Combating Red Light Syndrome

Blog Posted on May. 9, 2020 in Music Production by Paul Wolke

That moment the red RECORD light illuminates.

The Recording Studio is an exciting place

For those of you who’ve been to a recording studio before, you know the excitement can run high. For some, it’s the pressure to give their best performance. For others, it’s the intrusive microphones and cables bleeding their way into everything. And, let’s not forget of other people that are there for the technical reasons for getting your art to another medium, not to listen to your music for enjoyment. Whatever the reason, getting your music recorded is a significantly different process than writing it.

So You’ve Got a Song You Want to Record

Picture yourself writing a song or a piece of music. You feel strongly enough about it to take it to the next level. You are ready to record it.

In the not-so-distant past, that meant booking time at a recording studio. You can still do that today, but the means for recording have become far more accessible. Renting time at a home or project studio is much less expensive and may provide comfort and a cool vibe that is often overshadowed by a fancy studio. Or, if you take the more do-it-yourself route, you can record digitally into a computer for not a lot of money. However, there is a learning curve to decent quality home recordings.

Fast forward to the moment in the studio when you start laying down your tracks. The excitement is high and it will find its way into every detail of your music. Common things that happen are:

  • Playing at a faster tempo
  • Not taking the time to get in tune
  • Stopping every time there’s the slightest perceived mistake

Ways to Overcome

Whether it’s a professional studio or your basement late at night when your kids are finally asleep, the time has come to record. For me, this is a magical time. These are things I do to stay motivated and moving while recording.

Keep a Clean Desk

This is probably a no-brainer, but having a clutter-free space makes for fewer distractions when creating music.

Adjust the Lighting

I have LED strip lights set up on the back edge of my desk that create a glow on the wall. They have a remote to adjust the brightness, color, and create a pattern too!

Keep Your Instruments in Tune

This really should go without saying. For guitars, basses, ukuleles, mandolins, pianos (yes, pianos have strings), etc.. Anything with a string or a membrane can have a change in pitch. Percussion is often overlooked in this scenario. Drums, congas, and bongos are some of the more popular percussion instruments that have an adjustable pitch. Of all of these, I find that a typical drum-set has the most potential to be “tuned”. Adjusting the pitch of kicks, snares, and tom-toms can help the drum kit fit into a song as though it were meant to be there from the beginning.

Have a Metronome Handy

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) have metronomes built-in. Even a handheld one will have various features – use them.

Knowing how to use metronomes in creative ways will help keep your timing. A “tap tempo” feature will allow you to set a tempo organically. Some DAWs can “learn” the tempo from a prerecorded piece of music. Also, knowing how to change the tone and volume of your tempo can help in situations where the tempo is too intrusive or not intrusive enough.

As a general rule, let the tempo guide the music. If it strays a little, that’s okay. Music, after all, is born of human emotion.

Leave Your Mistakes In

Similar to how your tempo can speed up or slow down over time, mistakes in the musical performance can happen, too. All too often we want to stop the recording at each wrong note. Mistakes are human. You can always go back and re-record that track. You can also Punch-In and Punch-Out at that specific time to replace the unwanted.

A trick that engineers and producers use that I love is to “secretly” record that first take when the artist doesn’t think the record button is engaged. As the artist, there is often less focus on how well you are playing if you think it’s not being recorded. Even if it’s just you doing the recording, keep the record button enabled.

Take a 5-minute break

Repetitively listening to the same thing can be fatiguing. Stepping away and removing yourself the music can bring a better frame of reference. Taking a moment and listen to nothing. Or focus on the everyday sounds around you. Give your ears and mind a chance to decompress.

Listen to Your Original Demo

Sometimes we get lost along the way. Focusing too much on detail can send you spiraling out of control. Inspiration can surely come from these new directions, but let’s face it if it’s something that challenging to record, distractions like this are easy to follow.

It’s always a good idea to have an original idea captured on a cell phone. Maybe it’s a video, or just a simple “voice recorder” used to get the initial idea. It’s invaluable when you need a little perspective.

Enjoy these tips and happy recording!

If you’re looking for custom made music for your next project, reach out to start the conversation.


Tags: Recording Process

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