By Tim Dolbear - www.timdolbear.com
I teach often about knowing your studio setup like the back of your hand. You have to. You must know the tools you use completely, inside and out. How they react to all the different music that they serve. Have and use 2 or 3 main EQ and a couple of compressors, that’s all. Trim the rest away, and really KNOW the ones you have chosen.
Case in point, each compressor reacts and has a sound all to its own. An 1176 has its own personality, its fast and can brighten the signal up as it works. I like the reaction and sound it gets when I choose the 8db of reduction setting, setting the attack and release to their fastest settings gives an wonderful distortion… setting the attack to the slowest setting and the release to 9 o’clock is killer on snare drums… so many different variables. The 1073 EQ seems very limited until you really learn how to use it. It’s tone shaping and character becomes an extension of the music in a way that you would not get or understand without diving into it deeply and using it all the time.
I know some engineers who have the entire Waves Platinum collection with hundreds of plugins… they open up an insert on their mixer and the list or plugins wallpapers the room. I beta test for UA and have all the UAD plugins…so many choices would drive you nuts. I have the 2 or 3 of each type in a separate folder and a 2nd folder called “Others” where the other 90 plugins live. The ones I use and know like the back of my hand are easy to get to and the rest are put away.
Here at Eclectica Studios we have a rule that if something sits here for a year not really being used, its sold and put back into the business. I track through a Great River MP-NV2 preamp, and a Manley Mic Pre and an old Altec Pre. I know how each one of those reacts, their sound, and what each excels at. I use old 1980’s Ashly SC-50 and SC-55 compressors. That’s it. I know exactly how to play them like an instrument. Understand?
So I was watching someone play a Rhodes Suitcase the other day and it got me thinking…
25 years ago you knew players that played Rhodes, or Piano, or B3. They PLAYED that instrument. All they played was that instrument. A Rhodes player knew all the ins and outs, how to get it hairy sounding, how to slur notes such as playing a C major chord but hitting the Eflat quickly on the way down to the note E so it slurred or slid into the chord. By only playing the one instrument, they really knew THAT instrument.
Nowadays, a keyboard has 1000+ sounds, from piano to orchestral to pads to upright bass. Most players never really learn and know the true instrument and come across amateurish on most sounds.
A studio setup is a type of instrument as you are working with music and everything you do affects the sound. So clean out the closets, trim the fat, take out the trash, clean your room, until you have the fewest tools you can get by with and learn them like nobody else. How much time have you spend learning to play the Guitar? or piano or sing? Can you say the same about you studio tools?