I’m going to try not to get too melodramatic with this one (too late, I know), but there are three types of people in this game: hobbyists, gear nuts and professionals.
I think it’s pretty important to figure out which one you are as early as possible. Otherwise you may end up sticking ‘bitter’ in front of those first two groups.
In my 9-5 job (if you don’t know, or couldn’t guess – I work for Better Music), I deal with people from all three of these groups. The hobbyists are meek, open-minded people with a desire to learn, the grace to admit they don’t know everything, and all the wonder and amazement that got us all to this point. I love them.
The professionals are the guys who probably do know everything, but are still happy to listen to your views. They too are open-minded, accepting, and generally very calm about the whole thing – it’s like in the movies where the intrepid lead character meets a Kung Foo master on top of a mountain. I love them too.
Then, there are the gear nuts. They’re closed-minded, angry, arrogant people who know they’re right (even when they are clearly wrong) and want to force their opinion on you as hard facts. After 20 minutes of listening to them describe the difference between two converters and telling me (in detail) why shareware program Reaper is better than Pro Tools, they leave without buying anything because I don’t have an array of esoteric products they’ve been arguing about on whichever forum they belong to. I do not love them. God may, but I don’t.
Before I turn in to a bitter…retailer? Whatever. I’m going to start to make my point. As beginners (by the way, this is for the beginners) I implore you to be the embodiment of a hobbyist until such time that you are making a comfortable living from your recording studio. You see, from what I understand (from dealing with gear nuts and reluctantly reading through recording forums to help customers) the guys who jabber on and on about a tiny company in America that make amazingly expensive preamps they’ve never heard but insist on being the best you can get based on price and specs they don’t understand, never seem to do anything else. I mean, I have never seen one of these people post any music they have made, nor do they talk about musicians being in their ‘studio’. The real engineers and producers don’t have time to roost on a forum because they’re busy recording. It is the gear nuts out there that make this pastime a confusing and frightening place for beginners. This is the real tragedy. Recording should be about capturing your music (or the music of others) in the best possible light. It’s about empowering yourself with the skills to get that awesome song out of your head and onto a CD, intact and sounding just as you imagined.
So, here’s my advice for the beginners (before it’s too late):
- Forums are not a good source of information. You are much more likely to be ridiculed for asking your question, or have 300 people tell you that Chris Cornell is a terrible singer than find the answer you’re looking for. If you want to learn, read a book.
- There are no secrets. You are not going to stumble on a free piece of software, only known to certain circles, that outperforms every other DAW on the market. The good stuff is readily available and very popular (for obvious reasons).
- Nobody knows everything. Don’t read a few magazines and decide that you know it all. Keep yourself open to new ideas, listen to other engineers, and share your experiences.
- It’s not the gear – it’s you. If I was allowed to run riot in the worlds finest recording studio and Andy Wallace was shut in my home studio, his recording would be better. A lot better. Because I have lots of high-priced esoteric gear advised to me by a forum moderator. Of course, that last part was a joke. Hopefully, you will see my point.