Many home studios or new to the game producers (hell, even ones that have been in it for a few years!) fail to invest in the correct things to better their quality, their workflow, and their knowledge of this craft. With this in mind, I felt it was worth sharing some insights that allowed me to move from recording 3-4 bands a year, and struggling to quit my full-time job - to having my studio booked up 6 months in advance, and working with label bands.
Your room is the biggest fight you’ll have to become better than what you are now. A properly treated room or even one that is partially treated will bring your mixes leaps and bounds ahead of where they are now, simply because you’re not fighting with frequencies that bloom in the corners of the room, and cloud your ‘vision’ as it were.
The biggest difference for me was Bass traps. Setting up Bass traps in the particularly difficult regions of the room (i.e. the corners) where the low end gathers, allowed me to absorb the mud in the room and clear my ears drastically. With the addition of some less thick acoustic panels to absorb the mid-range and high-frequency reflections has had a notable difference, but none more so than the bass traps I have set up - these should be number one on your list.
The second biggest difference, and one I urge all new and veteran producers to invest in, is Sonarworks Reference 4. This can be imagined as almost like an ‘autotune for your room’. Simply put, Reference 4 calibrates your monitors to your room by using precise measurements taken by the software, and amending your monitors to best serve your room. I can’t state this enough - this is a night and Day difference and one you use Reference 4, once you’ll never want to turn back!
Knowledge is Power
One of the biggest failings I made as an early producer was believing youtube had all the answers. Now, it has a lot of them, don’t get me wrong! But not all of them, and there’s a plethora of knowledge out there for you all but you just need to search for it.
Some of my favorites and the best ones I’ve come across are Brian Hood’s FSTG course, CreativeLive courses with Adam Getgood, Kurt Ballou, and Eyal Levy. All of these regularly have sales on, and you can pick them up for less than $79 through the year or on a payment plan with the exception of Brian Hood’s course and similar ones like it.
If you can’t get along with these, then a great place to learn is the ControlRoom on Facebook, run by our good friend Romesh, a Grammy Nominated Producer for the recent Bring Me The Horizon Amo record! There’s also The Ultimate Recording Machine, run by Joey Sturgis and Eyal Levy - both of these have access to the pro’s in the game and regularly discuss techniques, do’s and don’ts, and have tracks to mix yourself in competitions to help progress you as a producer.
A Great Microphone and Preamp
Most of what you can do with a full band mix can now be done via some incredible technical achievements through samples for drums (GetGood Drums are good for almost every mix for me!), and Amp simulations (Neural DSP are my favorites in this department!) - but the one thing that can’t be replicated is a good recording of a vocalist, and the best takes they’re capable of.
With this in mind, a great microphone, and a decent preamp are in your best interest straight away. Our Black Hole Series Microphones are a great example of an affordable microphone, that excels in quality, and is an all-rounder when it comes to recording Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar using the ‘One-Mic’ Technique I previously wrote about, and especially vocals! The beautiful thing about investing in a microphone is that the quality doesn’t diminish over time, in fact, time builds character and color in musical equipment if treated well!
Next, a good preamp will see you marry your great microphone, with the ability to bring color to the type of recording you’re aiming for. Most interfaces now have extremely good preamps, even at the lower cost range such as Focusrite's Scarlet range, or Presonus’ RME range. These can be used extremely well with software replications of world-renowned preamps made by the likes of Slate Digital, or Brainworx - but if you’re looking for a dedicated preamp, I love my Focusrite ISA One for all my vocal recordings and it was a definite step up from the built-in preamps in my interface.
Learn Your OWN Bad Habits, for free!
When I was at college, at 18, my teacher told me that if I wanted to make anything out of myself in the industry I needed to develop my own sound. This was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given for one reason as I’ll explain; Learning all the ‘in’s and outs’ of recording, the ‘do’s and don’ts’, the way to bring a mix to life and make it sounds incredible in a way that many other mixing engineers have done before us can be learned from the courses I spoke of above - and that's great! BUT, you need to develop your own ‘sound’.
Just like you have your own pair of ears, and no two people hear the same, the most revered mixes are those that have pushed the bounds and have stood out because the engineer wasn’t afraid to try something new. The simplest rule to follow is: - If it sounds good, then its good!
Now, go and mix!