on 12 July 2011
I've been involved off and on with attempting to make music at home for close to 30 years now. I've also spent time (and a lot of money) in professional studios. I can get by with most things but I was looking for something to improve the quality of my results. I asked for suggestions on a couple of forums, and one of the common answers was this book.
There was something particularly appealing to me about this book's premise. I've got a load of gear. Some odd and some not. But most of my gear would be the stuff a professional studio or an aspiring engineer/producer would turn up their nose at.
I still felt that I hadn't got anywhere near exploiting the capabilities of what I had. I needed something that was going to help me learn how to use what I've got, rather than telling me why I needed to spend four figure sums on a new microphone or suite of professional mastering plugins.
WHAT I LIKED
Right from the start there is a bit of a kick in the teeth for somebody like me - someone with years of experience and a smattering of exposure to pro studios. Quite simply I was told to "get over myself". I've seen and heard what proper studios are like and I'm the classic wannabe. I'm trying to apply professional techniques to a cheap home studio and guess what? It sounds like a cheap home studio. To make a professional sounding recording with less than ideal tools needs a different approach. I'm going to have to forget some stuff.
Once I got over this initial scepticism, I began to get the point. There is a Machiavellian "the ends justifies the means" logic going on here. Concentrate on what the end result sounds like. If you used a technique that a pro would frown at to get the result that you like, it doesn't matter.
Then suddenly I'm into the meat of the book and delving into areas with which I was familiar but not competent. The two of these which I now see had the biggest detrimental impact on my recording quality, was a lack of understanding about the importance of gain staging at every step in the signal chain, and of the techniques to maximise dynamic range whilst still keeping a low signal to noise ratio. I've still got a lot to learn and, more importantly master, but this is area where I'll be focusing my attention for my next couple of projects. This is also one area where, despite the book's title, I think I may be needing to acquire an additional piece of gear. I'd not really thought about how a carefully used outboard expander/compressor could improve the quality of a recorded track.
While I'm still trying to get to grips with the nuggets in chapters 3 and 4, I'm suddenly plunged into chapters 5, 6 and 7, where the tips just come thick and fast to the point where it is almost overwhelming. I'll just give you one example;
I come from a background of using effects in a guitar signal chain and had got into the mindset of using effects in a DAW in the same way; plug it in, tweak the settings, job done. I've long found that while a chorus can sound great on a bass part, it has a tendency to make the bottom end mushy and indistinct. Karl's suggestion was to replicate/route the bass onto another track, use a high-pass filter to cut out the bottom end, apply 100% wet chorus to this and then blend it back in with the original bass track. My mind was officially and totally blown! Wait, I can use this approach to create a separate reverb or echo part and pan it exactly where I want. I could do the same thing with phase and flange. What would a uni-vibe sound like just applied to the low-mids of a vocal? I've no idea but I'm damn sure I'm going to give it a go to see.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
To be frank, very little. The author's preference is to use a fair amount of outboard gear and a real mixing desk, and this colours the book. My personal preference is to get everything into the DAW and then keep it wholly digital until the final mix and master. I'm not excluded but it stopped me feeling like the book was aimed exactly at me.
I didn't find the sections on recording and humanising drum and MIDI parts to be particularly useful or tell me anything I didn't already know, and the section on the "Immersion Music Method" in Appendix B didn't seem to fit with the rest of the book, but it was an interesting concept and exercise nonetheless.
When I first bought the book I had visions of reading through and then passing it on to a couple of friends. Having finished the book, that is not going to happen. This is a book that I'm going to keep by my side for a few years to come. I'm afraid my friends are going to have to get their own copy. There are a couple of sections I'm going to want to have on hand as a reference (particularly the stuff about gain staging, dynamic range, and the mix-down check-list). There are other parts (especially chapters 6 and 7) where the suggestions come so thick and fast, I'm going to be going back for inspiration and help for a long time to come.
If you've got some recording gear and are more interested in trying to make the best use of what you've got, instead of looking for a new "silver bullet" piece of gear then I can't recommend this book highly enough. And let me put this in context; the book costs about the same as two guitar mags. It is going to provide me with months (perhaps years) worth of inspiration, and it isn't stuffed with adverts. Now that's what I call value for money.
on 17 March 2009
Even though there are masses of forums out there on the internet to help so-called 'newbies' or people with little experience/knowledge in recording and mixing their own stuff, it still can seem daunting for these people talking to others who can sometimes be considerate, and sometimes patronising.
This book certainly helped me to grasp, in easy to understand plain English, the basics of how sound works and how to get the most out of the sounds you can generate in a typical, small home studio. It gave a helpful grounding on topics such as dynamics, frequencies and frequency slotting, expansion and compression, reverb and effects, amongst other things. The writer uses good analogies to explain what he's saying, so you don't get lost.
