Recording tips for beginners

I wanted to start a thread for the beginners (I consider myself one) to get some basic, common, tips.

What do you veterans think about reverb? Is it common for beginners to add a bunch?

I think it gets over used because when a beginner records the first guitar track of a song and listens to it, they want it to sound fuller, wants to cover mistakes in playing, and wants to even out the notes dynamically (doesn’t understand how to use a compressor yet). Then as they add more tracks they need to match reverb and the mix gets muddy very quickly. Of course, the solution is to wait until all the instruments are in the mix and (probably) start with ZERO reverb and then add a little bit at a time.

I can remember when I started playing, I loved reverb, heavy distortion, chorus, etc. because it made me sound better. There is a point where you realize you sound better without all the noise. Don’t get me wrong, effects should be used but should be very targeted in their purpose.


What say you experts?


Very often (also in life) ‘less is more’.

Treat your music like you would treat a woman that you dearly loooooove.

Don’t overdo it.

Also learning. Some advice I considered good, from various sources, is to compare your music to a reference track that you would consider a worthy example of the style of your music. Even go so far as to import the track into your Cubase project so you can do a quick a/b comparison. Remember to lower the volume of the reference track so it’s roughly the same as your mix, otherwise you will be fooled by loudness, which you don’t want to mess with until you are done mixing.

Comparing to a reference track not only helps to assess the level of reverb (and it’s probably going to be less than in your own mix), but every other aspect - tonal balance, stereo field, instrument balance, etc.

For me, the epiphany came in two bursts:

  1. Bass, kick, and toms are unchanged re:EQ.
  2. Everything else get sent through a hi-pass with a cutoff at 120Hz.

The second burst made the first burst really effective:

  • Use a graphical frequency analyzer to ensure that the average distribution of frequencies is even across 80% of the spectrum. This ensures that you are operating from a relatively common baseline (i.e. even distribution) so that the filters, etc. that get applied have predictable effects (pun intended).

I use the BlueCat frequency analyzer because a) it gets the job done well and b) it’s freeware.

Lenny once commented, not too long ago, that he was impressed with the progress I’ve made in my mixing. While I still make questionable choices (use of drum kit, etc.) the results he heard were due to the above two things predominately.

Think before you record.

Use microphone placement to “EQ” your sound. A microphone can capture a enormous range of tone depending on how you place it. Know how wide a cardioid pattern hears as direct and imagine the diaphragm as an eye when you place it. Outside the direct area of view is the peripheral, off-axis area. As you learn, place your microphones and use a tape measure to know the relation of elevation to floor, distance from source, angle of approach to source the microphone’s angle relation to walls, floor and ceiling.

Be creative, smart and deliberate.

Start with drastic placement differences and after you can predict what placement “X” will sound like, bring the placement differences nearer to each other.

You will train your ears by doing this.
So many placement techniques… Near/far On-axis/off-axis flanked by absorbers/diffusers/reflectors… Know your gear well and you will buy only what you need to fill gaps.

Try to mix without any eq using microphone placement. I recently wrote a bit about this and I feel it is soooo important. Here’s a link to it if you want to give it a read. The bit is more of a big-picture consideration in microphones and preamps but I think it supports what I am saying here.

It has taken me yearssssssssss to get to where I am today, so be patient because you will get “ah hahsss” as long as you keep learning. I read about audio nerd stuff every day cus I’m a frikin audio geek and I love it…

That, to me, is the basic 101 of recording.

Aloha Tom

Great words and great advice.


And yes, less is more…

I keep telling that myself, but I’m a bad listener… :mrgreen:

Sometimes, of course, more is more! (Listen to Mahler!!!)

It’s knowing where to differentiate, that’s the problem :laughing:

Re: Reverb… An effective trick is to EQ the return, to cut the LF.

Well recorded tracks almost mix themselves…

Try to find something that excites you in the recording and capitalise on that…

Reverbs… early reflections (I’ll say no more)

You can actually use a massive amount of reverb on a vocal (Beatles (and others)) and you’d have no idea there was so much on it until the vox was isolated. There are a few Sgt Peppers mixing blogs around with audio examples, seek them out. It basically boils down to knowing what you’re doing. For us guys, you need objectivity as your main weapon on these things. Listen to what you’ve done to a piece of music and ask yourself if it was the right thing to do and be totally honest with yourself, that doubt you had and dismissed was not a lie. Something bothered you, you need to seek it out and correct it if necessary :sunglasses:

Check this Jethro Tull track out: There’s verb on everything (listen to that acoustic) but it’s beautifully incorporated into the song. Great album, worth picking up :sunglasses:


Massively interested in hearing some isolated vox of the Beatles, Pepper and otherwise …

I couldn’t find the Pepper-related blogs you alluded to … can you send a link or two please?


No they’re secret…and I’ve not got a link :laughing:

Wow, found em on Youtube:

Enjoy, there’s one or two of em on Da Tube :sunglasses:

Thank you!!

I"ve got an embarassingly insatiable appetite for all things Beatles.

Love those isolated tracks!!

I hear there’s a bunch from Rock Band, or some such.

Here’s one back atcha:

Edit - here’s a mother lode!

Wow, very cool :sunglasses: