As a followup to the previous post, let me try to break down what I actually do hear when I playback something we've recorded-
My guess is that when Jil listens back, as the drummer she hears the particulars of the drum performance much differently than I do. But as far as my ears go, most of what I hear is- Are these drums good enough? If 'No', then let's redo them, or else I can try to fix it in the mix. If 'Yes', then let's move on to other stuff before Jil gets grumpy.
With my rather primitive recording setup, everything gets mixed down to just a single (stereo) track right as its recorded, so there isn't a whole lot I can adjust after the fact, other than overall volume and EQ. But basically, if I can hear a pretty good balance between the kick and the snare, and maybe a little stereo effect on the toms and cymbals, and it all sounds good enough together, then I am happy.
But there is obviously lots of room for growth for us here. For instance, to address the phasing issue he could hear in our drum track, my friend Jay suggested I try recording the drums using only one microphone. And with so many different approaches to recording drums, it is certainly worth my time to listen harder and learn more, and continue to experiment.
I'll track the guitar right after the drums, and aside from the overall mix, the guitar is where most of my listening focus seems to go. So there are a bunch more considerations beyond "good enough? yes/no." Does the rhythm match the drums? How is the tone? Does it sound full enough? Should it be panned left/right/center? Should it be layered or doubled on the opposite stereo channel? Is there enough additional "kick" when I switch on the distortion? A lot of stuff that even I probably don't hear unless I'm listening through headphones.
Back to the simple question of "Good enough? Yes/No." Either I can stand my vocals or I can't. Usually I can't even make this judgment call until I apply a bit of reverb to the vocal track, because I simply can't tolerate the sound of my dry vocals. Aside from this though, I find my approach here it more or less to not overthink it, and even if I tried to do multiple takes, the first take is often the one I end up liking the best and using. Then maybe I'll add some some doubling and embellishments there and there. And harmonies? Ahahaha yeah right.
Typically I guess bands track the bass with (or immediately following) the drums. Instead, I save tend to it for later, and first ask "does the recording really need bass?" The honest answer in most cases is probably "Yes," but despite this my tendency has been to leave it out anyway. Or at the very least I'll maybe adjust the EQ on the guitar part to fill in the low end a little more. Overall, in not doing a whole lot with the bass I'm making a conscious effort to, for better or worse, push the sound in a slightly different and unconventional direction. And if I change my mind (which I totally think I might), I can always add it back in later.
Probably 90% of my time and focus on the recording is spent here. Do the drum levels sound balanced with the guitars and vocals? Did the things I tried to tweak and fix sound smooth? Does anything just stick out like a sore thumb? Those guitar and vocal layers that no one else will probably ever hear or notice are painstakingly adjusted until I feel they add rather than detract. Unfortunately what sounds fine in my headphones often does not sound great out of my PC speakers, and what sounds OK there can still sound shitty to me when I play it back in my car. But if it sounds good in my car, I find that it seems to sound good enough everywhere else too.
Overall, I want to try to be more aware of my blind (deaf?) spots- to remember that I can't actually hear what everyone else hears in the music we make and record, and that not everyone hears what I hear. But it's also cool to remember that my favorite musicians are likewise too intimate with their own creation to ever hear it the same way I do. And that different aspects and layers will emerge to different people, or even to the same person listening again later. Just knowing that there is so much more to a song than I can ever hear and experience at once- of course it's cliche, but it's remarkable too. Remarkable enough to ensure that music (and art) is still something that we humans continue to value generation after generation.
So maybe it's frustrating that not everyone shares my same headspace and biases and excitement about these little mundane things in our songs. It even makes me wonder if I'd give a second listen if the same recording were someone else's creation, not mine. And I imagine this is the value of having experienced people like engineers and producers involved in the recording process- to provide some knowledge and objectivity to balance out the self-centered whims and biases of the artists they are recording with. One day...
Now sitting here listening back to Blame the dog again, on my computer speakers, I think maybe I can hear what my friend was talking about with the phase cancellation in the drums. Maybe I'm learning!
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