Thirty-seven years. This is how long, in 2019, I have been playing the guitar. And for twenty-seven of them, I was blissfully unaware of the wonderful world of audio recording.
Oh, I'd been in a studio during that period. Many times, actually. Recording guitars for a variety of demos, sessions, albums and recording together with a small classical ensemble! (yeah, I found the timing dodgy - the guys had no drummer...)
These studios were of the big console, big monitors, lots of cool looking equipment sort. Nice rooms, tons of kit and you could really ask anything and get it. Well, at least all the coffee you wanted. And maybe some of the rooms weren't that nice, but you just kept the lights low and everything was alright.
In these experiences, I had always loved the control room looks: rows and rows of knobs, buttons and faders, star-trek lights, the works. Bit like a kid looking at the cockpit of an airliner.
But I'd never really got much into the actual technical part. I looked at the guy behind the glass nodding when it was time to start playing. Sometimes he said "rolling". That was about it. After all, I was a guitarist.
Then, about ten years ago or whereabouts, I started writing some songs of my own.
After a few false starts, I got some material I thought was (maybe) worth listening to (and more importantly, so did the band).. so I wanted to record it. But for the first time, I did not have a studio to go to. I'd checked the usual ones and their rates were .. well, let's just say way beyond reasonable for my "let's try and see if there's something" approach. Also, I'd moved country, didn't really know many local studios and the cost of flying back and forth from my home country would have made the budget even more nonsensical.
But I was lucky.
Exactly in that period, say early 2010s, the technology for making quality recordings had reached a level where inexpensive equipment was incredibly good. Easily better than most of the stuff I'd used in the 90s and 2000s. I had no idea at the time, but you actually could make a record in your home which sounded every bit as good and "professional" - if not better - than the ones we'd made ten, fifteen years before. Technology was no longer an obstacle, economically or as of functionality.
So off I went. I bought a recorder-cum-interface (an used Boss BR-800 16bit recorder, lovely little piece of consumer kit). It came with Sonar LE as a DAW, which I duly installed. I tried the one microphone I had (the SM58 I was using playing live) and while it was ok, I thought things could be better, so I did a little research and found the cheapest "reputable" mic with good reviews (thank you, Sound On Sound magazine): an Audio-Technica AT2020. Got an XLR cable, learned what phantom power was (the BR800 had it only on one channel) and off I went.
And yes, indeed I soon found out that yes, technology was not a problem.
Unfortunately, skills still were.
I quickly discovered that there's far more to recording than equipment. Actually nowadays, within reason, equipment is far from being the limiting factor. Luckily, I was used to that idea: it's just the same with playing guitar. Take a lousy guitarist with a super expensive guitar and amp and he or she will sound... well, lousy. Take a great guitarist with a mediocre rig and he or she will sounds - you guessed - great.
So I knew that the key to gaining audio skills was always the same: learn, practice, fail, learn more, practice more, shake and repeat. Keep an open mind and build your opinions on facts. Read a lot, but don't believe everything you read. Learn to separate the chaff from good information. Experiment.
And indeed, so it went. Trying, experimenting, figuring out what makes a difference and what doesn't, getting people to perform, getting myself to perform, recording guitars, bass drum kits, vocalists, cellos, woodwinds, violins, brass, learning how to arrange, produce, record, mix, learning that mastering is better left to someone else (and why), finishing the tracks, getting them out, learn about copyrights, PROs, the works - all that most musicians in the post-internet-no-labels-small-budgets must learn how to do. An incredibly fun ride, which of course is still going on.
The beauty of music is that you never stop learning.
The more I learnt however, the more I noticed that certain questions, certain ideas or misunderstandings tended to appear often and repeat themselves, be it in internet forums, conversation with friends or fellow musicians and engineers during sessions.
So I thought it might be worthwhile to gather my own hard-earned knowledge and experience someplace. Started with a book idea - but nah, too complicated. What about a blog?
And there you have it. This blog is about audio recording (mainly for music-making purposes) but will also contain posts about all the other stuff that, if you want to make a full production, you need to know. I'll try and collect the nuggets of wisdom I've captured along the way (from people way better at recording than I), plus my own commentary of course, experience, ideas and the occasional rant.
A lot of it is, truth be told, to have a place where I can point to when they ask certain types of questions in a forum.
I still very much write songs and still play the guitar, a lot. Beyond family and friends, that's what gives life meaning. But audio, recording and producing, is almost up there with them.
So: a warm welcome to all who've made up to here. Good reading, and I sincerely hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do!