The Tao Of Recording

"If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer."

- Confucius
Big VS Loud

When you’re playing and singing with your instrument, what YOU are hearing from your ears’ location is VERY different than when someone sitting 5 ft away would perceive.

Your ears are vertically 3+ feet above and slightly behind the soundhole, and just behind your other soundhole, meaning your mouth. You are only monitoring partial reflections and indirect sound.

Train your ear to listen from another’s perspective. What you are hearing isn’t what you sound like. Once you adapt, microphones will be 100% friendlier, and your mix won’t need wrestling.

The following are a few observations drawn from experience, aimed for junior musicians starting out, and without recording experience. 

Ever been to a show where everyone performs music like angry Youtube commenters. All in caps. WITHWORDSSOMETIMES allclumpedtogether….

Annoying, right? Now imagine 4+ people doing the same thing together in the same room, all demanding ‘more me’ in the cans. The Tao of Recording prevails; fitting in harmoniously flatters your performance more than any EQ/Verb/Compression EVER will. Just like your everyday speaking M.O. uses subtle intonation for subtext and emphasis, music behaves dynamically as a reflection of our own humanity. Let’s lay off Bogarting the bandwith, everything sounds better by listening, and finding your sound niche within the group.

No matter how long and articulately you may describe ‘Chocolate’ to someone, tasting it is the one and true epiphany.

Playing in a dynamic crescendo will yield a very different musical perception from your listener than ramping a volume fader up, regardless of observer’s musical acuteness. Our brain understands physics on a much deeper level than we may accept… You know how we can imagine a face when somebody is smiling over the phone? By subtle sounds, and how our ear/brain picks up all signals from our interlocutor. Singing with a smile provides a very unique perception, just as a picture of someone smiling would trigger a particular reaction from someone looking at it. Therefore you don’t want to fix anything in the mix. Do it at the source.


Piano, forte.


One common redundant audio struggle occurs while mixing a vocal take being in the same range as the lead piano part. Aargh! Songwriters/piano players, open up your hands!!! Pianos cover the whole orchestral range, make use of it, don’t clutter and fight yourself. Stay clear of lead vocal range (mid-section of the piano). It’ll help you sing better, with more control, and less fatigue, while your instrument gains girth and breadth.


Although stringed, the piano is an instrument working on percussive principles. Which means it’s too darn easy to pound the poor thing. When recording, you may have microphones both inches away from the hammer, as well as at the other end of the concert hall. 

A vast majority of people have to deal with uprights, or electric keyboards. The later skews the physical relationship of cause and effect regarding natural sounds. If you have an upcoming session involving a baby or Grand piano, I urge you to contact studio and nicely ask if there’s any time where you could weather yourself on it. Get a feel for it, Come prepared.

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