Recording - Intro
What follows is a short series of articles devoted to workable methods for recording your music, live, and from an artistic musician point of view. What I mean is this... If your goal is to be a commercial studio musician, then it's best to simply do everything you can to please your employer, and keep most of your opinions to yourself. That can be considered mature and admirable, and you could end up making a lot of money. If, on the other hand, you have a particular way you want your music to be recorded, then you have to take control. And, you have to be willing to sacrifice financial rewards, in favor of doing things your way. Luckily, thanks to technology today, that's not as expensive as it used to be. You can buy 24-bit (better than commercial CD quality) digital recording equipment for less than we used to pay for a 4-track analog tape recorder.
The music industry continues to evolve...
How can you compete with "big time" artists and their recording companies?
You might be interested to know that in 2007, 32 percent of all new music releases were "digital only". (no physical CD) You can record your own work, and promote it on your own web site, to the entire internet-equipped planet, for the cost of your monthly internet plan. If you make a little more effort, say putting samples on YouTube, for example, you can reach an even wider audience. You can also produce "Podcasts" (I'm doing it... See more info here) and other media, right on your own computer, to help spread the word. At the very least, it's worth a try, don't you think?
Let's do it!
Musicians want to be heard in a particular way, and rightfully so. Artists should present their art the way they want it to be presented. You wouldn't typically walk up to a painter and say, "You need more blue." Yet, I've had the experience many times of going into a studio with a great band, only to be sabotaged by a well-meaning, but misguided engineer, who wanted to recreate "this week's sound". A few of them even started up a conversation by telling us how to play, before they ever heard the music. The articles aren't about insulting engineers, but rather, to point out that (in my projects, at least) the sound engineer is an employee, and is there to serve my (or, "our") needs, not their own. If you're paying for the recording, then you have every right to control it. Don't be an idiot, of course... Listen to "advice", but make the final decisions based on your own instincts. Then, if you fail, you know who to blame. Better yet... If you succeed, then you can take responsibility for that!
Some readers will interpret some of this as an ego problem. ...Wrong!
Regardless of our apparent "talent" to others, (which is subjective anyway) we have to act positively, and take responsibility for that. (See the sidebar to the right.) Assuming that you have enough confidence to continue playing at all, it would be wrong to go through life thinking either, "I'm not good enough." or "I'm the greatest." Both are probably wrong. But regardless, you must play with confidence. As the old saying goes, "If you're going to make a mistake, make it loud!" Do your best, but worry about the analysis AFTER the fact. In the meantime, PLAY, and see what happens. The same applies to these opinions about recording.
In 2007, I used a Tascam 2488 mkII (24-bit, 24-track digital workstation) and that's led to me recording live quite a bit more, as well as developing a renewed interest in another writing/recording project. So, enjoy these brief articles on the technology, tricks and tips for live recording, some samples to illustrate the points above, and some thought on the psychology of it all, too.
I met Gene Krupa shortly before he passed away, at a NAMM show, in 1972. Knowing who he was, what he had done for all of us as drummers, and that he probably wasn't going to spend hours with me, I asked him simply, in all humility, "Mr. Krupa, what do you think is the most important thing I can do to become a better drummer?" His simple and immediate response was, "You have to believe you have a good beat."
Here's what he meant:
We all continue to develop as we live our lives, and so our beliefs will also evolve. In the meantime, we must act positively. We must always go on stage and play with confidence, come what may. We analyze and fix what's wrong, LATER. A decent recording is good "proof" of what you did, and will point out those things you need to fix. Never stop developing.
- Mike James