Why Gear Doesn't Matter
Don’t get me wrong – like all my fellow audio peeps I’ve spent an unbelievable amount of hours reading online about mic choices, the newest preamps, and finding the cheapest deals on Musician’s Friend. The amount I’ve learned through forums & Pensado is staggering. I would not be making records the way I am today if these resources didn’t exist.
However – the most valuable piece of gear I ever bought for my studio was recommended by a friend who is one of the main engineers at Sonic Ranch. Want to know what the magic piece of studio gear is?
A water dispenser.
Yup, that’s right – a water dispenser. I know what you’re thinking: “how does a water dispenser help my vocal sound?”. It doesn’t. And when Jerry recommended it I didn’t take him seriously at all. But when I bought my studio’s first water dispenser, everything changed. It wasn’t really about the water dispenser, it was about the mindset that came with it.
When you are producing music for someone (or engineering, editing, mastering…) it’s extremely easy to get lost in this bubble of things that, don’t get me wrong, are valuable and useful, but in the grand scheme of things are useless if there’s a bigger problem in your workflow or session atmosphere. I’ve seen engineers in sessions slave for an hour over the details of compressor release settings (with the singer in the room), not realizing that the singer was just in a shitty mood and just wanted to get something off their chest. Music is so personal and intimate; the atmosphere in which things come together is so important, much more important than how you’re placing mics and your newest Waves plugin settings.
Next time something in your session isn’t quite sounding right, take a quick look around you and feel the vibe of the people in the room. Often there’s tension somewhere. Maybe someone can’t get their headphones on comfortably and is too shy to ask you to fix them. Maybe the artist wants to take a break but sees how intense you are and tries to power through with you. Maybe someone just wants a cup of tea and a heart-to-heart about the rough week they’ve had. It’s your job to feel that out, and trust me, you’ll be happy when you have your sweet ass water dispenser (with a hot water knob for tea if you were as lucky as I was on Craigslist) to get the conversation started.
Gear matters – but the people behind the music matter more.