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Sound Advice

Clean & Accurate Tracks & Sheets by James Stewart

I can’t remember how many times a project has come to me to be mexed and I must spend one or two hours deciphering track sheets with illegible scratch or nothing written on them at all. Time that could be spent getting a mix up is spent checking tracks with no notes or searching for that elusive solo that is “here somewhere”!

I get the feeling that some engineers who track a project automatically figure that they will be the one who mixis it. Wrong!

Some people think that we can fix it in the mix and believe me, I’ve heard that one too many times. What’s the big deal about being concise? I think that it comes down to who or where these individuals were trained. Weren’t they told how important accurate track sheets and notes are to the session, or don’t they care?

Another thing that bugs me about some engineers is the sonic integrity of their sounds (i.e., snares, kicks, etc. – “we’ll replace it with a sample”), and how about bad punches (thumps or clicks) or different EQ on a vocal, for instance? Obviously vocals are kind of important and they need to be heard, right? Well, if the person who recorded these tracks doesn’t really care, or can’t hear that the punch on the second verse sounds different that the first verse, then they are in the wrong business. Integrity while tracking is vital to the end result. Make a note when you get that slammin’ guitar sound – not just EQ, but note what mics, pre amp, compressor, limiter, etc. were used. You never know when the producer or artist may want to fix a line or replace the out chorus, and if the sound isn’t the same I will be spending an extremely long time trying to match the sounds from before the punch to after the fix!

Regardless of the fact that console automation allows us the freedom to mute, duck, ride, fade, etc., it still doesn’t allow us to forget that tracks that aren’t clean are a pain in the butt. Once again I have witnessed firsthand backing vocal tracks with crap all over them that should have been cleaned before the album was sent out to mix. All it takes is a conscientious and caring knob twiddler to spend an extra half hour or so after tracking has stopped to check for extraneous noise or garbage that is irrelevant to the final outcome. Remember, the most important stage of a project is the recording. It’s not that I want life to be less than a challenge, but please keep everything in order – both on paper and on tape.

James Stewart, Chief Engineer, Reaction Studios

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