Tim Latham

Recording with the final mix in mind

This weekend I recorded an album. Not a single. Not the basics. I recorded an entire blues album in one day. I was contacted by some very talented friends about cutting their newest record. I said great, let’s do it Saturday. The response was a bit doubtful but everyone was encouraged by the challenge. How do you record an album in a day? Preparation. The band knew the songs cold and I was kinda familiar with the studio. The night before, we did a quick prep of the room, and showed the next day to make the final adjustments of the amp placements. I chose the proper mics for each instrument and placed them in a manner to get the best sound with the greatest amount of isolation. This is where my skills as a mix engineer came into play. Having spent years tracking before I started spending most of my time as a mixer, I knew how to place everything in the room (it was a very small room) to achieve enough isolation. By knowing how the final record should sound before the first note was recorded I knew we would get great results under less than ideal conditions. Having this picture in my minds ear was crucial to getting the results we did. That picture developed over years of mixing records. There’s unfortunately no substitute for time served. After an hour or so of setting up pro tools for the session and checking all of the mics we were ready to go. And go we did. We cut 12 songs in a day, the old school way. My thoughts were that it’s a blues record, not a polished work of art to hang in a museum. Raw rough and rugged is what we went for and achieved, but it sounds really good. With a minimal mic set up, I achieved a really full sound. By having the picture in my mind before we recorded, mixing is going to be a breeze. This is a perfect illustration of my theory that in order to become a great recording engineer, you need to learn to mix first. Most of us learn both as we go so I suggest to practice mixing as often as possible. Like a great athlete, it all comes down to training, and we train our ears.

Posted on February 9, 2010.
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