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Tracking Techniques – Getting Great Sounds

We’ve talked about the importance of having great tracking technique, so it’s time to dive into our first lesson: getting great sounds.

It seems rather obvious, but it’s actually something that we forget to do while we’re in the middle of tracking. We know we need to get good sounds in order to make mixes good, but we don’t always know what to listen for while we are tracking.

That’s why we are going to create a list of things to listen for that will help you while you’re tracking your sessions.

One common issue seems to be dealing with extraneous noise. We know that we want clean and clear recordings, but sometimes a little bit of hum, buzz, or even bleed can ruin a take.

That’s why the first thing you should be listening for is unwanted sound in your recordings. This is easy enough to hear, but if you don’t take the time to listen for it, it is just as easy to overlook. Make sure you’re getting clear and noise free recordings, do a quick test record of whichever instrument you’re tracking. Then, put on your pair of studio headphones and listen very closely to ensure you don’t have unwanted noise.

On the other hand, it’s also not good to have too little level while tracking. This can lead to all sorts of problems when it comes to mixing, and can even cause a lower signal-to-noise ratio. Make sure that you are recording with a healthy level by watching your meters in your DAW and checking your levels throughout your recording chain. You may be just fine in your DAW, but if you are overdriving your preamp, you’ll still get a poor quality. This process is called “gain staging” and it is very important for getting great sounds in your studio.

The third and final most common issue deals with mic placement. When you’re setting up your microphone, make sure you are setting it up according to how your vocalist or instrumentalist will be addressing it. For example, do not set your vocal microphone 3 feet away from your vocalist if you are looking to get an intimate, deep sounding vocal. On the flipside, don’t place a microphone to close to the source if you are looking for a distant, reverberant vocal sound.

The number one rule for getting great sounds while tracking is to think about how they will fit within the production and the mix. Before you record any new elements, it’s always a good idea to record a “scratch” or “test” track so that you can critically listen to the sound you’re getting before you capture the actual performance. This will help you focus in on what can make your production even better – even if it’s just moving the mic 2 inches closer. So take time to listen while you’re tracking, make adjustments, and get the best tracks for your production.

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