When I was first getting into recording, there was a lot of talk about whether gear or engineering skills had the most impact on the quality of a recording. A lot of newbies (like me) were setting up home studios and we had to decide how to spend our budgets most effectively. Do we buy an expensive pre-amp or take an engineering course?
The truth, of course, is that the best recordings are made by skilled engineers using state-of-the-art equipment. It’s also true that a great engineer can make good recordings on modest gear. So, my strategy was to work on my engineering skills first while slowly building a collection of key gear.
Let’s take this concept a step further. Can a skilled engineer using state-of-the-art equipment make a great recording when the musicians are playing less-than-ideal instruments? I would say so, as long the instruments stay in tune long enough to get a take…and the song is good and the musicians turn in their best performances. But wouldn’t it be better if the band had the best instruments, amplifiers, new strings, new drum heads, etc? Of course it would.
That’s why I was happy to see Gerrie pull his blue Fender out of it’s case when he came by to record his Songsmiths audition. And look! It has shiny new strings! Can you hear them sparkle? Nice.
I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that to get the best sound on your recordings you need pro gear, the best instruments, etc. The point I’m making is that we need to do whatever we can to improve our productions. A pro studio should have at least one super-awesome pre-amp and mic and a stellar reverb. Engineers should clean and maintain their equipment. Musicians should service their instruments, practice and put new strings on their guitars and new heads on their drums. Everyone should be using good quality cables too. Because, while we may never find ourselves in the ideal production environment, if we pay attention to the details over which we have control we can make recordings that sound like a million bucks. Preparation makes for the Best Recordings.