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In The Studio: Being A Great Engineer/Producer On A Budget
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Consider Your Source

Instead of thoughtlessly trying to improve your recordings with better transducers, consider your source. If you put any number of high-end mics on a Marshall MG, you’re going to get an awesome recording of a terrible amp.

In other words, a terrible recording.

—Learn how to tune drums – check out the “drum tuning bible” for hints

—Make sure guitars and basses are professionally set up and restrung

—Have your piano tuned

—Cables making noise? Replace them (or fix them, if you’re so inclined)

This should all be common sense anyway. “Garbage in, garbage out;” “you can’t polish a turd;” etc.

The other benefit to being functionally broke is that you can focus on coaxing a better/more authentic performance out of your artist (even if the artist is yourself). Whether you have a closet full of U87s or some Behringer rack gear (shudder), don’t think about the limitations.

Work hands-on with artists: be the diplomat between their ideas and their talents. This is where it kind of helps to be a musician, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the point is that a great recording begins with a great performance.

You think people listen to the Misfits for the sonic fidelity? No, they listen because Glenn Danzig killed a baby today and it doesn’t matter much to him as long as it’s dead.

“Cheap Gear”

Finally, emancipate yourself from the taboo of cheap gear. “Consumer-level” doesn’t mean you can’t get professional-level results if you know what you’re doing, and accordingly, there should be no stigma attached to it.

The “Limited Edition” of Pro Tools is only as “limited” as you let it be. Abbey Road only had four tracks and The Beatles have sold 177 million records. Think of the possibilities of 32, 64, 128 tracks!

Sure, you’ll encounter the occasional “analog snob” on a message board, looking down his nose at you for not slicing yourself open while laboriously editing tape late into the night, like he did when he was a young engineer. Pay him no mind.

“Haters gonna hate.” – Some rapper.

Most importantly, get off the Internet and get into the studio! Stop reading and start doing!

Mike Moschetto is a producer, engineer and musician from North Andover, MA. A graduate of Emerson College’s prestigious audio/radio program, he is currently head engineer of The Office recording studio.

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