I began learning guitar a little over two years ago at the tender young age of forty. At this stage in my life, the amount of time I have available for me to spend practicing guitar is in short supply. I also don’t have many opportunities to play with other musicians. For these reasons and the fact that I’m a computer geek, I’m always looking for ways to use my computer to help enhance my music learning experience.
One area I thought the computer would be particularly useful would be for recording. Having the ability to record myself provides several benefits some of which are: I’m able to listen to my playing more critically so that I notice problems in my performance which I might not be aware of when I’m concentrating on playing–leading to a better ability to listen and correct those flaws when I am playing. Also it gives me the ability to record tracks to use as accompaniment for practicing soloing over a rhythm track or two guitar parts. Plus, it is nice to have a record of my practice for monitoring my progress and for my instructor to listen to.
In the course of using my computer as a recording tool while learning guitar, I’ve developed a wholly seperate interest in the art of recording itself, and has taken on a life of it’s own. My current home studio setup consists of a Dell PC running Sonar 5 Producer Edition with an M-Audio firewire 1814 audio interface. I monitor on a pair of KRK RP-8 monitors and I use a Behringer BCF2000F control surface for fader input. This system with various guitars, effects, amps, microphones gives me a lot of flexibility to do many things but also comes with a steep learning curve, not unlike learning to play an instrument.
In the process of setting up my studio and learning to use the software and hardware I found that the manuals are simply not enough. The manuals only take you so far, since they teach the mechanics of using the tools not how to make great mixes, Much in the same way that a manual on how to operate a stove won’t help you to be a great chef or a sewing machine manual won’t make you a fashion designer, recording equipment manuals, whether software or hardware, won’t teach you the art of mixing.
In my quest for a guide that would help me approach this overwhelming subject matter, I turned to â€œThe Mixing Engineer’s Handbookâ€ by Bobby Owsinski. This book attempts to take the collected wisdom of many of the top recording engineers in the field and present it in an organized manner, a goal which it accomplishes quite succesfully.
The information in the book was gathered by interviewing many of the top engineers in the recording industry about their craft. The author presents this information by dividing it into chapters, each pertaining to a different aspect of recording. The chapters proceed logically, starting with balancing the volumes of the different instruments, panning, using equalization, using effects such as reverb and delay, etc. Each chapter contains advice and guidelines from the author which is supported and augmented by excerpts from interviews with recording engineers in their own words.
This book isn’t a how to manual for mixing music; that really isn’t possible, given all the variables present in equipment and source materials and various styles of mixing. Rather the book gives you a road map which explains what purpose the various elements that go into making a mix serve, and provides guidelines about what to tweak and what to listen for to acheive the sound you are looking for so that you aren’t just changing paramaters at random and hoping for the best. Using the information in this book, and your own ears, eventually you will improve your technique and find that your mixes sound much better. I’ve found this book to be invaluable for taking some of the mystery out of the process of mixing. I highly recommend it.