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Learn to record by 'copying'?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Gi-gi-giggity, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. Gi-gi-giggity

    Gi-gi-giggity Member

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    I'm new into recording and have been reading a bit about theories and techniques, opinions, tricks, etc. But something dawned on me just the other day that I can't really say I've heard as an approach to learning this art. What about good old fashion copying?

    Now I say that with the utmost respect as it is the highest form of flattery, right? After all, I (and I'm sure most other guitarists) learned to play, to a large degree, by throwing on their favorite album/cassette/CD and learned a particular song or riff or what have you. So why couldn't that translate into the recording realm? I listen to The Beatles A LOT and just love how their recordings sound so it would only seem to reason that I dissect them (as much as possible) and try to mimic the techniques and sounds.
    I do understand that the equipment and settings that I own or am exposed to will probably never be the same or as good as what they had/have, but still, in my opinion that really isn't much different than me hammering out Iron Maiden tunes back in the mid 80's with my Hondo guitar and 10watt Dean Markley amp.

    You could say that the achievable results perhaps aren't necessarily as important as what could be gained in term of experience with the journey. If I can record a song, let someone listen and they respond with, "kinda sounds like The Beatles"...then I personally would be happy.

    To me, it's a bit like cooking. I went through culinary school years ago and they teach you what spices go with what, different techniques for cooking meat, veggies, starches, etc. But it's really not until you get in there and get 'dirty' that your palate really understands how it all comes together. So with recording/engineering, I'm not saying to dismiss the theoretical aspects, I'm just speaking of a different angle/approach.

    This is all in the name of learning BTW. That's not to say that I want to be The Beatles or make everything be just like them, but it's just another feather in the cap of abilities. To this day I could play on my guitar to you "Two Minutes to Midnight" or "Michelle" and they'd both sound really close to the original, so why not try to do the same with recording?

    Thoughts?
     
  2. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    I think as you gain experience, you naturally gravitate to sounds you love. I don't view it as copying but more as using given techniques to achieve a similar sound. If you love the Beatles, do some research on double tracking of vocals. They kindof brought that trick to the forefront and many followed. Even if you were at Abby Rd doing things they pioneered, you would NEVER sound like them. I work in home construction so an annalogy would be about, say, rough framers. There are certain proven methods that are used to build a house, but designs are different. A house built with the EXACT same techniques will still be completely different if the design is different. I think it's a great way to rationalize it in your head. You can use a given technique someone else used and it's still gonna be you and your design. If you ever go to Gearslutz, there are hundreds of threads asking, "how did so and so track guitars, or what comp did so and so use on overheads" I think it's been going on for MANY years but no one really considers it copying.
     
  3. Shiny McShine

    Shiny McShine Member

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    There's really no way to do what you're talking about without a massive budget. So much of making a recording depends on the players, their ideas and approach to playing. The recording part is just a 1/10 of the whole picture. That's why these threads pop up every now and then talking about recording like Led Zeppelin and they go nowhere.

    Here's another thing... most players are so naive about production that you will have to fight hard just to get them to try something innovative during recording. Guerrilla recording is a good example. I've only had one guy ever who bought into that yet it's a vast unexplored method that could yield really interesting results.
     
  4. usc96

    usc96 Member

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    I don't know where I saw it (might have been here), but yesterday I saw a Youtube video linked to one of these music sites where they broke out the different parts of Sgt. Pepper. It was really cool.
     
  5. bluestarbass

    bluestarbass Member

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    When I record bands I usually tell them, "bring reference CD's of all the bands you like the tones of". So I'll get a cd pop it in and say, well i want my guitar to sound kinda like A, but more of the mids from B. That helps ALOT. While i dont really try and copy their sound, pretty impossible, too many variables, it gives me a starting point to work from.

    Like the above posters said, recording is such a small part of the equation, and even if you had all the gear itd never sound the same. You can get close, and have an idea your going after, but youll never really be happy with how close you get. It does help a ton to have some sort of reference until you know exaclty how your gear sounds.
     
