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In The Studio: Guerilla Recording Is As Simple As One, Two… Eight?

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By Bruce A. Miller July 8, 2015

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Guerilla = someone who operates in an independent and irregular manner. Often a guerilla is not well funded, and must make do with limited resources without making compromises in quality and effectiveness.

Guerilla Recording = Recording in an independent and irregular manner using limited resources without making compromises in quality and effectiveness.

If you’re a minimalist recording engineer who is capable of capturing good sound from an instrument with only a few microphones, then working on a guerilla budget should not affect the quality of your work that much.

In general there are some things to keep in mind:

—Never be afraid to experiment with a microphone position.

—When in doubt as to where to put a microphone, listen while moving your head around the sound source and put the microphone where the sound is strongest.

—If you notice a particular microphone sounds bright and you are recording a bright sound such as a hi-hat, use the bright sound. Use similar matching logic for other sounds and microphones but keep in mind that some bright sounds (vocal, piano, acoustic guitar) need more bottom than you may realize.

—Be careful not to process any sound too much when recording with compression, gating or EQ unless you really need to. You can always add the effects later but can never remove them.

—Do not compress too much. Use the headroom to capture the dynamics of the instrument or voice, and only use compression to keep the louder sounds under control (for example a 3:1 ration where the gain reduction is set to happen only when the performer is the loudest)—but do not overly compress the sound unless you specifically want a particular effect.

It can be as simple as one, two, eight.

First, I must point out that your songs and arrangements must be well thought out and practiced before you begin. It doesn’t matter if you’re recording on 2 tracks, 4 tracks, 8 or 24…garbage in = garbage out.

The Beatles worked with only 4 tracks by recording onto one machine then bouncing down stereo pairs and adding more tracks on another machine. Their music still stands as complex and full as much larger productions made today because what they recorded was complex and full. Always remember that what you record is more important than how you record it, but if you get both right you can make something great.

In addition, make sure that your room is properly setup for your recording. The musicians should be able to see and hear each other, and amplifiers and instruments should be set in a way that will allow for some microphone isolation. 

For example, two guitar amps that face each other from across a room will allow for better isolation on their individual microphones than if they are placed directly next to each other facing the same direction.

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About Bruce

Bruce A. Miller
Bruce A. Miller

Recording Engineer
Bruce A. Miller is an acclaimed recording engineer who operates an independent recording studio and the BAM Audio School website.


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