Thursday, June 14, 2012

Limitations

I know we've been going down a pretty philosophical road here lately, and this being a pro audio blog I promise we'll get to some actual tech shortly. I just had one more idea for the moment and then I promise we'll get back to talking about compressors and stuff.

The idea is about how people work when there are limitations on them. Early multi-track recordings wound up with every bit of imaginable space filled up. Oddly enough, now that dozens or even hundres of tracks are available to anyone with a few bucks, it's odd that people will still cram them all full. It's human nature I guess.  But what if even though you've got a ton of space available, whether it's tracks in a studio or channels for a live mix, you were limited?

I've found that it's one of the greatest catalysts for creativity that there is. Sure it can lead to doing some pretty stupid things, like plugging a mic into a DI and sending it in through a short return. Not the greatest way to get that last input into the desk, but by giving the artists that last little thing they needed, the show went great.  I'm a big fan of happy accidents and you find less of them when you're not stretching. One quick example is what cool drum sounds you can get when you don't have a dozen inputs and a big box of mics available. See what you can do with three mics, with two... with one. I'm not sayin' that pinning a lav mic on a drummer and turning him loose is better than drugs, but remember where ya got that kid, the first one's free.

Coming into the business from a live mixing perspective I'm a little overwhelmed by the plugins that are out there. To this day if I want to throw another EQ or comp on something I have to go out and buy one (till I break down and buy a digital mixer anyway). I worked a lot of years with just eight channels of compression for a twenty-four channel mix, and half the time I only used five. To scale things up, I've got twenty channels where I work, but I still have to choose wisely because they're all I've got for forty-eight inputs and eight groups. Suddenly it doesn't seem like such a lot. Now step back and look at some great albums that were made with no plugins, heck, with no stinkin' outboard gear! The first Boston record barely had and EQ on it! The right sounds were found by taking the time and finding the right mic and the right place to put it.

It doesn't always have to be about cutting back either. Although that's what I would recommend if you're going to limit yourself on purpose. But to put it in the opposite light, what if you're recording a four piece band and decide to put five instruments on every song. Now you're in a room full of guys that are suddenly working outside of their norms. Sure, you could wind up with a dud of an album with too much tambourine. But on the other hand that one simple mental exercise could open up a whole new world of creativity. Musicians pursuing new instruments and arrangements, the engineer and producer figuring out how to make it all work. It gets me excited just thinking about it.

So that's it for philosophy for a bit. Don't forget to hit the comment section if you have something to add, we won't bite, we promise. And check out the podcasts. There's a new one every week and if you supply the topics, we'll supply the witty chatter. Till tomorrow Brethren of the Knob and Fader... make the box a little smaller, then think outside of it.

1 comment:

  1. I think that a particular piece of art is fundamentally defined by the limitations it was made under, even if those limitations are self-imposed.

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