On day two of BBC Introducing Live last month, Abbey Road Studios hosted a jam-packed session on recording and mixing with Abbey Road’s senior recordist, Paul Pritchard, who took us through his methods in making the most out of a recording session.
Pritchard took the standpoint that recording and mixing methods all depend on what you’re recording, what you’re recording on, and what your skill level is. “Make sure you’re serving the music in whatever way that is,” he advised. “For me, there’s too much talk about sample rates and convergers. There are differences, but I’m not worried. I’ve done sessions with engineers who bring their own clock or spend ages testing the microphones and it ends up not making things better because the artist has to wait around.”
He continued, hammering home the variability from artist to artist: “No two sessions are ever the same, you have to approach them differently.” Pritchard emphasised that it’s important not to get too bogged down with the little details, for example, he “isn’t bothered about mic pres” or specific types of gear – obviously he can’t find many faults with the treasure trove of equipment he has access to at Abbey Road – and to just focus on recording your music. Ultimately, he said, “people always say ‘that microphone sounds good’, but if a microphone is making a sound it’s broken, singers should be making the sound”. However, he did have some pointers for artists and producers doing it themselves.
He advised, when recording, to “go until you’ve reached your peak – compare it to the previous recording and if it’s still better, keep going. If it’s worse, you’ve reached your peak”. He also said to tune vocals yourself and that he avoids autotuning, although he does use Melodyne. “I’d rather something to be slightly out of tune than sound like it’s been tuned,” he remarked.
And why would he say it is still relevant to record at a recording studio as opposed to at home? “Well if you’re recording an orchestra you can’t do it at home. If you’re recording drums, maybe you can’t.
“I think it’s good if you are an artist to have someone else there. You can record the vocals yourself, that’s great if you’re into that, but if you just want to focus on singing, you can get someone else to do it and it takes all of that away. That self-doubt that sometimes singers have about whether it sounds good or not, you have someone to bounce opinions off and to do all the legwork and the editing.
“The main reason I’d say to go to a big studio is if you’re recording something big,” he concluded. In some respects, he welcomes the democratisation of music for solo artists and acknowledges Abbey Road has nothing to worry about as the world’s most famous studio in a Grade II listed building.
Find PSNEurope’s full round-up of BBC Introducing Live here.