8/14/2013 9:16 AM
In our upcoming issue (November 2013), we showcase some amazing music projects that offer lessons in recording the “wrong” way: Use the the wrong mic technique. (Dangle the snare mic from the ceiling.) Add the wrong effects (television compressors). Track drums in the wrong space (a closet). Apply the wrong finishing touches to the mix. (Play up noise, wow, and flutter.)
In our cover story, we learn how Elvis Costello and The Roots recorded much of their Wise Up Ghost collaboration right on the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon set, and the result is a gorgeous, warm, groove-laden record. Questlove talks about recording in closets and with TV equipment, with incredible results: "When the show was over, we actually just went back to our bandstand and recorded [instrumental tracks for the song “Cinco Minutos Con Vos” (“Five Minutes With You”)] through TV filters. [The show] has all these compressors that are specifically for TV that give you an awesome warm sound. It’s all digital, but it just felt warm. I definitely want to do more experimenting with playing out on the floor. You just have to wait till the janitors and everybody’s gone."
There’s certainly a case to be made for tried-and-true recording methods, but sometimes tossing out the rule book can yield unexpectedly amazing results.
Moby, a sonic purist with an adventurous side, learned long ago that making intentional sonic compromises—methods that many people would consider mistakes—freed him to believe a record could be anything he wanted it to be, as he explains in our feature on the Innocents sessions: “Realizing that suddenly makes the studio a place where the goal is to make something interesting rather than something perfect,” he says. “It emancipated me to believe a record can be anything you want. I am perfectly happy with noise and hum and wow and flutter and the things most people consider mistakes; to me, they are just part of the record.”
In the recording world, there is no single “perfect” sound, one sonic ideal—lucky for us, because it would be a sad place if everything sounded the same. —Sarah Jones