What You Can Learn From Your Mentor (Student Chris Bell)

Getting the band, if at all possible to come in the night before and do setups, for a lot of reasons. One, it’d save time in the long run. Two, you’re able to get everything mic’d up and at least sounding proper. But also, you can get your instruments to kind of sit in the room if they’re going to be recording it all weekend or all week or whatever, and actually acclimate to the temperatures. Temperatures can wreak havoc on wood, especially drums. You want everything to stay in tune properly, so I think having a setup the day before or the night before is key for me. Everything sounds better, I think, with the proper amount of preparation.

Once that’s taken care of, I’ll go through my track log and I’ll log each input and output. I actually now have a standard way that I mic a drum kit based on previous experience of what works and doesn’t work. Such as, I might put a very close pair of mics on an acoustic if they want a really intimate sound. But, maybe if they want something a little more distant and reverberant, I’ll put some room mics up. Also, I like to ask the client what they want, what kind of sounds they go for. Then, my placements would be based on those. Being able to hear the type of music they do ahead of time is another helpful thing. I think preparation is the most useful tool that you have, as well as your ears.

But once I am in a session, I’m very professional, but also open to suggestion. I like to hear what the artists have because a lot of them don’t necessarily understand audio engineering, but they know what they want to sound like. So, if they can give me examples of groups that they sound similar to or tones they like, that is a great help to me. I definitely vibe off other people a lot, so my workflow is very indicative of what other people are doing and how they’re reacting.

I also think it’s important to kind of help the musicians along the way, especially the ones that don’t know anything about engineering and maybe it’s their first time in the studio, especially young kids and stuff. Because, being a musician myself and probably have being taken advantage of at least once or twice in the studio, I want them to understand at least some basic principles of recording and understand some basic mic placements.

So, when they go into a studio and an engineer tells them, “Oh, that can’t be done,” or, “Oh, that sounds fine. We’ll just EQ it later,” well, no. You can get it right from the beginning without having to use as much processing as you might think. There are techniques. There are ways to go about things to get really good, solid sounds without having to rely on plugins to make it better. Getting it to sound right from the door is paramount and it should be your number one goal, and I think that in the end, the results will prove that and your client will come back.

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