Pro Audio Files

No One Way to Record

Transcript
Hello, it’s Warren Huart. Hope you’re doing marvelously well. Please, as ever, subscribe. You can go to producelikeapro.com and you can sign up for the email list and get a whole bunch of free stuff, and also we have The Academy there, which is a lot of fun. There’s a monthly or there’s a yearly. Each month, we mix a brand new multitrack, and we do mix critiques every single week. So it’s a lot of fun, and we talk production, and all kinds of wonderful things.

So what are we going to talk about? There are several things that come up over and over again, and I think this is a really incredibly important topic for us, and it’s this. There is no one way to record. There’s no right way or wrong way to record.

Now, you might ask, “Why am I talking about this?”

Well, at Produce Like a Pro, the reason why I started this YouTube channel is I wanted a place where we could have a sense of community, where everybody would help each other out. There was going to be no competitiveness, there was no battle of egos, there was no one way or wrong way, and more importantly for me, since I do do this for a living, and I make music 12 to 15 hours a day, and somehow or another squeeze in making these videos, and all the other fun stuff that I do, I wanted to show what it’s really like doing this for a living. To open the doors a little bit. I’m not a professional YouTuber, and I’m not at the twilight of my career trying to find other forms of revenue.

This is what I do every day. I just spent last week working with Conrad Seoul, the week before, I mixed the new Rick Springfield record, and in between all of that, I’m working with independent artists and other major label artists. It’s really a wonderful blessing to be able to do music.

So getting back to the point, I have noticed a proliferation not just on my channel, but on lots of people’s channels where a lot of people are very short with each other when it comes to specific genres and different recording techniques.

What do I mean about this? Well, for instance, maybe somebody records a band, like a heavy rock band, and they use a lot of compression, a lot of EQ, a lot of in your face sounds. I’ll read a quote like, “That’s not how The Beatles recorded. They only used four tracks.”

I agree. The Beatles did not record like that. The Beatles are one of my favorite bands. Probably, a lot of people watching here, one of your favorite bands, and rightly so. Some of the best songwriting ever. Some of the best performances ever.

Just incredible stuff. However, if I’m going to be doing a 180bpm speed metal track, with double kicks going absolutely insane, I am not going to be recording it with two or three mics in a room and capturing performances and doing one or two overdubs.

I’m probably going to be close miking every single drum, and EQing and compressing so that I can hear every single articulation of those fast drum attacks.

Not to mention, like a wall of Marshalls, or whatever it might be, just a wall of heavy guitars in your face have to be recorded a very specific way. The genre is dictating how that should be recorded, because that’s how it sounds. That is what the audience wants. That’s what they love, what they expect.

In metal, they want to hear in your face. There’s plenty of you out there that are great experts in metal, and you can talk about all of the different techniques.

If you want to do country music, you do acoustic country music. The way that’s recorded might be one or two mics in a room. It might be at the same time, an acoustic guitar and a live vocal. A folk track, a country track, because you have a lot of depth in that, and then you may do one or two mics on a drum kit.

Jazz, for instance, is another example of that. If I were to record a jazz band, which I’ve done many, many times, I might record with very limited amounts of microphones. Maybe a kick, a snare, a pair of overheads, a really balanced drummer bringing out all of the different elements just being picked up by the overheads primarily and the kick and snare.

Maybe I’ll have some room mics as well picking up the whole band performing in one room, and maybe one on a sax, one on the trumpet, one on the stand up bass, one or two on a piano.

The point is I might end up with six to eight to ten tracks maximum to record five people.

The reality is it’s all as we like to say in England, horses for courses. What is the end result?

So you’ve seen if you watched my videos, hopefully you’ve seen a lot. If not, please do. Go and check out the Brent Fischer recording with Matt Brownlee. We did horns and strings. I’ve done those kinds of sessions many, many times in my life. I’ve recorded quartets, I’ve recorded orchestras, I’ve recorded like pianos, I’ve recorded rock bands, I’ve recorded bands using Bias, Axe FX, Kempers, I’ve recorded live amps, I’ve recorded amps in rooms, I’ve recorded rock bands with two microphones in a room, because I wanted The Stooges.

The point is what are you going for? There is no one way.

So when you watch a video or you listen to a piece of music and it’s not in your genre, it doesn’t make it wrong. It doesn’t make it wrong. In fact, I challenge you as producers and engineers and mixers to learn all of the different kinds of genres.

I’ve been fortunate in rock to work with a poppy, rocky band like Black Veil Brides, or Aerosmith, or Ace Frehley, or Korn. I’ve done all of those different — and lots of independent bands as well — I’ve done all kinds of different versions of rock. I’ve also done a lot of acoustic guitar, piano bands like The Fray or Augustana, or acoustic guitar bands like James Blunt.

The point is, those are all very different genres, and I’ve done my fair share of EDM. When I lived in England in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I DJ’d. I’ve done all of these different kinds of things, and I’m not alone. There’s many, many producers, engineers, and mixers like me have built up a whole resume of different genres, and especially if you’ve owned your own studio, or you’ve worked in a studio, a commercial facility, you have to learn how to adapt and work with the acoustic guitar/vocal artist, the jazz band, the metal band, the full orchestra, the horn section.

