Get Your Album Sound BEFORE You Start Recording or Mixing

One technique that has taken me forever to understand is to figure out what you want in your mind first before you even hit the record button.  This sounds like an obvious thing if you are a creative person.  How can you draw a tree if you don’t already know what a tree looks like?  There are thousands of ways to draw a tree so, at some point, the artist must commit to the picture in his head before he even starts to paint the picture.

In a similar fashion, recordings must start with a clear thought of how they will sound.  So we can’t start recording anything before we know how we want the sound to be.  Let’s try and explain this a bit more.

Start Off As a Producer First

Having a studio in your house and being able to create whenever you want is a real blessing.  You can create with out the limit of studio time or worse, money.  You can even start up your own business mixing online for other people.

But the biggest problem with home studios, however, is that you have to wear multiple hats and by far the biggest overlooked hat is the Producer hat.

So if the artist is the one who writes and sings the songs, and the engineer records and mixes that performance in the best possible way then it’s the producer who helps to fulfill the overall vision of the track.  The producer is the one who goes through each sound to make sure they sound the way the should to help convey the artists intent and leave an impression.

So if there is no producer on the song and you neglect to wear that hat, then you are effectively leaving out the potential magic of what makes a great recording.

How Do You Know If Your Drums Sound Great?

This is a pretty convoluted answer because if you filled the room with 100 people and asked that very question, you would undoubtedly get 100 different answers. But Why?  I mean if there truly were only one correct way to record drums then everyone would do it.  You wouldn’t need a producer; you would just need an engineer to competently replicate that sound every time.

But that’s not how it works out there in recording land.  The reason why we all have different answers is because there are multiple ways to create a drum sound that works for different scenarios.  There are times when an up close and intimate sound is desired while another time a big and open sound is what you want.

The list of the different sounds is endless.  This is where the problem is when it comes to going directly from song writing to recording.  You can never get “amazing” drum sounds with out deciding ahead of time what that great drum sound is for your song.

What Sound Are You Looking For?

The example I used from above is just is just a tiny portion of what you must think about before you even start recording a project.  The very best thing you can do for yourself is to take some time to define clearly what your vision is for what you want the project to sound like.

You could start by using a few words to describe how you want your record to sound like.  Raw? Grimey? Aggressive? Indie?  Maybe you want to pay honor to a favorite album of yours.  Also, try to think of what you don’t want it to sound like.

Draw Out Your Success

The more you can commit to a vision before you start the process, then the better off you will be.  Try and write that down and then make it your map for success.  This vision will help you build the sonic background you want for the album.  It will help you make the necessary moves, during recording, for success.

Without a map, you are simply taken blind shots in the dark and guessing at every turn.  Don’t fall into that trap for your next project.  Just simple take a couple of minutes to jot down your sonic map for victory and abide by that for the entire recording process.  I’m sure that you will be happy with the results.

How to Record and Mix Body Percussion

Body percussion is great because it can add a little extra something to your mixes. I’m talking about anything from hand clap, to beat boxing, to finger snaps, and the list goes on.

Here’s a breakdown of how you can make them shine on your records.

Beatboxing Like a Drummer

This is the art form of using your mouth to make drum sounds. To me, I feel there are a couple of ways to approach this.

One way is more traditional which is to capture the vocal beatboxing. This is similar to how someone like Justin Timberlake would do it.

Another way to do this would be to bring out the percussive strength in the voice. You can do this by adding a dynamic mic as well as kick drum mic to add a bit more weight and then place them both close to the vocalist. From here you can use extreme EQ technique to bring out certain parts of the voice. It’s not uncommon for me to do something like a 12 dB boost in the top end. Compression can also be useful, but I’m just trying to get it to sound like a real drum kit.

Let’s Clap Our Way to the Top

I like to approach hand claps in a couple of different ways. You can go for a more ambient “in the room” type of sound as well as a dryer “in your face” hip hop kind of sound.

In a room, I would usually like to approach this with a pair of cardioids five feet away from the actual clap. For group claps, I will just have everyone in the room, and I will do a few takes.

For a direct clap sound, I prefer to use a figure of eight mics which I am very carefully aiming and positioning. So without the room sound, the clap doesn’t have any sustain, but the same room sound is what helps to place the clap into the stereo field.

For processing a natural clap, it’s pretty simple. You can use a little bit of compression or EQ to even out the tone and maybe a bit more low end or high end if the mix calls for it. Also, panning the layers around can sound cool.

Conclusion

Body percussive sounds are usually overlooked when it comes to adding interest to a record. There’re lots of good options to choose whether you are just using subtle amounts of noise or whether they are meant to be the feature. The best part is these are free, and you don’t need any particular instrument to make it happen.