In audio recording… less is more.
When it comes to recording in a DAW, we have seemingly limitless capabilities. We can record large numbers of signals at one time. Sessions can be made up of huge numbers of tracks. Those tracks can be made up of endless numbers of takes. Whilst on the one hand these extensive capabilities can open up all sorts of possibilities to us, we can often find ourselves creating unnecessarily huge sessions. 99% of the time, when it comes to making really great recordings, less is more! The key to great recordings is to add tracks, takes, parts etc. only if we need to. Not just because we can. This article examines the four main occasions during a recording session when less is more.
Using too many mics:
All too often, people seem to want to use every mic that they can get their hands on to record an instrument. Many people believe that they’re capturing a diverse array of sounds by using this approach. But, there’s a major pitfall to using too many mics, which ironically can make your recordings sound worse.
If you’re going to use two or more mics to capture a sound source, then you have to be aware of the phase relationship between them. Without proper management of the phase relationship, your recordings may sound thin and weak. If you don’t attend to this issue, then you’re doing your tracks a disservice.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many justifiable reasons that you may want to use multiple mics when you record, such as to capture audio using a particular stereo technique. But you should avoid adding extra mics without a clear reason for doing so.
Recording too many parts:
If one thing’s for sure, less is more when it comes to the number of parts in a song. Don’t underestimate the way that the ability to record endless parts can take away the impact of great arrangements. Setting out into a recording session without clearly defined parts means that you’re setting off on the wrong foot. There’s nothing wrong with a large number of parts if they each compliment and serve the song well. They should not however be relied on to try and mask a poor arrangement. By making a recording with fewer but better parts, the song will almost certainly benefit. Unfortunately, if the parts aren’t great to begin with, then adding more and more of them won’t make the song any better.
Recording too many takes:
The ability to record lots of takes in digital recording is in many ways an advantage. Unfortunately however, it can also lead to very aimless recording sessions. It can also lead to artists recording poor takes, prioritising quantity over quality. It’s a far better process to track fewer, but better takes, than it is to try comping a final take from multiple mediocre takes.
The best thing to do is to try to limit your self to just a few takes per instrument. This limitation focuses the performances. This can also save a lot of time during the recording process and can maintain momentum. Ultimately, limiting your number of takes avoids an unnecessarily excessive amount being recorded. That’s why when it comes to recording takes, less is more.
Recording too many songs:
Generally speaking, people tend to really over estimate how many songs its feasible to record over the course of a session. Whilst it would be nice to record an excellent quality album in an afternoon, trying to record too many songs will definitely mean compromising on quality. You should be very realistic about what you can achieve in the time frame available. Less is more when it comes to the number of songs you record over the course of a session. That’s the only way to achieve quality recordings.
As you can see, due to the nature of modern day recording in digital audio workstations, the process tends to lend itself to creating large recording sessions. But focusing on simple mic techniques, well planned parts and well thought out takes will put you at a huge advantage. Not to mention the benefit you’ll gain from being very realistic about how many songs you can record over a session, and focusing on a few quality recordings rather than a greater amount of average ones.
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