Things I Learned After Recording and Mixing My First Album

I was going through my data archive and found a gem document in a folder labeled “Education”. It’s dated December 7, 2008. Enjoy.

Things I learned from the first album:

– Cut unnecessary frequencies from tracks before boosting any.
– Direct box is necessary for recording guitar direct. At the recent stage show you setup for they had it for pretty much all instruments such as keyboards, violin and acoustic guitar. The electric guitar amp was miked so when going direct one of these are very necessary.…/Radial-J48-MK2-48V-Phantom… This box will allow you to record direct and send a signal to a real amplifier with it’s “thru” output connector. Or use the M-Audio Fasttrack Ultra’s instrument input…although that’s not ideal. Active boxes are for instruments without battery pickups.

We also need ¼” cables. Pro Co Lifelines Instrument Cable are great.

We can easily turn the unused straight mic stands into booms by using or purchasing long goosenecks. They’re approx. $12 from Guitar Center. We’ll need one or two if we use a Shure SM57 on snare or for some other purpose.

Gordon Lightfoot
Jason Mraz

– Boost the LOUDEST frequency that an instrument has. For example when sweeping the EQs 5K sounds loud on the snare then that’s the frequency you should boost if/when necessary. But always remember that CUTTING frequencies is what EQ should be used for. And if when you boost a frequency and it sounds ugly (especially in the lower 100-280Hz range) then you should lower it to get rid of mud.

– Electric Guitar: Layering = recording tracks, different guitar/amp for a track, panning them wide.

– E Guitar micing, find the spot: Michael Wagener’s technique

Put headphones through your interface/mixer/whatever

Hook up your mic and have it so you can hear what youre doing

Hold it in your hand

Have the amp on with a guitar cable in it

Turn down the volume of the amp so you don’t blow up your
Now put your thumb on the end of the guitar cable that goes to your guitar

It should start buzzing
Move your mic around the speakers (proabably a 1-4inches away) until you find the speaker’s “sweet spot.” The buzzing should sound more even and better than different spots on the speaker here. Put some scotch tape with an arrow pointing to this spot and try micing there when you record….

– Click tracks: Try using double times to get a groove. 8/8 may be easier for a guitar player than 4/4. This will allow the player to hear offbeats.

– The room matters the most followed by mic placement. With the empty basement (or TV studio) walk around and find spots that sound best to the ear. Try recording in the TV studio as well as the room with computers.

– Write down notes on everything. What settings were used, which microphones, how it was setup, the room, EQ, etc.

– Use the EQ knobs to cut frequencies when recording drum tracks. Especially for the tom drums

– Automation. You didn’t use that on any of the last album. Where there is time for instruments to “breathe” then their EQ or whatever needs to be “opened up” to fill that audio spectrum!

– Drums – Try different pillows for muffling. Put the mic up higher in the drum so that it isn’t being muffle by the pillow.

– Change the tuning of the snare. For slow songs have a looser tuning. For fast songs have it tight or maybe even use my piccolo snare.

– Get that front drum head fixed! A micing with the front head on and a small hole is what the Audix D6 was designed for.

– Use the bridge pickups of the guitar if going for a distorted sound. Heavy metal requires expensive guitars for less mud. Onto the amp: either turn your mids all the way up with you treble and bass at minimum, or turn your mids all the way down, with your bass and highs up higher.

– Doubling vocal tracks doesn’t mean hard panning them. Put the doubled track about 10 dB lower in the mix for a natural chorusing effect with the same compression/EQ settings as the lead track. The doubled track is called the harmonic track.

– Put sound absorbtion like a wall of foam OR comforter or curtain behind the musician. That will help with phase cancellation.

– Try over head micing the drums with the MXL 603s and SM81. Put an AT4040 on the hihats.

– For solo guitar + vocals take the low cut filter off the microphone. Then in mixing use a parametric notch filter for any trouble frequencies.

– Watch

– In the mixer window use the “Freeze Track” option to free up those cpu cycles

– The Shure SM7b microphone would be perfect for vocals. It is voiced exactly opposite the Rode NTK. The Rode NTK is great for deep voices which rap artists tend to have. It still should be used about 12-15 inches away (the NTK). Shure = dull and NTK = bright. Replace the NTK tube with these mullard NOS tubes for a better sound:…/Microphones/auction-106312946.htm

– It’s worth it to test recording vocals with the two doors open in the iso booth.

– When there are no vocals bring up another “central” instrument. Usually guitar.

– If you set up a mic with a low cut filter on don’t use the mixer’s lowcut. Conversely if there is no low cut filter or it’s switched off use the mixer’s low cut UNLESS it’s a bass instrument being recorded. Then you BETTER make sure that filter is OFF.

– A clean recording room sounds better than one with trash/gear laying all over the place

– It’s easier to do another take than to fix 50 mistakes in the mix

– For bass guitar use a stompbox compressor going into the direct in. On the last album it was difficult to hear some of the higher bass notes and that’s why.

– For acoustic guitar do the over the shoulder + 12th fret setup. If the song has a drum/bass guitar accompaniment mic more for the highs than for the mids and lows. That’s what that big acgtr micing paper said and it’s true.

– Most of the amp simulators have a “high quality” switch. Enable these only for the final mix

– If you can hear the bass guitar on the Yamaha speakers they are too loud in the mix. Turn it down until you can barely here it then one or two decibels to where you can’t. That’s where it should be.

– The snare track should have reverb

– Download and use DPC Latency Checker

– Don’t track with Amplitube. “It uses CPU cycles like a Hummer uses gas.” Use one of the other plugins instead and then switch to Amplitube later.

– There are bass amp simulators in Guitar Rig and the other amp programs besides just using the Ampeg SVX. Although Ampeg is probably all you’ll need.

(this last part is a copy and paste from )

Dear Not a Pro,

First note that there are about as many ways to mic and record a drum set as there are drummers.

I’m a drummer. I started in this business as a studio muscian and played on several recordings each with drums mic-ed a different way.

My opinion, and it’s Just that, My opinion, is that often, many people miss the basics. or at least the basics for pop or country music.

1. aim a dynamic mic at the center of the drum head, a few inches from the center. Far enough away that the drummer doesn’t beat it to death. But only an inch or so above the head.

2. try eq on the toms. Loose the mud region, subtract 150 to 300 hz, you might want to boost the lows below that. Then, boost the highs, 10 to 15K, quite a bit.

The addition of highs, with proper mic placement will help you to keep the number of mics down and give you adequate coverage of the cymbals with NO overheads. This technique is often called “over Micing”. In fact, the stereo imaging of the cymbals will be better and more accurate.

3. Mic the bass drum about 3 to 6 inches from the center at a 45 % angle.

4. Loose what you don’t need. Eq the lows out of the hi hat, it’s not needed and will keep phase cancelation down.

I’ve recorded over 200 albums, some local, some regional, and a number of nationals using this technique.

The other that have posted all have good recommendations. You’ll just need a little experience to find which works best for you.

Good luck,


Author: Adam

Adam is a professional photographer, videographer and audio engineer. He started Real Home Recording back in 2011 and in 2017 launched Don't Go to Recording School.