Over the past 6 months, I have really gotten into listening to podcasts on my commute. It’s probably no surprise that my preferred podcasts are gear-centric. I have found that there’s no better way to start or end my day than to listen to a couple of guys talk about guitars, music, and recording.
Recently, I can across a newer guitar podcast called Guitar Knobs. As with any podcast, I gave them my 3 episode rule. If you haven’t caught my interest in 3 episodes, I’m done. While I’ve enjoyed all of the episodes I’ve listened to so far, episodes 3 & 4 are particularly good. These episodes are essentially a Q&A session with Mastering Engineer, Chris Graham.
While both episodes are definitely worth your time, especially if your primary venue for recording is your basement, near the end of Part II, Chris made a rather profound statement: “There’s two things you can do when you’re recording. You can sound good or you can sound unique. And very often, unique is better.” Over the next several minutes he elaborates on this statement and offers several classic examples. He discusses everything from the guitar tone on the Beatles’ Revolution (which by all accounts, isn’t a great tone) to Thom Yorke’s continual quest to sound weird.
While driving I thought of several other examples: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is amazing… and it’s totally bizarre. Then there’s U2’s Joshua Tree. It came out when hair metal was at its peak. But, did the Edge go after soaring, finger-tapping-excessive solos? No, instead he used delay in ways no one else had even imagined. A few years later, Nirvana hit the scene and shifted mainstream music from the previously mentioned soaring solos to three chord, heavily distorted grunge. Near the end of that decade, Jack White showed up and launched an entire genre of lo-fi gritty rock. What’s next?
Now the point of today’s article isn’t to list all of the albums or artists that “changed everything”. Instead, I want to focus on how this concept can be applied to home recording. We live in a world where many musicians obsess over boutique pedals, amps, mics, mic-pres, and so on, all in search of the “perfect tone”. But what is the perfect tone? Honestly, I think it’s different for everyone. What sounds good to you may not sound good to me (especially if you’re using metal distortion).
Moving forward, let’s say for a moment that you do nail your perfect tone. What’s the probability that your home recording rig is going to capture it the way it sounds live?
What if, instead of searching for that perfect tone on your next mix, you decided to go for a unique tone? Instead of trying sound like David Gilmour’s Comfortably Numb Solo, you decided to find a tone that is unique to you. How would the final product come out?
The answer is, I don’t know, but I can’t wait to try it out. I’ve got a hunch that when I try to stop sounding like everyone else and start doing my own thing, my home recordings might actually turn into something special. I may not produce the next Sgt. Pepper’s in my basement, but I might actually create a recording of one of my songs that I can be truly proud of.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your feedback and your unique recordings.
Until next time,
You can find the Guitar Knobs Podcast here or on Google Play (which is hands down the best music/podcast service that you should be using).
You can learn more about Chris Graham’s Mastering here.