The Importance of Time in The Recording Process
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Time is money! Or so they say. Today, I want to talk about the importance of taking your time when recording. We hear it all the time as engineers and producers, work quickly, work fast, don’t slow down the session. While I agree that all of those are important factors to being a good engineer, I want to explore the other side of the coin. The advantages of being deliberate in our recordings.
The first thing that I’d like to discuss on this topic is finding the right balance. Working so quickly that you make a barrage of mistakes is incredibly detrimental to the quality of your recordings. However, working redundantly and painstakingly slow is not a good idea either. It’s important to figure out the pace that you as an engineer need to work at to keep the artist’s creative juices flowing and not be a hindrance. Don’t over analyze every tiny decision and detail, but don’t be afraid to ask for the time when you need it. It’s my experience that producers or artists will typically allow the engineer room to get something right. It’s only when we go overboard that they lose confidence in our ability. Strike that balance of making deliberate decisions that you are happy with while not dragging down those around you and you will win over the producer/artist’s trust.
Don’t Make Assumptions
It doesn’t matter how well we “know” our gear. We don’t know exactly how that combination will react because our source is always different. Each singer or instrument has a different character and timbre. Yes, it’s important for us to know our gear. But the knowledge of that gear is to help us narrow down our options so that we can limit the amount of time it would take to try out every single possible combination of gear we have. Discuss the project budget with your artist and producer before hand. If they don’t know already, take the time to explain why this process is important. Based on that conversation, you can make a decision on how many different microphone or preamp combinations to choose from at each stage of the recording process.
Time is important in the tracking process for a few different reasons. The main reason I’m going to focus on in this blog is that tracking is the foundation of your whole recording. Every decision that you make here will affect your decision making down the line. If you have tracked your sources well, it will be far easier to continue making good and deliberate decisions as you move forward. Vice versa, if you’ve started out rushing the process, each decision you make after that will compound on top of your original choice. I don’t believe that you can mask bad tracking with more tracks. In fact, I believe it does the opposite and only makes your poor decisions more evident the more you keep piling on that bad house of cards.
I believe that editing is a process that can enhance the performances of a player rather than fix the player. This is why it’s so important to take your time and make sure that you’re getting the right takes from a performance point of view. Rather than trying to salvage rushed and bad takes, it will be far better for your end product to take the time and make sure everything feels right before moving on. Don’t be afraid to ask for more takes if you need it. It’s your responsibility to help the artist see why it’s important that you get more takes. It’s also your responsibility to get them to trust and believe in you. Establish that you have a common goal and that as a team, you are after the same standard of results.
As I mentioned before, everything flows downhill. That’s why it’s so important to take your time all the way through the process. If you have taken your time and made sure the sounds and performances feel right, mixing should be a focus on balance and musicality. If you’re tracking doesn’t sound close to the finished product, your mixing will have a heavy emphasis on fixing and trying to breathe life into your tracks. Really push yourself to have the song sounding to 80% of where you want it to be before you get to mix and master.
A lot of what I’ve discussed today is hard to measure. Knowing how much time to spend or not spend is an instinct that will help shape you as an engineer/producer. The best way to hone those instincts is repetition and experience. The more you do it, the more you try different things, the better understanding you will have of what battles to pick and choose. It never hurts to sit in on other engineer/producer’s sessions as well. Here at Velveteen, we are lucky to get the opportunity to work with each other on an almost daily basis. The amount that we’ve all learned off of working with each other is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to seek out other fellow audiophiles and keep pushing each other to be better.