You’re Trying Too Hard

As an audio engineer or musician, these are words you probably never thought you’d hear.

But don’t shrug them off and miss the real power and meaning behind them.

Last week, I was working on a production and things just weren’t going very well. The drums didn’t sound right, the bass wasn’t fitting the production, and the guitars were thin and in the background. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong – I was doing things more or less the same as usual, but the results weren’t there.

Then I took a step back and told myself “you’re trying too hard.” Here’s what I did:

On this particular track, I decided I wanted a “big” sound. It was a huge rock anthem, so I needed massive drums and huge guitars. I also had the opportunity to use a few LA-2A’s and 1176’s, so I didn’t let the opportunity pass.

I ran the kick and snare through some compression, as well as the bass and guitars. I even ran the drums through another set of Neve compressors, and finally added some EQ to the guitars.

The band was warming up, and I was setting up all the patches and compressors. I thought the sound would get bigger.

I was wrong.

After a run through of the song, I had the band do another to lay down some scratch parts. As I listened, things were just not as big as I wanted. I was out of compressors, which is when I realized just how much processing I had done. The patchbay looked like a rat’s nest.

That’s why I realized that I had been trying too hard. I immediately undid all of my processing and just tracked straight through the board. The difference was amazing.

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The problem is that most people never notice the fact that they are over processing because you can use an “infinite” number of plugins. It’s much easier to realize when you run out of processors like I did in the studio.

The sound I got was far better when I wasn’t processing the audio to death. A little dab of compression and EQ can go a long way, so try this out on your next mix or tracking session.

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