Going into the new year, things are starting to ramp up again in studios the world over - new releases from bands we all know and love (Muse’s new release is a great example!) as well as bands, solo artists and much more now looking to build their content and releases for the rest of the year.
One thing we can all focus on as engineers or producers, however, are the goals we have for our own process to help bring these visions to life much easier than we have been previously; hence, common recording goals you may choose to make this year that will likely help no end.
So, let’s dive in!
Easier Source Recording
Time and time again, I’ve made the statement that making sure that you get the recording right at the source is the best way to guarantee an easier time when mixing, let alone help you bring to life the ideas you have much easier while recording.
One of the most overlooked elements of this process, aside from microphones or preamps, is a good DI box.
The humble, and often simple in design, DI box is a sure fire way to make your life much easier across the entire recording process - from the source audio, to experimenting later down the line, the one thing you’ll want to make sure of is that your stringed instruments such as guitar or bass have been recorded with a good DI.
There’s not much in terms of tonality between the different manufacturers, but there's a timbre to different designs that really make them stand out on their own, as opposed to just a direct signal into an interface without a DI in the signal. Simply a DI or Direct Injection Box takes a line level signal and changes the impedance to a mic level signal, allowing you to get a much higher output.
Typically, guitar outputs aren’t too loud, and neither are microphones, but like a microphone has a preamp to boost the signal, a DI box is much the same in terms of what it’s designed to do.
The Radial Engineering line have always been a great starting point for nearly all engineers for DI Boxes
Different designs will give you slightly different results, but a bog standard designed DI will do the job, but a JFET or tube DI will give you a much better signal, along with much more desirable harmonics when using a tube DI.
Either way, a good DI will give you a cleaner, noiseless signal, all with the aim to allow better reamping, and cleaner tone to mix with especially in the case of bass guitar and it’s low end - plus, electric piano, drum machines, and much more, benefit much more from a DI than without one.
Organise Your Studio
Organising your studio can be difficult, but giving advice on how to organise it is sometimes even harder. Fortunately, I’ve tried many different ways to organise my own studio and I’ve found a few varied tips you may find handy going into the new year!
Recently, more than any other handy gadget for my studio, has been the 5-way broom holder that just so happens to be the perfect size for most microphone stands and will no doubt make my life far easier when reaching for an impromptu acoustic guitar recording session like I had recently!
I didn’t pull the trigger on this for a while, but this has been a circulating tip for around 5-6 years that I should’ve jumped on much sooner (and didn’t, so do follow my mistakes!).
Above, is the single version of what can be used as a single microphone stand holder - I actually have this to hold a broom in my kitchen which allowed me to test my theory on holding mic stands, and they're a perfect fit!
Ramekin dishes are so common nowadays. These small, year deceptively deep dishes can be found when you buy a creme brulee, or small cheesecake from a local supermarket, but they serve an even better purpose - holding picks, Alan keys, and similar to make sure you don’t lose them.
I’ve been using these for everything recently, from holding screws from an amp I’ve been servicing, to beer bottle caps that I’ve been asked to save for my girlfriend's Mom for an art project; there’s a million and one uses for these and I’ve only just scratched the surface. The best part, is that as you get older, it seems you just acquire them more and more so put them to use!
Lastly, a UK shop called Wilkinson's has been a godsend when looking for a way to store my mic clips, shock mounts, and much more. As you build your mic locker, you find you acquire more and more standard handheld mic clips as you go through the years, and they take up a surprising amount of space if you don’t organise them!
Enter, the humble plastic box, made for all your storage needs and takes up far less room. Not only can they help you organise your accessories far more efficiently, but they can be tailored to look best for your studio as well!
Networking is by far and away the easiest goal to focus on this year. Bands have been out of action on the stage and I know all the bands I’m working with are desperate to play shows as much as they can this year, which means this is a perfect opportunity to network with new bands, and intermingle with new potential clients in the process. You also get to support your local scene in the process and keep live music alive, so there’s really no downside at all!
This year, ask more questions. By that I mean ask more questions you’re usually too afraid to ask. The hardest thing to face is the concept of being told ‘no’, but once you overcome that small fear, there’s a boundless possibility of other answers you don’t get to explore in simply not asking that question; moreover you’d be surprised how many times the answer is ‘yes’ or similar, and by not asking, your answer is already ‘no’.
My whole career has been based on this one idea to be completely honest, and had I not asked questions like ‘Hey, do you want to record with me?’ or ‘Hey, are there any positions available at your company?’ then my life would be very very different indeed.