This article originally appeared on the DIY Musician blog.
So your band is finally in the studio. You’ve been working hard in rehearsals to create great songs, and you know that your lyrics and melodies are strong. You finish your last rehearsal and feel like your band has a huge sound. You show up, set everything up, record your first song, listen back to it, and discover that the mix is falling flat. What do you do?
Not everyone can afford the thousands of dollars worth of tools to make stellar home recordings. The good news is you don't need them – a skilled craftsman can get the most out of simple tools.
If you hone your skills and broaden your knowledge, you can get by with the basic stuff you probably already own (assuming you have recording software and monitors). Here are just a few tips to help you along.
Find any great album in your collection, and you'll probably find unique tones throughout. Great recordings tear down assumptions and start from scratch, creating new sounds at every stage of the process. Visionary writers team up with open-minded and canny producers to find a palette of sound that makes the artist recognizable and matches up perfectly with the message of the music. Recording musicians are always looking for new ways to hack the listening experience and transcend the normal medium.
So why do we all reach for the reverb knob as soon as we lay down a vocal in the studio? That’s because reverb works. It sounds good, and almost always works more effectively in a recording context than a bone-dry vocal.
A great studio reverb could become a part of your signature sound, but the very one you’re using is most likely in wide use already, so you’re losing a chance to find an ingredient that would make your music special. Are there easy alternatives to digital reverb? Fortunately, yes.
As performing musicians, the importance of having a monitor mix that lets us hear what we need to during a performance cannot be understated. Despite often not being the ones directly in control of this mix, here are a number of things we can do as musicians to ensure we get the mix that we're looking for.