There is different challenges that come from that, and depending on how the rest of the music is recorded, you have to record the instruments to fit. What do I mean by that?

What I mean by that is let’s just say you are doing like, a Beatle-y track or something, and what I mean by that is you’re trying to blend a lot of different instruments, and so you have a band playing, and then you want to — you start building up layers of guitars, and you’re like, “Yeah, but I want to put in a horn section.”

Well, you’re not going to do horns in a room in the same way you would record a jazz band, just like a stereo pair or something like that. You might be able to do that, but the reality is, once that track gets dense, you’re going to want to close mic. So immediately, it’s a different way of recording. It’s not the same way you’d record a performance of a jazz band. These are important things.

I think that yes, there are so many different kinds of genres. There are so many different blends of genres, but the skill should be learning how to work in all of those different genres, because if you want to do this for your career and be a professional producer, engineer, and mixer, you’ve got to learn all of these different things.

Similarly, when we did the mastering course with Warren Sokol, very successful, people loved Warren’s work, people love Warren’s video, but people made comments like, “Oh, I hate Hip Hop,” or, “I hate EDM,” or, “I hate Pop, I can’t believe you have to work on this stuff.”

He’s a mastering engineer. So I’ve been fortunate to talk to wonderful mastering engineers. Howie Weinberg, Warren Sokol, Brian Lucey, many many others I’m good friends, obviously with Adam Ayan, Gavin Lurssen, Reuben Cohen. There’s all these wonderful mastering engineers that we get to interact with.

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For me it’s great, because as a mixer, a mastering engineer is like the last line of defense. He takes your song and he comes back to you and goes, “Oh, too much low end, not enough of this, not enough of that, scoop this,” it’s great to have the ears of a skillful mastering engineer, but every single one of those mastering engineers, if you go and check out their resumes on All Music, which I highly recommend. Go to allmusic.com. That’s www.allmusic.com. So if you go there, type in the name of your favorite producer, engineer, or mixer.

All Music is very, very detailed. If something has been physically released at some stage, it will be credited in there. It’s not always 100% accurate. I’ve got three or four hundred credits in there, but obviously, I’ve done more records than that, but some of the independent releases, or the digital only remixes and things like that don’t get mentioned, but if it’s a decent enough album, it will come out and be listed in there.

So go do it, go check it out, and go look at guys like Warren and Howie and Gavin and Brian, and they are the most eclectic lists of bands, artists, you name it.

So a professional mastering engineer, and a professional mixer — predominately, a professional mastering engineer — works with all kinds of genres. So they have all of those challenges where they have to, in Hip Hop, get incredible low end, in Metal, get the high end so detailed so that things come forward all the time, so you can hear those kicks, you can hear those guitars, you can hear the bite of things. I mean, these guys have to be really good at multiple genres.

Mixers, similar. Now obviously, you can be, and please do, you can be a mixer that only mixes EDM, or a mixer that only mixes Metal, or only does Pop, but most of the big guys do a bit of everything. Maybe not every single genre, but they are able to move between tracks that are purely organic, tracks that are completely and utterly virtual instruments, and then anywhere in between.

You know, I would obviously think of Chris Lord-Alge as being a rock mixer, but I sure as heck know he mixes Rock tracks with virtual instruments all the time. That’s the world we live in. He’s not just mixing organic left and right guitars, kick, snare, and bass. He’s mixing stuff with programmed elements — look at bands like Muse, for instance. Look at how they are now crossing boundaries. The point is, there’s no one way to record.

So if you want to be successful, and you want to embrace this music industry, broaden your horizons. Broaden your horizons and learn how to record acoustic guitar and vocal, learn to how to record a live band, learn how to record a multitracked — learn how to use samples, along with live instruments, do everything. Get yourself really immersed, and be accepting of other genres and other ways of recording, because you’re going to learn so much faster.

I recently got to speak to Eddie Kramer at length, and he, like Chris Lord-Alge, talked about committing tracks. Committing ideas to tape. To DAW. Committing those ideas so that you can build incredible productions, rather than just generically recording lots of ideas, and then trying to figure it out in the mix. He likes the idea of committing, and that’s a thing that comes up a lot in conversation, and trust me on that, and we’ll use a whole lot of examples, but the reason why I bring that up in this situation is when you come to mix somebody else’s stuff, and they’ve committed these kinds of things, it will open your eyes.

There’s a blessing that these guys had that is very difficult to find now, and what is that? Well, the studio system was vast. Eddie started at AdVision in 61. I can’t remember when Chris started, but probably late 70’s. Jack Douglass started in New York in the late 60’s. In England of course, AdVision of course was in London where Eddie started. All of these different producers and engineers started with these incredible places like LA, Nashville, New York, London, you name it. Manchester, Liverpool, Paris. They had these incredible studios, and every day was a new challenge.

In came the orchestra, in came the big band, in came a rock band, in came a folk act, and they had to learn all of these kind of stuff.

