Print Or Ponder?


Zombie Four, DFZ
Apr 28, 2012
Recently, I've read about two engineers/producers - Ken Caillat (in his book "Making Rumours", about the Fleetwood Mac album) and Alan Parsons in an issue of Premiere Guitar from last year (hey, I'm behind - one of these years I'll get to those 2009 issues of Acoustic Guitar and VIntage Guitar!).

Both of them said the same thing - that one of the big reasons they feel that older recordings sound better is because they were limited in the number of tracks they had to work with, so they had to figure out what sound they needed and commit to it, as opposed to what we can do today, which is record a bunch of different possibilities or leave ourselves some flexibility until later in the process, only to become bogged down in potential choices.

So, for those of you who record - do you print or ponder? Do you get your sound and record it and work with that, or do you record a drier sound and make your processing decisions later?

I tend to print - I'll record most of my effects while I play, maybe adding some reverb or something later in the process, but for the most part, what I record tends to be my target sound. One of the few exceptions (for non-MIDIed instruments) is acoustic guitar - I usually run that through an Aphex exciter after recording, and then maybe through reverb or modulation.
I suspect re-amping will come up in this discussion. Before I sold off my studio, I was committed to getting my sound up front and capturing the best performance possible. The only thing I wanted to do after capturing the track was mix it and master it. The less EQ I had to apply, the better.
Reamping is one of the most important features. You need to be able to disconnect yourself from playing when you are picking your sound and I think the only way I can achieve that is reamping on a different day using DI's. That way I can sit.... listen to a play through and adjust the knobs as I am in the moment. Then, talk a quick walk or something, come back and see if I agree with myself from 5 minutes ago.
I "print" all the time with my own stuff. "Pondering" is no longer optional in the business world, it's mandatory. Too many people have their own home setups to be able to fool them anymore, and remixers (like me) require all the options.

I still think there is a lot of really great music being made today, and I will never forget how fortunate we are to have such great sounding (and cheap!) equipment available.
It depends on the project, the flow of how you or the band are feeling about the tracks, how well-rehearsed everyone is, whether the arrangement is set in stone or still needs work, the artistic vision for the project, etc., etc.

There are reasons to work one way or the other, and there are reasons to take a hybrid approach. I think it's best not to have any rules. Whatever works that day, works.

Then, too, there is a great disparity between artists and bands. It was once the case back in the day that in order to get into a recording studio, a band had a lot of gigs under their belts, had their material very polished, and had a record deal. In many cases, bands like Fleetwood Mac consisted of experienced players with recording experience, who'd been with other touring bands. In any event there is a huge range of preparedness when a band comes into the studio today, from almost no experience, to a ton of experience.

If you're working with talent like Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles, fergodsakes, that's the cream of the business. It was hard for those bands to make a bad record. It's different for most indie studio owners.

And of course, today records at the highest levels are not mixed by the engineers who recorded them. Drum sounds are often triggered using samples. The vision of the mix engineer comes into play, which is often completely independent from the vision of the recording engineer. It is not unusual for several mixers to work on a single album, each taking a few songs, due to deadline pressures!

So there are a lot of good reasons to postpone decision making about effects, EQ, etc. Though I hate reamping. LOL

Bottom line: the business has changed. The art of making records has changed. The experience of bands with their own material is more variable.

It's easy to talk about the good ole days, but the fact is we are in different times. :)
Definitely a different time, and I don't think you'll ever see a mass return to the days of bands recording all live in the same room.

The recordings may be better technically, but not always soulfully.
More printing than pondering. When I first learned about re-amping, I was excited about the limitless possibilities. But these days there is something novel, almost magical about recording something 'right' the first time. The more I got into re-amping, the more it frustrated me. For one, it becomes tedius and impossible to make a final decision. Does it really sound better now, or does it just sound better to me because it's different? Secondly, it may be psychological, but there is always just a tiny bit of something missing when the track is reincarnated. Tiny characteristics and playing nuances don't always translate.

So for now, my re-amping is limited only to those tracks that definitely sound inferior in the mix and need changing. Instead of leaving the door wide open for choices, I'd rather just use different choices as needed.
Hamm... Not sure.

With my guitar sound I like to get it right before I record so I have less work to do at the mixing stage. I'll leave the reverb until then but all other effects and the overall tone I try to have coming out the amp.

When I come to do the rest of the instruments I do spend a lot of time tweaking, more than i'd like.

One of the reasons I dumped all the modelling gear was because I didn't want to spend more time tweaking than playing.
One of the reasons I dumped all the modelling gear was because I didn't want to spend more time tweaking than playing.

I feel the same way -- about guitar tracks. But there are ways to work with keys, drums, etc., that I would rather have the ability to change. It all depends.