Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mixing is Lonely Work

I don't know which is more tedious, rehearsing for an upcoming recording, or mixing the project with the engineer. There are variables to think about when you make that recording. If you lay some live tracks along with the drums, you could have an easier time mixing. You have to be spot on when you play, but you have a better shot of capturing the soul of the band.

We feed off of each other when we play. If you are in a booth, headphones on, tired from doing twenty takes, and you are the only person at the studio aside from the engineer, it's hard to capture the feel of the song. If you and your band mates are all trying their level best to play along together, and the room sounds good, you might capture lighting in a bottle. Just remember that what you record, you have to mix, edit, fix. The more tracks and takes you keep, the more work you will have to do on the back end.

We are feeling that now. Our engineer had the guitar players lay double, and sometimes triple tracks to every song. He had them lay a single acoustic guitar track too. It all has to be mixed, and I'm the guy sitting in the chair behind the sound board right next to the engineer. My mates are off doing whatever. I'm missing out on the spring weather. I'm in the sound hole, making the tracks sound good. I would rather grab some Brewers tickets and head to Miller Park for the game.

There are times when I play along to scratch tracks. Most of us do that. If the scratch tracks are off time, your recording will be off time too. If the guitar player is just slopping along, thinking that this is not their session, it could come back to bite you. "We are recording the drum tracks, not guitar. What do I care."

I have had to play along to uninspired scratch tracks. They can drag you down. Sometimes they have been so bad that I just tell the engineer to play a click track, and I will play the drums to imaginary guitar. The first time I did that, it worked like a charm.

Yes, you must learn to play to a click track. Whether you record to one or not, it may come in handy. If the session is bogged down because your time is not steady, you may be called upon to play to the click. Be ready. Embrace the click. It is your friend.

For the slow numbers, ask the engineer to double up the time on the click track. It's easier to play a 40 b.p.m. song with a click track that's ringing in your head at 80 beats per minute. I don't recall the guy who said this, but it's heavy. He said "Your beats are like the telephone poles along the side of the road. They have to carry the electricity, they have to be spaced perfectly or the wires will drop."

That's all I have for today. Keep beating on the skins.

No comments: