Why the gear doesn’t matter

Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 in Recording, Stories, Studio Advice | 15 comments

Every once in a while I am reminded why I do what I do. Sometimes there’s a lesson in the reminder, and sometimes it is just a re-inspiration to smile. Tonight I had one of those moments.

To sum up the long boring story, I slipped on the ice and spent the afternoon lying on my back in pain.  Not uncommon.  In an effort to still remain productive this evening despite no desire to sit at the mixing desk all night, I decided to pace while I ran the studio computer through a series of maintenance routines and stumbled on a couple of recordings I did over the summer.   One in particular was a microphone test of the pair of old Sennheiser 441 mics we own, both of whom were built in the 70′s.

The intention of the recording was to use those mics on as much as I could to see if they were still any good.  I set up a simple drum track with Groove Agent, and recorded acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and vocals….  but somewhere along the way, I got lost.  I forgot I was testing gear and started thinking about harmonies and change-ups and how cool the song was turning out.  By the end I had worked a really “simple” arrangement that has some pop, some groove, and exactly the feel I wanted out of the song.

This was my equipment chain…  Instrument/voice – Sennheiser 441 – True Systems P-Solo (a relatively transparent pre-amp)…  followed by whatever magic I was into at the time.

My point is, however, I wasn’t even thinking about the equipment once I got into the song.  All I cared about was making music.  I was having fun and I didn’t let technical thoughts enter into the equation.  I’m even listening to the song right now, and despite all the technical flaws (you gear geeks can pick it apart all you want), I’m just loving it.  I wasn’t a studio engineer, I was just a singer again.

I’ve even decided to post the song for you to hear and judge, though I must note, **** those looking for a good representation of my work, please refer to this page…  James’ Mixing & Mastering …  For those who want to join in the conversation, listen to this song…  does the gear matter?  Did it matter in this half-hearted “test” recording?

James Seabrook’s summer afternoon rendition of “What a Wonderful World”

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And that reminds me…. In an unrelated test of DI’s on Preamps (The Golden Age Projects’ Pre-73, I think) I got lost again and had fun with a Death Cab for Cutie song… like it or not, I still had a blast doing it.

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So thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join in on the conversation.  No copyright infringement intended.

Cheers and all the best to you.

-James Seabrook