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music / sound design

5 Biggest Home Recording Mistakes

As recording equipment and software keeps getting cheaper, a lot of musicians are spending a few hundred bucks on gear and cranking out home projects. I’ve worked on a number of these projects at the mix or master stage, and these are some of the biggest pitfalls I’ve seen beginners fall into time and time again.

5. I Don’t Need No Stinking Panning
For whatever reason, beginners always seem to overlook panning tracks…creating this giant mono mush. Don’t be that person. Sure, a lot of things should stay center most of the time (voice, kick, snare, bass), but if your guitars, keys, cymbals, and everything else are all hanging in the same spot it’s just going to be ugly.

4. The More Bass The Better
I understand where this one comes from. Booming bass is definitely “cool”. The problem is that if you mix with exaggerated bass frequences (20-200Hz), your mixes will sound muddy and unpleasantly boomy compared to what people are used to listening to on their home stereos. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a home-recorded mix that didn’t have enough bass.

3. The Little Red Thing At The Top Of My Meter Is Good, Right?
Nope. Not good at all. Even if you avoid clipping individual tracks, you still have the potential to clip your master bus if you don’t keep your levels in check. There’s no point in trying to push your individual tracks as loud as they’ll go without hitting the red, and you have potential for all kinds of nastiness.

2. Drastic Equalization
Developing an ear for equalization takes a while. Most people record a guitar or whatever and realize it sounds kind of flat, so they grab an eq plug-in and start cranking frequencies to try and find something they like. What you end up with is this big nasty frequency terrain with giant pointy peaks and valleys. This almost never sounds good. Although eq definitely has it’s place as a drastic effect tool, a general rule of thumb is to keep your eq curves gentle and small. Think simple, corrective equalization…not giant “make it shiny and wonderful nonsense”.

1. Vocals Don’t Matter…Everyone Wants To Hear My Awesome Licks
This is #1 by a pretty long shot. I can’t recall ever getting a home mix that was too strong on the vocals, but I’ve heard a whole lot with them buried waaaay too deep. I know your guitar and harmonica are the two awesomest things on earth, but if your song has vocals, the instruments have to take a back seat. Again, there are occasionally styles that incorporate buried vocals as an effect, but chances are that’s not the case for you.

There you have it. There are of course a lot more, but I’m too lazy to keep writing. You get 5.

Oxsana OCC Story

Great Operation Christmas Child full-circle story. Shot by Ryan Smith, original indie/folk score and mix by yours truly, edited by Brian Fetty, produced by Joseph Benson, graphics by Collin Waldron.

Tense but Cool

“Previously on…” track I finished up today. Trying to create a bit of suspense and tension without taking itself waaay too seriously. For me it really starts to get cool at about :20 with the mongolian throat singer and driving drumstick beat.

tense but cool