist or musician, it’s your job to make sure they’re comfortable. It may mean that you allow them to take drugs or alcohol, which is a strong possibility.
One of the first things I was ever told about recording in a studio environment, was to let the performer do what they want. In other words, if they need to down a bottle of Jack Daniels and do a few lines of coke in order to get ready to step behind the microphone, then let them do it.
You could just shrug your shoulders and think, “meh, who cares?”, but what if the performer passes out? Now you have a problem.
I think the best solution is to let them do what they want, but obviously within reason.
4. Use Heavy Blankets To Deaden The Sound
When you’re on a tight budget, for years it’s been all about egg cartons. Those work well, but I find the best way to help deaden the sound in your studio and provide a certain level of soundproofing, is to use heavy blankets.
The beauty of using the blankets is that you can either hang them up on your wall, put them on the floor, or even hang them temporarily between something. That third option is really good because let’s say you have a guitarist and the only space you have to put him in your studio is right next to you (most likely your studio space is small). With blankets, you could put them on chairs or stands and surround the guitarist with them. Once he’s done his take, you take everything down. Easy!
Of course, soundproofing material is much cheaper and more widely available today than it was years ago, so if you have a few bucks, you could also get some real foam and do a decent job in the studio.
5. Never “Fix It In The Mix”
This is probably the #1 rule that every producer should know when recording – never “fix it in the mix”! I know it can be difficult when you record something and it doesn’t sound right, so instead of having to do it all over again, you wait until the mixing stage in order to fix it. Wrong.
It may take a bit of time to do it over and get it right, but at least you will have it done. There’s no need to rush the recording process, what’s the hurry? Musicians from years ago would have to do dozens of takes to get their performances right, because guess what? There was no such thing as a “multitrack” so they had no choice but to do the entire song in one take – without mistakes.
Since we have multitracks and especially since we mostly record onto computers, there’s no need to “fix it in the mix”. If a certain part isn’t right, it’s very simple to fix, either by re-doing the part, or fixing it on the computer BEFORE you reach the mixing stage.
Mixing should only be for mixing everything together. Why else do they call it “mixing”?