Pro Audio Files

7 Reasons Analog Recording Helps Your Performances

Technology is amazing. I’m recording a record right now with people from all over the world. That would have not been possible years ago.

With all these great advancements let us not forget that as with any method, it’s not appropriate for everything.

Often when people talk about recording to tape, they tend to talk mostly about the sound. But, if we look deeper, there’s more at play to what makes the experience special.

1. Easy on the Eyes

Music is an aural art. When we have Pro Tools open on a big screen it’s hard to not have that stimulation affect you. The blue light from the screen alone has an impact.

We also start to look at music rather than listen. This can lead to over analyzation of parts. We stop trusting our ears.

When we record to tape, we can only trust our ears and the music wins because of it.

2. Attention Deficit … Oh Look Some Cheetos

When you record to tape there is much more pressure to nail a performance. Punch-ins are more difficult. This little bit of pressure is actually good for music.

Digital recording can make some performers a bit lazy. Sometimes, recording a take before they’ve gotten settled.

You used to have to rehearse before you hit the record button. I know, I may sound like a grumpy old man… “Get off my lawn you kids!!”

But, think about it. It’s not just the sounds we love on old recordings, it’s the performances.

When I was recently tracking to tape, it was a liberating experience. You think it would be more stressful, but it wasn’t.

I was able to live in the moment more. I had to make sure I had good concentration.

3. Group Hug

The subject I really want to talk about though is recording live with multiple musicians.

People often don’t understand the nuances that makes each of these experiences different.

It’s often considered that overdubbing gives you the most flexibility, but that’s not always true.

When everybody is in the same room at the same time, it allows for minute changes that would be serious surgery to make later.

If you would, think of overdubbing as having answers to questions that haven’t been asked yet. It’s a one-sided conversation that is supposed to involve others. Some projects thrive on this, but some struggle.

The most obvious is timing. Locking to a groove is much easier when everyone is together. That just can’t be replicated later no matter how good your time. There is something that happens chemically when humans play together.


4. And the Winner Is

The big prize is instant response. Music is communication. When you’re playing your instrument, you’re communicating when you don’t even realize it.

Now, imagine you have five people in the room conversing this way. There are many things that subtly change as you’re playing them in real time.

The performance gets altered based on what others are playing. If you have a room full of gifted musicians, it can be quite amazing.

Segways into different sections of songs gets sorted out quicker. Dynamics are more natural. On a deep level, the way musicians touch their instruments may even change in the moment versus overdubbing.

There is a level of commitment in a live band performance. Overdubbing is like fear of commitment.

5. Political Rebuttal

I’m not saying that overdubbing is bad. You have to match the method with the desired outcome. If you haven’t had the experience of tacking with a great live band, I do recommend it.

Everyone leans on one another. It’s real teamwork. There is much more than simply locking to a click.

6. Pony Up

I’m talking about real takes. None of that scratch track business. Grow a pair and lock it down. Forget that do-overs exist. Play it and mean it.

And stop looking at the grid in Pro Tools to decide if something is in time or not. Do you hear it? Would The Beatles have punched that in so it was more on the grid? Probably not.

Get those ideas out and run with it. Don’t lab-atomize your music. There is power in truth.

7. Canned

Take a listen to some of your favorite records. Really listen. Take notice of how beautifully imperfect it is. One of my gripes about some modern production is the performances sound fake. They sound as if they were lip-synced in the studio if you know what I mean.

Leave some of that grit in. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I bet most of the records that have come out in the past twenty years that have had a big artistic impact are not super-processed performances. Emotions stand the test of time.

Listen to Ryan Adams new record to get a taste of organic performances.

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Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at

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