By George Howard
(Follow George on Twitter)
Paul Kolderie is one of the best and most successful producer/engineers in the business. He’s worked with everyone from The Pixies to Radiohead. He’s run and owned studios and labels. Most importantly, even while achieving tremendous success, he’s never stopped working with young, developing artists.
In this video chat, I pick Paul’s brain to discover some key takeaways for artists who are attempting to make great recordings in the post-studio world.
1. Analog around a Digital Center
Remember, people are not digital, and voices are not digital. And so, what you do on the front-end makes all the difference. Everyone has the same basic digital set up and the same basic plug ins. The key to distinguishing yourself is through analog elements that feed into the digital center. This means spending as much as you can afford on a things like good quality microphones and good quality speakers.
2. Two Microphones
With the right two mics, you can accomplish just about anything.
Get one microphone that is the best you can possibly afford, and use it for a variety of things. If you want to set yourself apart, and be better than everybody else’s ProTools system, you must have ONE killer mic instead of five OK mics.
For your other mic, make sure you have a great workhorse. For Paul, this is the Shure 57. It’s a mic that can accomplish virtually anything in terms of recording things like drums or electric guitars.
3. Make sure your instruments have great intonation.
It’s crucial that your instrument have good intonation. Almost any instrument can be set up in the best way possible in order to be in tune, and it’s imperative you do so. This does not mean that the instrument has to be expensive, but rather that you must ensure that it’s set up right. There’s no plug in to fix the intonation of a guitar or bass. These instruments—the bass in particular—are the foundations of the tonal stack, and therefore must have solid intonation.
4. Be cognizant of your workflow.
Don’t change every variable of the recording process. For instance, don’t change the guitar, the amp, the pre-amp, and the mic every time you need a guitar sound. Instead, get a great guitar amp sound, and have that be your constant—don’t change it; instead, change the guitars that you input into that fixed sound.
Related to this, just because ProTools allows you to do hundreds of takes, be careful to listen, and not just create a pile of gratuitous takes. Doing so results in people not thinking about the music itself. Remember to take a listen and not look at the screen.
As we learn from Paul, like so much throughout the music business today, the key is to marry your digital and non-digital wolds. Just as I encourage you to Straddle your online (digital) and offline (non-digital) worlds with respect to things like promotion, as we see from this video, you must think that way in terms of recording as well.
[Editor’s note: Use these tips to make a great recording and sell your music online.]
George Howard is the Executive Vice President of Wolfgang’s Vault. Wolfgang’s Vault is the parent company of Concert Vault, Paste Magazine, and Daytrotter. Mr. Howard is an Associate Professor of Management at Berklee College of Music