15 recording tips from pros

Wanna record like a pro? Here are 15 handy tips for better recording sessions.

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Recording tips from pros

Preparation is crucial for capturing your ideas accurately and priming yourself for the recording process…

Dani Bennett Spragg

The recipient of the Breakthrough Engineer Of The Year gong at the MPG awards ceremony, Dani has worked with some of the music world’s rising stars, including The Amazons, Palace and Circa Waves, as well as Noel Gallagher.

Top Tip “We try and get it as close to what we want it to sound like as early in the process as we can. One of my favourite things to do – and it’s pretty rare that you can do this, to be honest – is to have all the members of the band (if you’re working with a band) in one room. Have all the doors open and have lots of bleed. Then it makes your job so easy. If you can do that, and it sounds great, then your whole job is just to balance it.”

Read our full interview with Dani here and here.

Andrew Dudman

Andrew Dudman

Abbey Road’s senior recording engineer, Andrew Dudman, has had 21 years of experience at the facility, working on Disney’s Brave, The Fellowship Of The Ring, Hacksaw Ridge and Baby Driver, and games including Killzone 3 and Uncharted 3.

Top Tip “If I knew it was going to record and mix, I would use more EQ and a bit of compression to catch any peaks. From experience in big studios where we’re often recording band elements alongside strings or a whole orchestra, often I will only get five or ten minutes to get a drum sound up! So that’s another reason for keeping it simple – not gating to tape or anything like that. Anything you do, you have to be able to use from the start.”

Read our full interview with Andrew here and here.

Matt McDavid

California-based producer Matt built his impressive studio after a stint in Nashville. He spends over 50 hours a week recording numerous bands and artists.

Top Tip “I have learned a lot about mic bleed and how to use it to my advantage. This studio is in an old house, so isolation is not really there, but I built some gobos and acoustic panels that really help. I love the sound of bleed now, as it really fills in the empty spaces.”

Read our full interview with Matt here.

James Young

James Young

The Managing Director of Aston Microphones, James has a big vision for products he creates and how the company’s microphones can better serve engineers.

Top Tip “As an engineer, you will always want a suite of tools to choose from. But if you’re doing that with mics that cost three grand a pop, you need to have some very deep pockets. So if you come across a mic brand that is suddenly offering the same kind of tonal quality and performance as those mics which cost £3,000, but only cost £300 each – then as a major producer, artist or engineer, you’re going to say: ‘I’ll have two of those, one of those, three of those!’”

Read our full interview with James here.

Steve Mackey

Steve Mackey
Image: Mindy Best / Getty Images for SXSW

Pulp’s bass player now works as a producer and remixer, energising everyone in the studio from the lo-fi ragga of M.I.A., to the stadium guitar pop of Arcade Fire.

Top Tip “I like analogue on reverbs and delays, as I think it encourages artists to get involved with them. Persuading artists to turn dials and do extreme things in the studio is exciting, so I always try to set the studio up in a way that will encourage them to experiment.”

Read our full interview with Steve here.

Cleaning Women

Cleaning Women

Cleaning Women are a Finnish three-piece that build their own instruments from household objects to create fascinating music that defies categorisation.

Top Tip “Contact mics are useful to get hold of. They are basically microphones that pick up vibrations from contact with objects, compared to the standard type of microphone which picks up pressure waves in the air. If you put that onto anything and you amplify it, then you usually find interesting new sounds. Everything has the potential to be an instrument, at least in a percussive sense.”

Read our full interview with Cleaning Women here.

Sean Karpowicz

The MD of Cranborne Audio, Sean is keen to build new hardware products that are incredibly versatile in the studio, including the Camden 500 Preamp.

Top Tip “The number one way to improve your snare sound is to get a good capture or sample of a snare drum. A common misconception is that you can start with a sound that isn’t great and you can make it sound good with EQ and compression. This isn’t true. When you try to EQ in more ‘snap’ for the snare, it gets brittle and thin. When you try to get more body of the drum, you can get a muddy, boxy sound. Start with a good capture or sample and then adjust how prominent it is in the mix – that’s the best way to get a good snare sound.”

Read our full interview with Sean here.

John Barrett

John Barrett

John has 14 years of experience at Abbey Road, recently serving as score recordist for Avengers: Endgame, he has also recorded live sessions with George Ezra, James Bay, Slaves, Krept & Konan, Mike Skinner and Flohio.

Top Tip “I always think you should bed your [guitar] strings in before you come into a recording session. So, change the strings a couple of days before to give them a chance to settle in. Otherwise, you’ll have to sit there tuning up after every take.”

Read our three-part interview with John here, here and here.

Alexander Archer

Alexander Archer

Alex has worked with an impressive roster of artists, including Kasabian, The Cribs, Phoebe Bridgers and Sigrid, as well as heading up Vevo UK’s live video recordings

Top Tip “If you’re a young producer trying to get involved with artists and bands, then the top advice I’d give to you is not to ignore them in the studio. Throw some encouragement their way and be positive about their tracks and ideas. Ultimately, it makes your job easier. I think that aspect has stood me in good stead. Put your phone away as well.”

Read our full interview with Alex here.

Matt Jones

Matt is one of Abbey Road’s recordists, working with a vast quantity of artists and composers including Danny Elfman, Stephen Price, James Newton Howard and on projects including How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Amazon’s The Aeronauts.

Top Tip “I think, with drums more than any other thing, it’s easy to get carried away and put out too many mics. You can end up with loads that you don’t use, or you feel compelled to use them in a mix, but actually, they don’t really bring anything to the sound.”

Read our three-part interview with Matt here, here and here.

Additional tips

“If it sounds good, then it is good. If your microphone is upside down, out of the room you are recording in, placed in a bowl of custard (don’t try this at home) and the resulting recording sounds good (it won’t), then it is good.” – John Andrews (MusicTech)

“Make sure that the person who you’re recording is comfortable. That’s the most important part of the process. You have to get a vibe and do whatever you need to do to make sure they’re happy.” – Paula Jones

“It’s good to talk to the producer early, about things like whether we need big drums, roomy, dry drums, or if we’ll need a higher-pitched piccolo kind of snare drum sound” – Darrell Thorp

“It’s good to react as a player to complex sound that you’re not in full control of, so I always try and find those sounds first (and not processing later).” – Leo Abrahams

“You can’t expect the engineer to make you sound amazing. There’s a lot of that going on sometimes in people’s perceptions – but if you play like shit, it’s going to sound shit!” – Javier Weyler

Check this for more music-making tips from the pros. For more essential guides, head here.


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