Too often, home recordists look with envy to professional studios. Professional engineers, the highest quality gear, and deep pockets help pro studios make amazing records. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe you’ll ever be able to produce anything like that in your own studio.
Your chances are a lot better if you throw out the rule book. You know the one I’m talking about. All the best practices and rules that you have learned along the way are a great education, but you have total freedom to do make your own sounds.
It is that spirit that guides, Gabriel Roth, the house engineer for Daptone Records, a label that is putting out modern soul records that could have been recorded 20 years ago. Artists on the Daptone roster include Antibalas and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. This Sound on Sound interview gets deep with Roth, who reveals some very unusual recording techniques:
Guitars, as you might expect, also get a single microphone, often a Shure 57, placed very close up on the speaker. In fact, while working on a gospel album recently, a shortage of tracks compelled Roth to place a single ribbon microphone in between the bass and guitar amps, which he then proceeded to record to a single track on the eight-track deck. This works out to 0.5 microphones per instrument. “No tricks — just good guitars played by really good guitar players through really good amps,” he says.
This is the sort of technique that would send most modern engineers into a rage, but it’s the kind of thing that Roth is used to. “One of the big problems with modern engineering is everyone telling everyone else how they put this microphone here and another there, and you have to use this condenser for overheads and this large-diaphragm condenser for the kick, and so on. Once it becomes a formula, people stop using their ears.”
It is these kind of unorthodox solutions that home studios are known for. Don’t let your gear bog you down. Work with what you have, and find a way to make it work for you. If it sounds good, then don’t worry about recording 18 musicians with one mic. The point is to have fun and make music, not execute a textbook recording session.