An excerpt from "Modern Record Production" by John Boylan - From Section III, Chapter A "The Basics of Recording"



Alright, now that we have some of the technical stuff out of the way, let's get to the heart of the matter: which method of recording should a producer use for a given project? Well, unfortunately there is no simple answer, since some of this is strictly a matter of taste. However, we can sum up a few facts and opinions which can help you make your decision:                                                                      


Warm, airy sound
Soft transients
Forgives minor distortion
Hit-or-miss editing
Less expensive



Clean, edgy sound
Hard transients
No noise
Precise, easy editing
More expensive


To begin with, I should point out that for some projects, this decision will have already been made by factors beyond the control of the producer. For example, if you have been given a strictly limited budget and the only studio you can afford is an older, analog-only outfit, you are recording analog and that's that. Also, if you are in a provincial city or out-of-the-way place where there are no digital machines, the decision is made. Similarly, outside forces can cause you to record your project digitally - for example, if the band's manager owns a recording studio and that studio is equipped with only digital machines, this will be a digital project.

If there are no economic or political considerations affecting your decision, it will come down to the type of music you are recording, the intentions of the artist, and your own personal taste. Let's tackle the music first.

When we consider how certain types of music can be affected by the way they are recorded, right away some obvious choices leap out at us: urban dance music, which has a pulse that depends on transient response, benefits greatly from digital recording; classic rock 'n roll, with its buzzing guitars and borderline distorted vocals, seems a natural for analog. In fact, if we think about it, we can probably make a table of music types and the best recording choices.

POP - benefits from easy editing, has fewer budget restraints, is helped by some sonic manipulation - DIGITAL

ROCK - requires a pleasantly distorted sound, noise is not a factor - ANALOG

CLASSICAL - demands a wide dynamic range and clean transients, but also benefits from a warm and airy sound - A TOSS-UP

RAP - the most important element is street credibility, not sound, but it does need to sample things - DIGITAL

DANCE - needs those pulsing transients and lots of sonic manipulation - DIGITAL

COUNTRY - prefers a natural sound, vocals are most important - A TOSS-UP

JAZZ - clarity and articulation - DIGITAL

ALTERNATIVE - similar to rock, but less dependent on sound - ANALOG

FILM MUSIC - requires a wide dynamic range and lots of effects - DIGITAL

TECHNO - extremely dependent on sonic manipulation - DIGITAL

Naturally, not every project falls neatly into a category, so the savvy producer takes the next step, which is to consult with the artist. In many cases, you will find that the artist is not remotely interested in being involved in this type of decision about the project. When that occurs, you will talk it over with your engineer and make the decision based on the kind of music and the sound that you want. On the other hand, in some cases you will find artists that have very definite ideas about how they want their records to sound. When that occurs, you should explain all the options very carefully to them and elicit their opinion. Having done that you must then must evaluate all the factors (creative, financial, political), consult again with your engineer, and decide between analog and digital. Believe me, it won't be as difficult as it sounds


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