Do you remember our last article about how to make raw, natural sounding recordings? I do, and if you don’t, you should come off the booze as soon as possible. Now we’re gonna check out a very similar (hey it’s music too, after all) yet oh so different phenomenon that goes under the common name “pop music”, and dive deep into its recording techniques… or maybe we should stay on the surface this time. It’s pop music after all.
Close miking – get rid of the room
You will still need that good sounding room, just for kicks, but we don’t want to use its precious, otherwordly (that word is brought to you by some halloween ghost dude) reflections near as much as we would if we were shooting for a natural sound. Our ticket is close miking now. You still need to be able to get a good, balanced sound, but this time it’s all about capturing things that are completely neutral, uncolored, clear and dry, so you can manipulate them later in the mix to your taste. You don’t have to bother too much with EQing things on the spot with microphone placement this time, it can help you though, if you already have the final sound in mind. Separation is the key. Record the elements (instruments and vocals) individually, thus avoiding bleed. This way you can put things together block by block, and place them in the exact environment you want them to be, with the help of artificial reverb and delay. Even places that never existed in the real world. Fun, hey?
Comping the shit out of it
You don’t have to record perfect takes right away. Record as many takes as needed to get them as perfect and flawless as possible by combining the good parts, overdub the heck out of it. Put that evil grin that can always be found on your ratty face in good use. For vocals, you can either compose a final track from the pieces of several takes (comping) or you can record a raw guide track, then go and record it again, but this time phrase by phrase or even word by word if needed (punching in). That’s the way you do it without the help of pitch correction (not that it can’t be corrected even further in the mix if that’s the sound you are after). Double or multiple tracking (stacking) is your friend now; don’t be shy to stack as many individually recorded tracks playing similar (or the very same with different tone) things as needed, to give the mixer guy the option to make it as thick/wide/fukken amazing as possible.
Direct injection – the comfortably effective approach
You can also use DI tracks for everything that can be DI’d, then it’s your choice whether you combine the miked sound with the DI tracks or use either of them by itself. The beauty of a direct recorded track is, you (or the mixing engineer) can use just about any kind of effect on it later. Imagine the clean, anemic sound of a DI recorded guitar that’s spiced up with some amp modeling stuff (or even gets reamped), with some enormous reverb added to it. Or a combination of crazy modulation effects that simply don’t exist in a pedal form, no matter how desperately you wished for them.
Use the almighty click track
Since this method is really like playing with building blocks, you make your and the mixing engineer’s job much easier if you use a click track (metronome) all the time, to keep a steady, perfect tempo. This way, everything can be in sync, all those little snippets can be put perfectly in place and on time, right “on top of the grid”, so to say.