This post will list the most common recording mistakes in professional home-based music production. This is useful to a beginner home-based studio producer/engineer/musician looking forward to create commercial-quality recordings.
MISTAKE #1: Using onboard sound card when recording music to your computer
Onboard soundcard has lot of limitations that could prevent you from creating high quality recordings. It is because they have very low signal to noise ratio it means that the noise created will be substantial over the recordings. The second primary reason is that onboard card will not allow you to record at highest sampling rate/bit depth as possible which is crucial for professional sound recordings. Most onboard cards only support 16-bit/44.1Khz or 48Khz which is not optimum or recommended. The last reason is that they have limited connectivity; onboard card is designed not for professional music productions but for other less audio-intensive apps like gaming and chatting. So if you need to record two instruments simultaneously, you just can’t. Much worse if you are tracking/recording drums 🙂 Instead; invest in high quality audio interfaces such as Tascam US1641 USB 2.0 Audio and MIDI interface
In this case, you really do not need a soundcard or an outboard audio mixer. All you need is an audio interface and connect it to your computer using USB 2.0 technology. They accept several inputs and is ideal for recording several instruments at once which includes drums. This audio interface cost around $300 dollars, so if you are on the very tight budget and plans to use a soundcard. You can start with M-audio Audiophile 2496 which allows recording at 24-bit/96Khz format and only cost $95.
MISTAKE #2: Using Computer/Laptop multimedia speakers for monitoring audio.
These speakers are not designed for professional audio monitoring. They do not have flat frequency response. As a result, you won’t be able to monitor the details and assess the quality of your recordings objectively. Common multimedia speakers such as Creative, Altec, etc are designed for gaming applications and not suited for serious music production. One of my most favorite entry level professional studio monitor is Yamaha HS80M Studio Reference Monitor:
Reference monitors allows you to assess the quality of your recordings accurately because they have a flatter frequency response compared to speakers designed for other applications. These are “powered” studio monitors under $500 and they have exceptionally flat frequency response.
MISTAKE #3: Not doing pre-production or recording production plan
If you are aiming to produce the best sounding album as possible, crucial planning is needed. You need to examine what musical instruments or instrumentation is needed to be added to the song to make it sound great. Test things in advance before recording the tracks. In this case, do some pre-production runs, let the band perform and experiment with different arrangements to decide what is good or not.
Then you make a plan and write it on a paper. Sequence your multitrack project in advance, so you will decide how many guitar tracks you need to record. How many vocal takes, back up vocal is needed. Or whether you need to hire violinist to fit the song, etc. Once you have completed that solid plan, then start the recording sesssion.
MISTAKE #4: Recording and Mixing in UN-treated room acoustics
Your room that you are recording or mixing has a HUGE impact on the results of your music production. In this case, you need to treat your room properly so that it won’t unncesssary bounce sound waves that could bias your mixing/recording decisions. You can read this tutorial on mixing studio setup acoustic design. This is more in-depth and complete tutorial on home studio acoustics that basically covers everything you need to learn.
MISTAKE #5: Recording everything in stereo
Some tracks will only be highly necessary to be recorded in stereo (such as a solo instrument). In a multitrack project, everything should be recorded in 24bit/96Khz mono since these tracks will be mixed and then summed up into a two-channel (left and right) signal known as stereo mixdown. The file sizes are also less compared to a stereo signal.
To illustrate some application, you can read this post on recording vocals in mono compared to stereo.
MISTAKE #6: Do not have a “trained” ear
If you are working in a studio both as an engineer or a producer, it is a requirement that you have “trained” ear. Your ear is the most powerful studio equipment. This means you can spot out of tune recordings easily, perceive minor changes in volume level, changes in tempo, pitch, noise, etc. There is no overnight success formula to have this asset. Instead you need to trained your ear on a continual basis so that you can sort out what sounds good and what sounds bad. In this case, you need to undergo ear training development exercises for recording/mixing engineers. Do not forget to monitor at reasonable level because consistent loud volume can damage your ears in the long run.