When you first start producing music, it can be hard to get your tracks to sound as good as the songs you listen to by your favourite artists. Let’s face it, there’s a lot to learn. Mic placement, EQ, compression, how to set levels, how to pan, how to use reverb, etc. With so much going into making a great-sounding track, it’s hard to know where to begin. So in this lesson, I’ll share with you a tip. It’s one that will help you get started. And one that will teach you a lot about recording and mixing.
Recreate your favourite recording of one instrument
A great way to improve your recording and mixing skills is to pick a song that you think sounds great and have a go at recreating one element of it. This could be acoustic guitar, vocals, bass, drums, electric guitar, piano, or anything you like. Let’s say you love the way the acoustic guitar sounds on a certain recording. Try to record and mix your acoustic guitar to sound as close to that recording as you can.
Focus your attention
The first benefit to doing this is that, rather than trying to teach yourself how to record and produce a ton of different instruments, you can concentrate on just one. So you can focus your attention on how to mic an acoustic guitar, how to EQ an acoustic guitar, and different approaches to using compression on an acoustic guitar. This is a lot more manageable than trying to learn how to record a full band when you’re first starting out.
Learning by doing
The second benefit is that you’ll start to learn not just by reading and watching tutorials, but by actually getting your hands dirty and recording instruments. I’ll be honest, your first attempt probably isn’t going to sound much like the original that you’re trying to recreate. But you’ll learn so much by actually moving mics around, experimenting with plugins, and listening critically to the effect that everything you’re doing is having on the sound.
Then, by identifying the differences in your recording compared to the original, you’ll know what to research next. Maybe you need to learn how to capture more low-end when you record a guitar. Or how to use EQ to give the guitar more body. Each time you try to get closer to the sound on the original record, you’ll learn more and more.
Of course, you’ll never recreate the recording perfectly. All recordings are unique. They’re a combination of the instrument, the mics, the mic placement, the player, the room, the processing, and countless other factors. But you might get the same general feel, tone, vibe, or character that you hear on the recording. Or maybe you’ll end up with a sound which is totally different, but one which you love anyway and want to use for your own recordings.
The really great thing about doing this is that, even though you’re focusing on one instrument, you’ll learn a lot of things that are relevant to recording and mixing all instruments. You’ll learn things about mic placement which are applicable to the other instruments that you’ll record in the future. You’ll learn not just how a compressor affects the instruments you’re working on, but how compressors process signals in general. So a ton of the stuff you learn will be transferable to other instruments and will improve your production skills in general.
Is this something you will try out? Do you have a recording in mind that you’d like to try and recreate? Leave your comments below!