Practice Makes Better

Larry Crane in Tape Op:

Do people assume that the studio can “do more” for them these days? I think so. Even an artist who might scoff at highly polished, edited, Auto-Tuned “pop star” vocals might keep the concept that we can “fix everything in a computer” in his or her thoughts. Thus, in many people’s minds, the professional recording studio has become a place where magic really does happen, or at least the potential for magic could happen. But I find that most people I record really do want to hone their craft, give performances, and create compelling art. Sure, in most cases we could “get it done” with the (Pro) tools at hand, but what kind of document is that? A series of ragged performances stitched together with creative edits and pitch alteration? Why not start with a compelling performance? I can guarantee that listeners will know the difference and positively respond to the latter.

Beyond the artistic concerns Larry cites, fixing things with a computer mouse is also simply a waste of time and money (not to mention incredibly boring). Whenever I’m working with a new band or artist, I try to impress upon them that every hour they spend preparing (whether at home, in front of an audience, or even—gasp!—in private lessons) will save them at least the same amount of time in the studio. And just because it’s possible to fix things after the fact when recording in a DAW, do whatever it takes to trick yourself into thinking otherwise. I’ve always believed that the biggest sonic benefit of recording to tape comes from the commitment to performance that it demands.