One of the rules of audio recording and production is this:
There are no rules
I remember the first time I heard someone say “If it sounds right it is right”. In my mind, this was revolutionary.
I had been obsessed with trying to do things the “right way”. (Which way are the drum overheads supposed to be panned? Which mic am I supposed to use on a guitar amp?) Over time I learned that it doesn’t matter how I do things. The only thing that matters is the outcome.
I experienced this in a fresh way in my recording project a few weeks ago. The artist I was recording, Karen, was warming up for a few vocal takes on the first song. I was doing some recordings with my favorite microphone to set up levels and mic placement.
I was not happy with the recordings. It kind of sounded like Karen was singing into an aluminium bottle. I tried changing the mic placement a few times. It helped some, but not enough.
So, I decided to switch microphones. I had a second microphone that I wasn’t too happy with in the past. I had recorded my own voice with it, and felt that it sounded kind of wimpy. But I decided I might as well give it a shot with Karen’s voice.
The result was fantastic. Her voice was clear, warm, and free of the aluminium bottle sound.
The moral of the story is this: break the rules. Try new things. Even if something didn’t work for you in the past (like my microphone example), maybe it will work for you in today’s situation. Give it a shot.
In this industry, rules are meant to be broken, as long as it serves the music. If it sounds right, it is right. My encouragement to you: don’t let anyone (including yourself) tell you that it can’t be done a certain way. Try it, and see for yourself.
Do you have examples about how something unconventional or “against the rules” worked for you? Leave a comment!
6 thoughts on “Try Something That Might Not Work”
Great article, Alex! I just tried something very scary. I have been indoctrinated with a very simple pop-like approach to chord progressions, and sometimes I get really annoyed at myself for not being able to break the mould, but it’s so hard because my brain loves the ‘formula’… it just feels good. But this one time, I gave in and tossed in a little dissonance and worked from there. That teeny, tiny, initial adjustment paved the way to a rather groovy loop. 🙂
That’s fantastic! It can be hard to break out and try something different, and it may not always work. But you just might stumble across something amazing that you wouldn’t have otherwise 🙂
I find that I’m the same way with strum patterns quite often. I like to use the same one over and over again. Definitely need to branch out more.
Quite relevant, Alex! I often have such moments during the production process, sometimes it does not work but sometimes the outcome it too good!
Even little experiments during arrangement/production process that might not be completely relevant to the particular track can sometimes help make the track unique in its own sense and give that extra bit!
Yes, you’re right. It can add uniqueness, character, or maybe you’ll just stumble upon a technique that you never guessed would have worked. It’s important to experiment!
Bravo! I run into this more with my live sound set up as I only have a couple of Condenser Mics in my studio . Live I have a few mics that work better for Female voices and a few that work better for Male voices. Even when frequencies look the same on paper it is the practice of using the mic that really shows what its character is – and gives a mic its value for a particular application. I have a Peavy Mic that should sound terrible, it certainly looks terrible and they are not exactly known for producing awesome mics, but I prefer it over my Blue, Shure, and Audix handhelds. Side by side it is a clearer all around good sound for any voice. All the mics cost around $99 when I bought them – the Peavy being the oldest, so I was least experienced. So who knew? What that has taught me – Don’t judge a mic by its name, its look, the ads, or the reviews – gotta try it yourself.
Great points, Joshua! It’s amazing how different mics can have such vastly different characteristics. This project was certainly an eye-opener (or perhaps an “ear-opener”…) for me!
It’s cool that the old Peavy is the mic you prefer. I have an old cheap Squier stratocaster that probably only cost a couple hundred bucks, and I still use it on recordings once in a while. It just has a sound that I can’t get with any of my other guitars.