Most difficult instrument to record?

Current Tape Reviews

Artist Name:
Rick Carr
Date Posted:
September 2014
Rock and Pop
Equipment Used:

TASCAM DP24 Portastudio, Yamaha DGX-205 portable keyboard workstation for drum pattern, MXL 990 condenser mic for vocals, Epiphone Custom Shop SC Junior guitar, Fender Standard Precision bass.

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Production Notes & Credits:

"Granted" is a male vocal rock song. Rick one-man-banded it on his TASCAM DP24 Portastudio, using a Yamaha DGX-205 Portable Grand personal keyboard to build the drum pattern and an Dell PC to make the MP3 he submitted.

Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Rating: 2
Recording: Ah, the plight of the one-man band: so many hats, so little time. Rick has written a fine song and his recording definitely has some nice elements, but like so many of his fellow OMB travelers, he's created a track that ultimately falls into our "demo" category. So what went right, what went wrong, and what to do about it? Let's take a look-see.

First the good stuff: Rick has done a nice job capturing both the vocals and the guitars here, everything is clean/clear and free of artifact. Both the lead vocal and the guitars have a nice full presence in the mix. Well done! On the flip side, we have the drum programming. Starting with a rather clumsy drum fill at the song's intro, the kit sounds tentative throughout, and its "buried" nature gives the overall mix a top-heavy feel, like the vocals and guitar lack sufficient foundation to keep from toppling over. As is often the case in these situations, the bass guitar must follow suit with the drums, further compounding the problem.

Suggestions: Those of you familiar with this column will recognize the one man/woman band vs.drum programming struggle as a fairly regular visitor here. In fact, we dare say that of all the issues that present themselves in today's "studio in a bedroom/ I wear all of the hats" scenario, this one seems to be the most prevalent, or at least tied with insufficient or improper monitoring.

Fortunately, this needn't be the case. There are any number of ways to improve one's drum parts, ranging from simplifying the programming, to using a virtual drum program like Toontrack EZdrummer or FXpansion BFD Eco, to asking for assistance from a real drummer. In Rick's case, we would like to suggest an intriguing solution that has the benefit of being easy and free...

Way back in the late 1980s, Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby collaborated on a little number called "The End of the Innocence". The track featured a rather basic music bed which focused most all of the attention on the crazy skills of the dynamic duo... atop a drum machine playing an extremely simple, mechanical beat.

Now here's my point. Mr. Henley happens to be the drummer for the Eagles, one of the most successful rock bands of all time, and he certainly had the skills and resources to replace that glorified click track of a drum part if he chose to. He didn't. Instead, he mixed it into the track in an unapologetic way, trusting that the rest of the sound sources, as well as the writing/performances, would carry the day. End result? His fifth Top 10 hit.

The lesson here, then, is this: No matter its origin, burying any sound source in your mix has the potential to corrupt your mix's balance, an absolutely crucial element to mixing success. We would much rather hear those programmed drums loud and proud, warts and all... knowing that sometime in the future, armed with improved drum tracks, Rick will know how to properly place them in his mixes.

Summary: Halfway there!

Contact: Rick Carr,
About: Marty Peters

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