So that opportunity is not afforded to many of us anymore. Those studios are few and far between. Create those opportunities for yourself. You often hear people talk about Malcolm Gladwell in the 10,000 hours, well do your best to create that opportunity for yourself. Challenge yourself.

If you’re in a small town and there’s a bar that plays folk artists, go down there. Go down and see the folk artists. Find a girl or a guy that you think is talented and offer to record one song for free. I’m a firm believer in that old English setting, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

It’s a funny old saying, but what does it mean? It means you can talk about recording, just go out and prove it. Go out and find an artist like that that’s out of your genre. Or opposite. If you’re doing acoustic folky stuff, find a rock band. Work with a rock band. Challenge yourself. Because if you want a career like all of the guys and girls we’re talking about, and actual career, you’re going to want to expand your horizons.

Now, there’s several reasons for this. There’s plenty of you that probably do Hip Hop or probably do heavy rock, and actually do fairly well at it. I’m sure you do.

But what is my other logic for it? And we’ll touch upon this in other videos, but I think it’s worth finishing up on. There’s another logic for embracing other genres. It’s called growth. It is called growth. Not just in your own abilities of course, but in the artists you work with. Part of your job, if not a lot — a huge part of your job, I should say, is to bring out the best in the artist. It is not only to capture it.

Sometimes it is just to capture something incredible, but ultimately, you are there to encourage, you are there to create an environment where where they can come and bring their best performances, and you’re there to inspire, and so if you — even if you’re a metal guy, or you’re a pop guy, or a Hip Hop guy, or acoustic guitar, vocal, jazz. If you have an understanding of other genres and other ways of recording, if they want to touch on that, that is huge.

I feel like every genre ever is a blend of another genre. There was classical music. There was European classical music. And then there was folk music, which was probably lower class music. Probably working class folk music. English folk music. Irish folk music. Folk music from France, and from Germany, and from everywhere else in the world, and that folk music blended with African tribal music that was coming in, obviously, to America. What’d that give? That created a thing called a banjo. I don’t know if many of you know, you can look it up historically, I’m going to get this slightly wrong, but the banjo is a combination of a bajo, I think it’s called, which is like an African instrument, and then it’s been turned into this sort of country instrument. But it came from African roots mixed in with Irish and English folk music, and many other things as well, don’t get me wrong.

The point is everything is a blend. Jazz is where Blues — traditional Blues and Gospel, and working — the songs that were sung in the fields met with European classical music, because they’re classical instruments. Something that’s playing string instruments, double basses, and horns that were associated with orchestral music, but then they bring in this Blues, Gospel. This beautiful music of the plantations all comes together. And what do we get? We get Jazz. We get arguably one of the most important things that happened in the 20th century.

That hole, the Jazz age, I mean, it’s got its own period for goodness sake, and we bring in — it gives birth of all of the greats, right through all of the bebop guys, the Charlie Parkers, and the Miles Davis’, and all of that. That stuff is just incredible. Charlie Christian as a guitar player is a huge influence on rock guys. Rock guys go back like I did, and they read about Charlie Christian, and they find his music, and then they read about Robert Johnson, and then they hear Robert Johnson, and it blows your mind.

Then you discover Cream, and Eric Clapton, and you hear Love in Vain. You hear The Stones. You hear all of these people covering Robert Johnson songs. It all comes back to that. You’re getting my point. Music is a blending of genres. It’s a blending of cultures, it’s just — this is an incredible time to be doing music with DAWs and the ability to blend all of this stuff.

Anyway, there’s no one way to record music, and if you want to be at the top of your game and you want to be a George Martin, and you want to be a Rick Reuben, if you want to be these greats, if you want to be one of those guys, then look at their careers, and look at the way they blended music.

I mean, Rick Reuben. Do you think Rick Reuben now, you’d say, “Oh, he’s done a lot of big rock records.”

Well, does anybody remember that Rick Reuben in the 80’s was one of the pioneers of bringing Hip Hop out of the underground and putting it firmly forward? It was Rick Reuben’s idea to run DMC and Aerosmith together.

These are huge things. I might sound kind of now, it just seems like commonplace, like whatever, rock and rap. It was a big freaking deal in the early 80’s. It was a big deal. And these kind of moves are what create incredible music. We have to get excited about the blending of music.

So once again, there is no one way to record music, and as a producer, engineer, and a mixer, we need to expand our horizon. We need to look at the past, the present, and the future, and bring it all together. This is an exciting time to be making music. We are so blessed to go from huge consoles like this, all the way down to a single input into your DAW using virtual synths and virtual instruments, and then still being able to record acoustic instruments and just like — the world is your oyster now. It is an incredible time.

So there’s no one way to record music. Music is the most incredible time. I’m really blessed to be able to do this, I’m blessed to be able to share this with you. Share my life and my experiences, and more importantly, go and talk to people. Other really smart people have made great records, and just hear their ideas and just share it amongst us.

So thank you ever so much for being an incredible community. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing, and I look forward to seeing you all again very, very soon. Please leave a bunch of comments and questions below. Be supportive of each other, this is a wonderful time. There’s no rights or wrongs. This is an amazing time to make music. There was no one way to record it.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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