Chain of Tools: Creating Signal Path Templates for Home Recording
Recording yourself is fun and rewarding. It’s also uniquely challenging. I know this from experience. I’ve been working on a project of guitar-based tunes for a while now. I’m a busy person, so I like to have things set up in a way that allows me to work fast when the opportunity presents.
From the start, I’ve been pretty pleased with the performances, but critical listening left me less than enthused with some of the sounds. I was reaching for EQ and compression more than I ever do when recording other people. I often find this to be true when mixing someone else’s home recordings. I believe this comes down to a couple of issues. When recording yourself, you split your focus. Worrying about getting the feel right or playing through a challenging part takes attention away from the recording process. This can be a serious impediment. In my mind, the more critical issue is that you’re dealing with a compromised monitoring environment, often using headphones to monitor yourself while tracking.
Headphones are fabulous for many things, including keeping peace in the family when you’re burning the midnight oil in a less than perfectly soundproofed studio. They aren’t so great at revealing tonal balance. Spatial orientation can get messed up. Even with good closed-back headphones, you’re hearing a blend of the source both acoustically and amplified through the headphones.
It’s a confusing soundscape, and the tendency is to turn up the volume so you can hear ‘better’. This leads to fatigue. Not good. The solution, I think, is to make the most of the sonic decisions before you put the headphones on and start recording. I’m going to explain how I do this.