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The ONE THING I Never Understood About Recording Studios!


Long before the interweb and Pro Tools, recording studios were kinda like bigfoot in that you hardly ever saw one up close, but when you did, it was like walking into another world; albeit one that charged by the hour the minute the door closed behind you.

Thanks to albums like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon, Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, and, of course, that first Boston album, the studio itself was no longer seen as cold and sterile, but, rather, a shag-carpeted paradise filled with beautiful bell-bottomed babes and dudes just dying to share their weed, speed, and chest hair with the world.

It was also where musical "Davids" like Lindsey Buckingham and Boston's Tom Scholz became Goliaths who helped transform the image of the recording studio from that of a clinical, isolated environment to one where many now hoped to spend their every waking moment.  

What wasn't to love?

To this day, my heart still quickens at the sight of acres and acres of outboard gear, the acoustically-treated rooms vocal booths, those ginormous consoles with flying faders, and, last but not least, those KICK-ASS SPEAKERS!!

Sorry, STUDIO MONITORS!!

Having said that, you have not lived until you've saved up for months to finally go into the studio and, when you do, the engineer you've been saddled with starts doing shit that takes all the fun out of performing.

For starters, every microphone in the entire tri-state area is now pointed directly at your drum kit and, crikey, there are even foam doo-hickeys and what normal folks call "shop rags" draped across your tom toms, fer crying out loud!

After 2-3 hours of playing each drum on its own while the engineer EQ's, compresses, and pans the shit out of drums you'd never even tuned until today, you're finally ready to record.

When you and the band finally do start playing together...separately, that is...what you hear in your "cans" (studio slang for headphones) is either a toxic musical sludge or the greatest that you as a drummer have ever heard yourself and, no, you do not want any lead vocals in your mix, thank you very much. 


"The U.S.S. Enterprise? Nope, that's a recording console, Billy!"

Instead of trying to capture a full band performance, you and your pals suddenly learn that standard operating procedure in the recording studio is for every instrument to either be recorded separately so that it can then be mixed back together...TO SOUND LIKE A PERFORMANCE.

Tell me again how this yields better results and wasn't just a ploy to suck more money out of young bands. I mean, not every fucking album is Abbey Road, motherfuckers.

(That accounting career is starting to sound better and better, isn't it? But wait, you'll miss the best part if you quit now.)

Presuming your band is reasonably productive, you'll soon be ushered into the control room, where your songs will now be mixed on speakers that no normal person could afford IN THE HOPE that the final mix will sound good in the average person's car. 

Now, I've actually been impressed by the stock speakers found in recent (2000 and newer) Fords, but BACK IN THE DAY, the speakers your average jalopy came with left much to be desired and, yet, for some folks, these were the best stereo speakers they'd ever owned, which brings us to...THE SHIT I NEVER UNDERSTOOD:

Why the silly expense to create the most pristine acoustically-treated environment possible in which to hear the most accurate representation of the stereo spectrum on studio monitors no regular person could afford when the only way to know for sure if you had a good mix was to then pile into the drummer's car and play it back on shitty car speakers?

Doesn't it make more sense to mix in a setting that mimics the ambient noise of real life on speakers that humans actually use?

The fact that recording studios went the way of the dinosaur makes total sense.

They were asking for it.

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