  6. Gi-gi-giggity

    Gi-gi-giggity Member

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    I hear you, but I don't fully agree...hence my Hondo guitar/Dean Markley amp reference. It's not the Marshalls and Jackson that perhaps Maiden used, but it was convincing to a point.
    To your argument though, some quality is needed, absolutely. I've only been into this a few months and I'm already spending way more on mics, etc. than maybe I 'need' to. I've concluded that my ear is more advanced than my skills right now.
    I'd rather work with something that's respectable in terms of quality of gear to achieve a good sound relatively easily rather than try to coax or beat it out of a crappy setup. Just my angle.

    Thanks.
     
  7. 56_Special

    56_Special Member

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    I think it's a great idea. I've done similar things myself. For example, I tried to record a version of Pale Blue Eyes by the Velvet Underground which sounded as much like the original version as possible. At the time, I was thinking more in terms of learning songwriting and arranging, but I definitely learned about mixing and EQ from the adventure. I think your analogy with playing is appropriate. And artists learn to draw and paint by copying the old masters. Why shouldn't we learn to record the same way? As others have said, your finished product is unlikely to sound just like the originals, but that's hardly the point is it? It's about learning, and I find it hard to believe that you won't learn a lot by doing what you suggest.
     
  8. Pietro

    Pietro 2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy

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    I have never, even for fun, recorded someone else's song, but I've also never really gone after someone else's tone either.

    I'm me, no one else is, and I don't want to be them, and I sure as heck don't want them to be me. You can quote me on that.
     
  9. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Just wanted to clarify my point and understanding of the topic. I assumed by copying, we were talking about techniques and tones, not the music itself. If you wanted to take the time to do someone elses music, thats your call. The only way to get experience at anything is to do it A LOT. I'm not that sure i'd put that much effort into someone elses music.
     
  10. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    I used to do this, but after a while I realized that other than just as a basic framework for mixing, to see where the bass sat in relation to the guitars, and where the vocal was placed, etc. it never really helped much.

    Every band has their own specific sound, in that rooom, on that day and I always just do my best to make that as good as I can.

    I DO, however, have a pretty good repertoire of methods to get some cool sounds that you hear on a lot of classic records, which I'll whip out regularly. Clients like it when they say they want something that sounds say "rockabilly" and I know excatly what to put up to get that vibe for them.

    Loudboy
     
  11. Pietro

    Pietro 2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy

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    btw...

    If you're a songwriter, what is the best way to come up with original ideas?

    yeah, you guessed it... learn a lot of other people's songs.

    So, despite what I say above, I begin to wonder if copying somebody else's song... if only for an excercise... might be a positive thing? Anybody try that? (I guess I'm asking the OP's question again.)
     
  12. Dave Klausner

    Dave Klausner Member

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    I don't know about copying a whole song, but listening to a mix in the same genre and analyzing frequency balance, etc. is done all the time by big name pro's.

    George Massenburg says people are always asking him things like "how do I get my snare to sound like yours on such and such record?" He tells them to listen to their snare, listen to his, and figure out what's different.

    I like the cooking analogy. Just as you learn what different spices and techniques do for food, you can learn what different processing and techniques do for audio. In the same way that a cook learns that he can brighten up a sauce with a little bit of acid, like lemon juice, an engineer learns how to use EQ.
     
  13. the_Chris

    the_Chris It's All Been Done Before Gold Supporting Member

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    I think since the world of audio recording is so vast with some many ridiculous variables, you almost have to take notes from others and forge your own path from there.

    I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel myself, I'm looking at what other, more experienced folks are using, their micing techniques and I'm using their clips as critical info as to where I want to end up with my own mixes.
     
  14. wilder

    wilder Member

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    My buddies and I did exactly this all through high school. We recorded numerous Beatles covers on a tascam 4 track. It was very educational for me as novice engineer so I say go for it. It taught me a lot about my gear and how to develop unique approaches to getting sounds. It was nice to have a target sound to aim for. When we progressed to recording our originals it was much easier to know when it was "done".
     

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