by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:
Anyone doing a demo recording knows that you don’t get much of a chance to get a record exec’s attention. You’ve got to keep your playlist small, and grab attention right away. One way to set your songs apart from all the other noise out there is to add horns and other acoustic instruments. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, your song can sound like Mickey Mouse time pretty quickly. Here are some tips for recording acoustic instruments:
- Particularly with winds or brass, set mic levels as hot as possible without distortion. The goal is to get maximum signal into the computer, so record within a few decibels of distortion.
- Unless you’re recording in a nice hall with gorgeous natural reverb, record the instruments in a room that’s as dead as possible, then add reverb later.
- Ideally, don’t record in the same room as your computer; the fans will be a problem.
- Regarding compression: as little as possible with live acoustic instruments. The better the quality of your recording, the less compression you’ll need to use.
- Regarding reverb: add what you think is right, then cut it in half. With voice, if you can hear it, it’s borderline too much.
These guidelines are very basic, of course, and depend on the kind of recording you’re doing, and what you want as an end result. Get professional advice if possible. As a final piece of advice: if you’re trying to make your instruments sound like the real thing, listen to classically recorded instruments to get a proper picture of what the instruments are supposed to sound like.