In the world of recording, and with the modern age of technology, audio production has become an ever more important aspect of a finished product, whether you are dealing with a music album, commercial for television or radio, or a movie. Audio production is often misunderstood and many lay people assume that the process is not only simple, but something that they can manage on their own.
When these individuals seek to do the work on their, when they believe that they can be just as skilled and accomplished as any audio production professional, all in the name of saving themselves some money, what they end up with is often a finished copy that strains the imagination of discerning listeners. Not only does the process begin before the first track is recorded, it is also about every step in the process, all the way until the final mix is put together.
The Basic Elements That Go into Audio Production
When people see an individual sitting at the controls of a mixing board, a musician in another room with a glass partition belting out notes from her voice, or playing an instrument, the easy opinion to be derived from that is that the audio engineer’s job is relatively simple: just sit down at a mixing console, slide a few knobs, adjust a few settings, and sit back while the musicians or artists do all of the work.
That is perhaps, arguably, one of the most ill-conceived notions of all. And it also happens to be a key ingredient that leads too many people (especially in this age of computer and recording technology being affordable) to try and take on the task themselves. In reality, the audio engineer works tirelessly and studies for years the proper settings, set-up, and other components that go into creating a professional recording, regardless of the ultimate purpose of the recording.
Understanding the different aspects of microphone technology is one of the first things one must learn before tackling a recording project. There are condenser microphones, dynamic, electric condenser, ribbon, carbon, and the list goes on and on. Would you know what is the right microphone the be used for a bass drum? Would you know which microphone would be the most ideal for picking up sound on a guitar amp? How about spacing? How far away should a microphone be from a speaker? And do you position the microphone directly in the centre of the speaker or off to the side a little? Why?
If you don’t understand the basic aspects of microphone technology, and if you don’t understand the placement of microphones for recording, you will be setting up your recording project at a significant disadvantage before you have even recorded a single track. If you set up your ‘recording’ project in the garage of your home, and even if you manage to isolate each instrument from the recording microphones (to avoid bleed-through), what about echo? What about the natural reverb in the room you’re using to record in?
The set up of the recording is the base, the foundation for everything else that you’re going to do with your recording project. Far too many people, in the effort to try and save some money, when they record on their own, don’t realise that once they have their recorded track down (and it may very well sound crisp and tight at the moment), once you move to the steps of adding layers of other sounds, more instruments, and then the all important effects processing to dress up the track becomes much more limited for the audio producer. Why?
When you have a track recorded that was done without the proper equipment, done in a room or manner that didn’t isolate the sound properly, then every effect –such as reverb or delay, for example- will exaggerate the underlying issues on the track. The recording may have had the potential to sound amazing, but when the ability to mix the final product properly is compromised because of poor production, and then you are left with a finished product that isn’t quite what you envisioned when you started.
Keep In Mind
That is why it is so important to keep in mind some basic concepts about audio production. While it may seem basic and simple on the surface, so does the work that professional actors do. Just because it looks simple doesn’t mean that it is. Do the right thing for your recording project and let a professional take the reins. You’ll be glad you did.
Rooftop Recording Studio is a versatile recording studio based in Melbourne. They offer a unique blend of modern technology with classic equipment, allowing each client the opportunity to create the ideal blend of sound for his or her particular projects.