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10 Brief Recording Tips For Initial Tracking

James A. Putnam
Dennis L. Trunk

Here's a mixture of useful tips for laying down your initial tracks - some basic, some not so basic.

1. For maximum flexibility, record dry without EQ and effects. Add EQ and effects at mixdown.

2. Use a compressor while tracking only when the dynamic range is too wide for the recorder. Otherwise, do the compressing at mixdown.

3. For the best signal-to-noise ratio, record each track at the highest level possible, short of causing distortion or overload.

4. To maintain accurate timing, use a click track from either a MIDI sequencer or an audio tape.

5. Use the best quality mics your budget will allow.

6. If equipment and budget permit, record acoustic instruments from a number of different miking positions at the same time, each mic going to a separate track.

7. Record each acoustic instrument in stereo, even if you're not sure that you want stereo. Because each recording situation is different, you might need the greater flexibility to experiment that this approach gives you.

8. When recording electric guitars, use feeds from both mics and pickups, each fed to separate tracks, in order to increase the options and tonal possibilities at mixdown.

9. Here is an inexpensive yet highly effective way to create a realistic, natural sonic balance when recording any kind of acoustic grouping, such as group vocals, ensembles or or even orchestras, using just two channels. Place two omni-directional mics 1/3 of the way in from each side of the group, 15 to 20 feet above, and towards the front of the group. Since omni-directional mics pick up the ambience of the recording environment, acoustics are important. You may have to experiment. If the group has a lead singer or instrument, dedicate a third mic to the soloist's position.

10. To synchronize tracks on your audio recording equipment with the tracks on your MIDI sequencer, use a sync signal or a sync track from your recorder to lock up your midi sequencer. After recording the MIDI parts to audio, remember to keep all of the original sequencer tracks (the MIDI file), so that you will have maximum flexibility at mixdown.

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James A. Putnam
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