Tuning & Maintenance

tuning fork
I see a lot of people making subpar recordings due to out of tune or faulty instruments. So, I thought I’d quickly touch on why the most important aspect of getting a good recording is preparation.
It seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? But you have no idea how often it is overlooked. Here are some reasons why tuning is important:

  1. Would you like to listen to someone playing an out of tune guitar? No, it sounds horrible.
  2. If the guitar is tuned only by ear, you’ll find it difficult to match that tuning when overdubbing or recording other instruments like bass, other guitars, and especially things you can’t tune, like keyboards and synths.
  3. The instrument is designed to perform its best when tuned to a certain pitch with a certain gauge of strings. So, an electric guitar strung with regular gauge strings performs best when tuned to standard tuning at 440hz (or similar tensions).
  4. The tuning you choose has a huge effect on the resulting sound of a song. Record a riff in standard tuning, then record it again half a step lower and you’ll see what I mean.
Again, something seemingly obvious that gets forgotten about. If your guitar has a noisy/dirty volume pot – fix it! If the jack input cuts in and out and makes a noise when the cable moves – fix it! Here are some things to check:
  1. If you know there’s a problem, with the instrument, however slight – get it fixed. Work on the assumption that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.
  2. If your guitar strings (for example) are higher in some places, or buzz, or cut out in some places, take it to get serviced and set-up before recording. You think you can hear it now? Wait until it’s sat in the middle of your mix.
  3. Check ALL cables. Make sure they’re OK. If they buzz, hum, make a sound when you tap/kick them – get new ones. Cables are easy to break, and by far the most common culprit.
It’s always a good idea to run a test recording using everything you are planing to record with a few days in advance, so you’ll have time to pop out and get some new cables or get something fixed before the date of the recording comes around.
Like Al Gore says; ‘Sane planning, sensible tomorrow’.

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