Why is recording so difficult?
Q: What is the most depressing sport for a track and field athlete?
A: The high jump, because even the winner ends by failing to clear the bar.
Recording can be a bit like that. Sometimes you will start off on a high and the track will almost record itself, right through to the finished mix. You'll stand back in amazement and wonder, "Did I do that?".
But generally, those days are few. You strive and struggle to make each individual track the best that it can possibly be. And in the mix you try out just about every combination of fader levels, pans, EQs, compressors and reverbs you can think of.
But although you end up knowing that your work is professional in quality, there is that lurking doubt that it could be just that little bit better, if only you could find the 'magic' to make it so.
Taking an optimistic view, this is one of the things that makes recording so endlessly fascinating. Somehow, you know where the goal is, but you just can't quite get there. But why is it difficult? There must be some underlying reason.
One reason why it is difficult is that you are in competition with the best. You hear the work of the top people in the industry every day. You wouldn't even bother to dream about being good enough to play in a world-class football team.
But we all, every last one of us reading (and writing!) these words, believes that we have a damn good chance of turning out a piece of work that will wow the entire world. And, yes, it can happen. It has happened for many artists, producers and engineers who are now world class, but once worked out of a home studio.
Fundamental to success is a solid, thorough knowledge and skill-set in the equipment and techniques involved. This involves knowing how the equipment does its job, and its relative strengths and weaknesses - for example, this would include knowing the difference between a diode bridge compressor and a variable-mu compressor, and having an appreciation of their relative sound qualities.
And then you need to know how to apply your equipment too music. Like an artist knows how to blend pigments and apply their various paraphernalia.
The good news? Well firstly, the standard of the pros is high, but it's not unattainable. Keep your mind on the solid fundamentals of audio, the things that DON'T change from moment to moment. And, even if you don't make it all the way, recording is just so much FUN. And the more seriously you take it, the more fun you will get out of it.
Don't forget to let us know when you have your first hit!