Since my youth, I have a passion for studio equipment, recording and editing techniques. When I was a teenager, I was a faithful subscriber of audiophile and recording magazines. I knew a lot about the brands, their different products, the software (yes, I’m young enough not to have lived the glorious era of tape recorders) and if I don’t really up to date with that now, I’ve been much more interested in exploring the possibilities offered by the tools and how this can serve the music I play and the recording I want to produce.
My first rule, when thinking of any recording project is quite simple: if a record isn’t unique, it shouldn’t be made. This doesn’t mean that we should find something extravagant to stand out of the crowd or be different at all costs, it is just a basic statement to remind me that if the recording project doesn’t add anything new to what has already been done, I should probably back off until I’ve spent enough time with this music to find my personal way through it.
There is just no point of recording the same things with the same ideas in the same way over and over. You have to bring something to the table. This is often a simple question of time: we are all unique, but in certain cases our output lacks this personal touch that makes it so special and unique. Beethoven piano sonatas are typically the type of music recorded over and over in the same way with the same ideas. If I haven’t spent time working on Beethoven and haven’t had a unique perspective on it, I wouldn’t probably record his music. I do it because I didn’t find anything looking like the record I want to make.
There is another advice I follow carefully: Never forget that studio recording is a creative job. If you aim to play just like on stage and edit your mistakes afterwards, don’t even bother walking in the studio: a nice live recording will be more than enough. Editing is not a “fixing” session: it’s a creative session where you consider carefully the different options you have and try to put together a satisfying version of the music you decided to produce in the recording. There is no limitation in this process. The only rule is: it must make sense.
Using technology and its infinite range of possibilities is fun. That’s what a control room is for. When a musician says “I don’t want my sound to be altered, I want my natural sound”, I guess he doesn’t really know what he is talking about or why he decided to record in studio in the first place. As soon as we plugged the first microphone, we started using technology and alter natural sound. Of course we can find a sound very close from his natural sound, but it won’t be the natural sound. This sound is transformed into electric pulses transferred through cables to other gears where the sound is processed. Whatever you do, even if you don’t want to alter the sound, it is altered. Besides, which pianist ever heard his own sound? It would suppose to be at the same time at the keyboard and in the venue. Anyway, a crappy sound remains crappy whatever button you push. Miracles don’t happen if you don’t make them happen.
So be creative: there is no rule, you’re not supposed to work in a way or another. Everything is up to you. Some don’t attend editing sessions. I do. Some don’t prepare the recording from a technical perspective. I do. What microphones are we going to use? How? I like to have different options and discuss them with the sound engineer and the record producer. How are you going to work? You’re the project manager here, because at the end of the day, nobody will blame the sound engineer or the producer, but they’ll point the finger at you.