Your best friends when you record something are Compression, EQ, and Reverb. Be kind to them, and they will be kind to you.
You need to give your ears a rest once in a while. Taking the rest of the day off from working after you finish recording, again after you finish arranging, and giving your ears a couple of days to recuperate before you start mixing is a good idea.
You need to get a pair of studio monitors. Now I don’t mean you have to have two screens, although I do and it’s nice to have the extra work space. No, what I’m talking about is a special kind of speakers called studio monitors.
EQ is best used to cut down frequencies that are too loud. There is a temptation to use them to boost things in a sound, while a limited amount of that can help, too much will make it sound wrong. Use your EQ to sculpt your sounds, and as a wise man once said, sculpting a horse means taking away the parts of the stone that don’t look like a horse.
The best way to record drums is to do it with an electronic kit you can hook directly into your computer. After that using a software drum machine, or old fashioned cut and paste will work too.
Recording a real drum kit without a studio is hard. You need a minimum of 2 mics recording at the same time. One on either side to record in stereo. Having a third set up dead center is better. Having a mic kit for a drum set will require several mic ports, probably more than you can handle at one time.
Speaking of mics, you don’t have to break the bank to get your project done. The Shure SM57 and SM58 Dynamic Microphones are the industry standard. You will find them in every studio, and on pretty much every stage and they only cost about 100$. Sure, they don’t record vocals and some instruments as well, but they are sturdy and get their job done.
You can plug an instrument like a guitar right into the computer by using an audio interface, but it tends to make it sound too clinical. You know what I mean? Too clean. Use the Guitar Amp and stick a mic in front of it. Adjust things till you are getting good recording results. The amp will mess up the recording just enough to make it sound real.
Effects are like frosting on a cake. Most of the time you want just enough to sweeten it, but as a kid, we sometimes tend to add too much. Start with a little bit, and work your way up till it sounds good. That’s one of the best things about producing with a computer; most programs let you listen to the sound while you add and adjust your effects. You can’t do that recording old school.
Typical production wisdom says you want to record with as little natural reverb as possible so that you can add it later with effects. Sometimes that’s not the way to go. Sometimes you want the ambiance of the room you are in, especially when recording a live gig.
In music production, there are no rules for every situation, only guidelines.
Experience will serve you better than the expense. Just because it costs a lot of money, does not mean it will do anything to help you if you don’t know what you’re doing. Read your manuals, and do some experiments to get a feel for your gear. Never stop using what you have, never stop practicing.
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