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Old 12-06-2008, 04:01 PM   #47
Human being with feelings
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,012

The best way to make sure that you are always making forward progress while recording is to set specific and achievable goals for each session. In other words, if you have three hours to record tomorrow, decide in advance what the "deliverable" will be, as though you were answering to a boss.

For example, you're going to get the main rhythm guitar track for this song recorded all the way through in three hours, come hell or high water, even if it's only half as good as you hoped. This means no shopping for plugins, no second-guessing whether you need different pickups, no deciding that the bridge needs to be re-written, no surfing the web for guitar recording tips, no testing to see how it sounds with a new bassline, no trying out alternate tunings, etc.

If you need time to do any of the above before you can be sure you're ready to cut the rhythm guitar, well, then, THAT is your project for tomorrow. Instead of trying to record the guitar part, you've got three hours to decide on the best bridge arrangement, or to try out different plugins, or to test alternate tunings, or to research and test different setup recipes, or audition plugins, or whatever.

The whole point is that no matter how many things need to be done or tested or thought through or tried out, come the end of tomorrow's session, you will have absolutely and decisively crossed one or more of those steps off your list.

No sane person would ever deliberately decide that "I'm going to spend the next three months second-guessing the amp tone and the particular voicing of the palm-muted riffs on the second turnaround," but this is exactly the danger if you don't decide in advance how much time you're going to spend on these things. Boredom, ear-burnout, and self-doubt are your enemies.

In a commercial studio, you'd have the reassuring hand of an experienced engineer and/or producer to tell you when it sounds great, or when it's time to stop and re-examine that 7sus4 chord and so on. You don't have that. So you have to trust your prior decisions, and just as important, you have to trust your future decisions and your overall talent.

It's one thing to say "we'll fix it in the mix." That's bad. But it's another to say, "I know that this is a good song, and that I can play it, and that I've been happy with this sound before, and I know that everything is going to sound bigger and better and more polished and professional once I've laid down all the tracks and have processed and mixed the whole thing."

It's very easy to get trapped in self-doubting tunnel-vision. It's important to get it done right, but it's also important to get it done. You may not achieve every goal you set for yourself in the time alloted, but at least you'll reach a point where the clock runs out and you can set yourself a better goal for next time, armed with specific knowledge of what you need to work on.

Setting specific goals in advance hedges against dangers on both sides of this see-saw. You have the opportunity to set aside enough time to do it right, while simultaneously preventing yourself from getting lost in an open-ended vortex of trying to reinvent the wheel.
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