by Metal Mastermind

July 9, 2020

Golden Rule to Recording Metal Music

There are certain principles, or rules, that if you do not follow in the studio, your recording is going to suck!

In this post, we’re going to cover the most important aspects of recording. Combined, they are called the ‘Golden Rule.’

Now, this isn’t ‘treat others as you would like to be treated.’ But perhaps it’s kind of close. Treat your music the way you want to be treated…that’s appropriate!

These are basic studio rules that are in place to help you make an excellent recording. They are especially essential to recording at home. And you’ll see why below.

**Of course these rules apply to recording all styles of music. But as you would expect from us, we’re giving you the metal version!

The Golden Rules on YouTube

We still encourage you to read through this blog post as there are some helpful resources that we include. But definitely check out our YouTube video on this topic.

Also, if you have questions or would like to share your input, just open the YouTube video in a new browser, leave us a comment, and make sure you subscribe to the Metal Mastermind channel!

1 – A Good Performance

There’s a reason why this is the first part of the golden rule. If you have everything else right but if your performance sucks, then you’re recording is going to suck.

There’s an old saying: ‘You can’t polish a turd.’

That sounds a bit harsh but it’s the truth.

So let’s turn it around. Here are some practical ways you can ensure you give an awesome performance in the studio:

  • Practice, practice, and practice!
  • Warm-up thoroughly before you record (ex: if you’re a singer, do some light vocal exercises, if you’re a guitarists, run through some scales or patterns first)
  • Know the song! You’d be surprised how many musicians think that the studio is where you learn, and even write the song!
  • Do what is needed to that you have the mental clarity and energy to perform (ex: eat a healthy, sustaining meal and stay away from anything loaded with sugar)

2 – The Right Instrument

Along with performance, it’s crucial that you have the right instrument for your song or album. There are a couple of ways to think about this…

  • The actual instrument, such as a guitar, drums, or bass
  • The human instrument – the person performing – yes, this includes vocalists

Let’s say you’re a drummer. The studio you’re recording at may have a great high-quality drum set. But it’s missing that second kick pedal you need for melodic death metal.

In this case, what you should have done was to either visit the studio beforehand or talked to the studio engineer to get the details of what they have. You would have known to have brought your own drum set.

**You’re probably recording most of your instruments in your or your band’s home studio. However, drums are usually the greatest challenge, especially when recording in smaller rooms. So you may find that you need to record your drums in a larger studio that has the appropriate setup for drums.

Or let’s say your band has a singer but you’ve been struggling with him or her. They haven’t been putting the effort into bettering their skills and it’s just not flowing with the band. Your singer is the wrong instrument for your band.

TIP: If you have the wrong ‘human instrument’ in your band, you know, someone that’s just not up to par and is holding the band back, you may need to make that difficult decision.

It’s different if they’re really trying and putting forth all of their efforts. If that’s the case, you can work with that, but don’t schedule studio time right away. Continue practicing and getting tighter.

If you’re a solo artist writing instrumental music. Simply hire out the parts you’re not an expert at, to an expert. An example is if you’re primarily a guitarist, you’ll probably want to hire out the drums.

Don’t let yourself be the weakest link in your music!
And don’t be like every other guitarist who pretends they’re awesome at drums…lol!

3 – An Appropriate Environment

When you’re setting up your home studio you have a tendency to focus on just the gear. Studio monitors, computer desk, computer, audio interface, etc.

But there’s another key element to being successful at recording music at home. You need to have the appropriate environment and the right ambiance.

The goal here is to help you get into the right mental state and bring out your creativity. Afterall, writing and recording music is art!

Here are some things you can do:

  • Add soft lighting or mood lighting in certain places
  • Hang up some inspirational pictures or quotes on your wall
  • Always have a notebook or even a whiteboard so that it’s easily accessible when you need to create a plan or write down ideas
  • Don’t share your studio room with other initiatives (like, don’t let it be a place where you also hang your laundry on an exercise bike!)

4 – The Proper Microphone

This is going to be for singers and when you want to mic instruments. You need to have the proper mic.

Now, this goes deeper than merely having a quality mic. You could have the top of the line Neumann mic but that doesn’t mean it’s the best mic for your genre. Different styles require different instruments and different mics.

For example, if you’re a death metal vocalist you may find that a less expensive dynamic mic works better than a condenser mic, like the Shure SM7B. In fact, there’s an article on the Shure website talking about the best mics for this particular vocal style: Vocal Mics for Death Metal

What if you’re song has softer parts with ‘clean vocals?’ Or what if your style is more of a thrash or symphonic metal that has cleaner ‘non-death’ vocals? The dynamic mics probably won’t cut it for that and you may need to switch to a high quality condenser mic.

Or maybe you need the right mic for recording a high gain amp. There are a handful of awesome mics for miking amps like the Shure SM57, AKG C414, Royer R121, Sennheiser E609, and a few others. You can read more about miking guitar amps on the Music Critic website’s post: Top 10 Microphones for Guitar Amplifiers.

5 – Correct Microphone Placement

We can’t talk about the proper mic without discussing the correct mic placement. You can have the absolute best mic that’s perfect for your genre but if it’s not in the right place, you’ll be extremely disappointed when you hear the playback.

This is a crucial step because you can waste a ton of precious time in the studio if you don’t get this right. And there’s nothing more discouraging that nailing the take only to find that you have to redo it because the mic wasn’t placed correctly.

The three areas you want to pay attention to are:

  1. The singer’s mic placement
  2. Mic placement for any instrument amps
  3. Mic placements for drums

*You may also have overhead mics if you happen to be recording a live session. And some like to have a 2nd mic strategically placed to capture the room ambiance.

We encourage you to study mic placement for your specific instrument. And this will be different from instrument to instrument, and even person to person. PreSonus gives you some helpful tips in their article: Basic Mic Placement Tips.

6 – The Right Preamplifier

You’ve got everything right up to this point. Now you need to focus on how your sound is being captured and interpreted into your studio, or DAW.

This is where having the right preamplifier comes in.

A preamp is a device that’s connected to your computer in which you’ll plug in your instrument. And the preamp can often enhance or greatly take-away from your original sound and tone.

Fortunately, there are many great options for preamps and technology has made it possible to capture a great recording with inexpensive preamps.

Generally speaking, most home recording studios will just have an audio interface. But some studios want, and require, more than that. Especially for delicate instruments like the human voice.

We have a video that will help understand audio interfaces, which preamps are part of that discussion. Check it out below…

Follow the Golden Rule

Don’t these rules of recording overwhelm you. Just go through each one and take notes on the specific things you need for each section.

You may even have everything you need in your current studio to make awesome metal music. Or you may be lacking a few important items or concepts.

Just remember to not let gear or instrument or ‘people’ limitations be the weak link in your music. Because that will be heard, loud and clear (or perhaps not so clear!).

You may have the perfect setup for recording your parts, and maybe most parts of your song or album. But you may need to hire experts for other parts that your studio cannot handle, or that you’re not an expert at.

We truly hope this post helps you. If so, please consider sharing it.

Horns Up,

Ken & Jason
Metal Mastermind

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