I think there is still a book to be written for those inexperienced people who want to write and record music by themselves at home using software such as Cubase, with little equipment and little knowledge but some musical talent, but this book is well worth the money. It points out things that you may not know and are too scared to ask, and also reinforces things you thought you knew, but weren't sure.
on 9 October 2009
Having recorded for some years now without tutoring I was never really sure that i was getting the best from all my efforts. This book goes, in a very readable way, into the finer points of eq, mastering and mixing and I found it invaluable.
on 17 August 2010
This is a great book. I've been frustrated with my recording equipment for years. This book explains why things sound as they do and what you are trying to achieve when recording and mixing. Put a few things into practice and got immediate result. Other books have not had nearly the same impact. And my urge to buy new equipment to get that better sound has now gone.
on 4 June 2012
An excellent book on home recording that is as useful for "newbies" as it is for those who may be a little further down the learning road. Written in a casual, chatty style that does not intimidate, the writer assumes little prior knowledge of the subject. It covers both hardware mixing desks and DAWs and even has a section on Analogue Recording using tape (wish I hadn't sold my old Akai reel-to-reel :)).
I found the sections on frequency slotting and stereo panning very useful as it can sometimes be difficult to make a recording less "muddy" when the recorded items share many frequency ranges. I wish I'd read this book before tackling "Mixing Audio" by Roey Izhaki (another excellent book) as this is a gentler introduction to the subject but Izhaki's book is a much more in-depth tome. If, like me, you're working with a limited budget for equipment, using this book and music magazine articles will get you a long way towards your goal - and it's an excellent price from Amazon.
on 4 December 2011
I'm using this to help me thread my way through recording with a cheapy version of Cubase 4, my laptop, a mike and a guitar/mike interface. Cheap and cheerful kit but this book is a helpful guide to making the best of what you've got and is just what i needed. I knew nothing about home recording prior to reading this and was able to pick up the basics fairly easily. If I can understand it anyone can.
on 2 August 2010
I picked this book up after around 3 years of fumbling around recording equipment and getting reasonable results. As another reviewer has said on this product, the internet is a great source of knowledge, but it can be a harsh environment for beginners at times. This book is fantastic at giving you an overview of terminology and techniques. It might seem at first that you need very little equipment in order to go along with these techinques, however that isn't the case. What the book will do is help you to avoid all the unneccessary equipment purchases that beginners often do, and teach you how to make some great sounding music with a pretty minimal setup.
I didn't award the full 5 stars here because there are times where I feel the author stops short of fully developing a point. While this is great on one hand because it fuels people to continue experimenting and researching, there are a couple of times when it would have been more useful to have the full explanation / example.
On the whole I thoroughly recommend this to people who have started, plan to start or have a vague passing interest in home recording. It will serve you as a launch pad to great things!
on 15 December 2015
Brilliant reading for anyone that's interested in improving their recording knowledge and skills: particularly for understanding what happens to your signal as it moves through the chain - as well as how to tweak, change and make the most of it at every interval.
Packed full of useful and practical advice (from the writer's experience) it manages to walk the line between technical mumbo jumbo and keeping it understandable. Everything's explained well enough so that beginners can pick it up, but goes into everything in greater detail as the chapters progress. You can do a lot of damage with this book and some basic home recording tools.
on 30 March 2012
I bought this book to help me make a live recording of my function band. Although I already had significant recording experience from both sides of the desk, for this task I needed something to help me join the dots and fill the missing gaps in my knowledge.
From purchasing appropriate accessories, to setting up an ancient computer with a good ten channel sound interface, mic placement, level setting, the book was invaluable.
Reading though it also helped me with the "psychology" of getting a good recording under extreme pressure - in this instance I had one hour to set up the live sound for the band and recording gear. That I was able to do so and get a great live recording was largely thanks to the guidance of this book.
Mixing is something I've always dreaded, and the book gives excellent advice here too, which helped me follow a methodical process to achieve pleasing results without endless procrastination, which is the usual outcome.
Since successfully making this recording, I've made several more in different situations, and the quality has always been good.
I now have a permanent recording facility available for whenever the whim takes me, and it's all based on the "guerilla" principles - cheap, simple, and it works!
on 31 January 2013
This book covers a wide range of subjects within sound mixing and should be a good initiation for anyone looking to get started or wanting to develop their self-taught skills - say, beginner to intermediate. The explanation of how sound works are simple and maths-free, although some detail on, say, how a sound is textured from its harmonics would help in the understanding of how flangers and phasers work. The author's explanation of signal paths, effects and recording techniques is generally good and the book is awash with little tips and tricks that will improve your mixes no end. He covers both tape and digital recording and mixing pretty well. All in all, a good buy that will definitely help me produce better music.