File Under: Creating and Making Your Music

On Thursday this week, we went to a Grammy Behind the Glass event with producers Terry Date and Nick Raskulinecz. They shared an amazing set of stories on how they got the best performances out of groups like the Foo Fighters, Rush, Alice in Chains, Pantera, and the Deftones. Their talk and their producing techniques reminded us of something we learned while interviewing people for The Indie Band Survival Guide. It's the only thing that really matters when you get in the studio. Hint: it's not the technology.

Both Date and Raskulinecz spoke on some of their favorite recording techniques including playing live in the studio to amp up the energy and feeding the vocalist a mix of distorted and clean vocal so they can get the most powerful performance out of the singers. And as for the rest of the instruments, it was critical to get that perfect feel. That is to say that the only thing that matters is the source.

Here's what you need to get the source right:

  • The Musicians
  • The performers' rhythm, chemistry, style, and musicianship are what you want to capture when you record. The best producers work to get the most out of the musicians when they're in the studio and in front of the mic.
  • Your Instruments
    One of our favorite sound recording engineers here in Chicago, John Lisiecki, once showed us a special snare drum he had, which he played for us. "Sounds like crap when I play it, right? Thing is, it sounds fantastic when you record it." What matters is how it sounds through the mic, and that's why good recording engineers spend so much time getting the right mic placed at the right distance and also choosing the right instruments to record for the track. Also pay special attention to the maintenance of your instruments before recording: replace strings, drum heads, reeds, etc as necessary. Use top-quality cables and wires. Also, tuning matters: use the same tuner for everyone in the band including for the drums (which you also need to tune.)

When you record, someone should be in the producer role, getting the most out of the team and thinking through how the overall sound comes together. If you can't get someone outside your group, designate someone in the band to set the direction of the music. Making a recording without one is like making a movie without a director. Someone needs to make the final call.

And, finally, the mood matters. As Date and Raskulinecz said during the session, not only did they spend time making sure the studio rooms were comfortable (sometimes, even going to the lengths of setting up recording equipment in the basements of the musician's houses), they also made sure the artists had what they needed to get the most out of them. After all, when Terry Date gets White Zombie to record "More Human Than Human", the recording makes you believe it's more than just a guy named Rob singing into a microphone in an empty studio room.


#makingmusic #creativity #studio

Photo credit: Dave Kobrehel