So what I’m going to preach today is something that I should have done for a long time but was very reluctant to listen to those wiser than me.

When I first started recording and mixing music, I would see a lot sound engineers talk about mixing in mono and using subtractive EQ but of course, I ignored their wisdom because to me it sounds silly. Now I look back and think of how immature I was.

Another thing I would hear is that you should never EQ something while it’s in solo. Of course, I would again think those people were crazy. How could all these SUPER talented guys know what they are talking about right? Plus how are you supposed to hear what you are EQing if you aren’t doing it in solo? Well, I was of course, wrong again.

The Reason The Solo Button Will Kick Your Butt

Let me just cut out the fluff and tell you straight. The solo button is not your friend. It is always lying to you. It does distract you from delivering a great mix. The reason why EQ is such a great tool is that it allows you to mold sounds to fit better together, in the mix. If you solo an EQ, then you have no idea how it sounds in regards to all the other tracks in the mix. This makes it difficult for you to try and get a clear mix.

If you spend most of your time in solo mode, then you are missing out on actually hearing how your tracks are fitting together in the mix. None of the fans that are going to be listening to the song will be listening to it in solo, so why would you? The solo button can serve a purpose: to help you listen for things to clean up like clicks, pops, and earphone bleed. But beyond that, treat the solo button as an enemy and not a friend.

Without The Solo Button, You Can Mix Faster

There is nothing more discouraging than listening to how perfect your snare drum sounds with all of your EQ work, only to realize that it sounds terrible once you unsolo it. You then go back to readjust things trying to get it to work. But you would finish your mixes faster if you avoided the solo button altogether.

When you EQ and tweak, in context with the rest of the tracks, you have a good understanding of what’s working and what’s not. You may not get a great sound right away, but you will get a great sound sooner than you would if you were only using the solo button.

Embrace the Frustrating Times

Mixing is like a big ball of frustration. You have a lot of hurdles to overcome while you are growing and learning. And as frustrating as it was for me when I was learning, it has honestly made me better. It forced me to listen to the song more, it trained my ears and helped me focus. Being forced to grow does make you better.

So try it on your next mix. Pretend that the solo function doesn’t even exist. I bet you will enjoy the process. Let me know how it works for you.

recording drum sounds

One technique that has taken me forever to understand is to figure out what you want in your mind first before you even hit the record button.  This sounds like an obvious thing if you are a creative person.  How can you draw a tree if you don’t already know what a tree looks like?  There are thousands of ways to draw a tree so, at some point, the artist must commit to the picture in his head before he even starts to paint the picture.

In a similar fashion, recordings must start with a clear thought of how they will sound.  So we can’t start recording anything before we know how we want the sound to be.  Let’s try and explain this a bit more.

Start Off As a Producer First

Having a studio in your house and being able to create whenever you want is a real blessing.  You can create with out the limit of studio time or worse, money.  You can even start up your own business mixing online for other people.

But the biggest problem with home studios, however, is that you have to wear multiple hats and by far the biggest overlooked hat is the Producer hat.

So if the artist is the one who writes and sings the songs, and the engineer records and mixes that performance in the best possible way then it’s the producer who helps to fulfill the overall vision of the track.  The producer is the one who goes through each sound to make sure they sound the way the should to help convey the artists intent and leave an impression.

So if there is no producer on the song and you neglect to wear that hat, then you are effectively leaving out the potential magic of what makes a great recording.

How Do You Know If Your Drums Sound Great?

This is a pretty convoluted answer because if you filled the room with 100 people and asked that very question, you would undoubtedly get 100 different answers. But Why?  I mean if there truly were only one correct way to record drums then everyone would do it.  You wouldn’t need a producer; you would just need an engineer to competently replicate that sound every time.

But that’s not how it works out there in recording land.  The reason why we all have different answers is because there are multiple ways to create a drum sound that works for different scenarios.  There are times when an up close and intimate sound is desired while another time a big and open sound is what you want.

The list of the different sounds is endless.  This is where the problem is when it comes to going directly from song writing to recording.  You can never get “amazing” drum sounds with out deciding ahead of time what that great drum sound is for your song.

What Sound Are You Looking For?

The example I used from above is just is just a tiny portion of what you must think about before you even start recording a project.  The very best thing you can do for yourself is to take some time to define clearly what your vision is for what you want the project to sound like.

You could start by using a few words to describe how you want your record to sound like.  Raw? Grimey? Aggressive? Indie?  Maybe you want to pay honor to a favorite album of yours.  Also, try to think of what you don’t want it to sound like.

Draw Out Your Success

The more you can commit to a vision before you start the process, then the better off you will be.  Try and write that down and then make it your map for success.  This vision will help you build the sonic background you want for the album.  It will help you make the necessary moves, during recording, for success.

Without a map, you are simply taken blind shots in the dark and guessing at every turn.  Don’t fall into that trap for your next project.  Just simple take a couple of minutes to jot down your sonic map for victory and abide by that for the entire recording process.  I’m sure that you will be happy with the results.

Bonus Video 🙂

Other Resources


Tell me if something similar this has happened to you….

You’re checking out a tutorial video, probably on YouTube, and the engineer is going through some neat tricks, but you just don’t quite understand why he is doing what he’s doing.  He goes onto the next part of the tutorial, but you are hoping that he would stop and explain it a little more.

Well, it’s happened to me.

While I do believe that there is a lot of great info to be learned from these tutorial videos, I still think that the best way to learn is in person and face-to-face.

There’s nothing better than being able to convey to your music instructor that you don’t understand what he is talking about, and you want him to slow down to explain it a little bit better.  You know, saying something like “I didn’t quite understand that, can you show me again?” or “I don’t hear a difference, can you try that one more time.”

If that sounds like something that’s a little more along your pace and workflow than I suggest you try and find an engineer that you respect and see if they would be willing to take you on as a “student.”  So instead of interning for a studio you could instead be a student.

Everyone wins because you get to learn, and the studio can make a little extra money.

I have never reached out to a studio myself, but I have been lucky enough to have friends who are incredibly talented in the music space.  They have been gracious enough to bring me into their working environment to show me the ropes.

I can’t tell you how fast I was able to learn just by having someone there that I could bounce my ideas off of.

Anyway, hopefully, that can help you out in the future.