The “Can’t Seem To Get This Sound To Work” Tracking Checklist

Tracking Checklist image

Did you ever try to record something that just didn’t sound quite right no matter what you did? It’s a lot more common situation than you might think. While it’s easy to just try a bunch of random things, sometimes that makes you more confused than ever. That’s when it’s time to break out this tracking checklist when all else fails.

The “Can’t seem to get this sound to work” tracking checklist comes from the 4th edition my Recording Engineer’s Handbook, and it’s a sure way to set you on the right path the next time something just doesn’t sound right. Here we go:

Change the source, if possible (the instrument you’re miking)

Change the mic placement

Change the placement of the instrument or vocal in the room

Change the mic (don’t be afraid to try something that you think might not work)

Change the mic preamplifier (again, the most expensive isn’t always the best choice)

Change the mount of compression and/or limiting (from none to a lot)

Change the room (the actual room you are recording in) or the placement in the room

Change the player (you have to be cruel to be kind)

Come back and try it another day

The last point is really important and often overlooked. Unless you’re on a tight deadline and just have to get something recorded (in which case you won’t be picky about the sound anyway), sometimes it’s just better to pack it in and come back tomorrow to try it again. You’d be surprised how much different things can sound on fresh ears and a newly opened mind.

This also applies to playing as well. Many times a player just can’t seem to get a great take with the right feel even though he or she is playing the right notes. Once again, coming back the next day with a fresh mind does wonders, and since the player already knows the part, often times you’ll get it in the first or second take.

You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of

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