Part 2: Lessons Learnt
I made some proper silly mistakes, which threw up learnings. In recording guitars I was initially trying to leave sonic space for other instruments, but it meant in tracks where there were only guitars, bass, drums and vocals, I ended up with guitar sounds that were too heavily mid-focused. With fewer instruments, there really isn't that much need to carve out frequency niches. I ended up rerecording a whole song because it just didn't jell as a whole.
On that note, when it comes to mic placement and recording, I found (and this sounds like such an obvious statement) that you can't EQ the amp for a good sound, stick a mic in front and capture that sound. Firstly, if you're standing in the room you're not hearing what a mic two inches from the cone is hearing. You gotta dial in the guitar tone with the headphones on. If it sounds good there, that's what will be printed.
One thing I really strove for was getting clean, noise-free sounds. I made a big mistake when importing from Audacity (where, actually, the majority of guitars and vocals were recorded) to Reaper because I didn't set the tempo of the destination projects. I did import the click tracks as WAVs, but it meant I only realised I'd made an error when I tried to align waveforms to get rid of phase issues. On multiple-microphone takes of the same guitar track I'd go to align waveforms/transients and I'd have to pull up the click track to fix any timing issues because I couldn't use the grid.
Obviously this is not an issue for subsequent projects I've recorded directly into Reaper. Actually, in Audacity cleaning up spaces where there should be silence is ridiculously easy and intuitive. In Reaper it's slightly more complicated, but there is also more functionality in terms of fading sounds in and out. So, I'd zoom into a vocal track to silence places where there was no singing, split the tracks between ends and beginnings of wave forms and mute the stuff in between. Then I'd use the track volume envelope to even out waveforms (totally necessary for things like the snare track) and get rid of unwanted spikes or dips. The volume envelope is also invaluable for introducing dynamics into sections of songs (making the choruses bigger, etc.).
My recording room has no sound treatment to speak of, but when it came to recording vocals we built a "booth" from a big mattress, pillows and blankets. It's doable. I'm actually pretty pleased with how the vocals came out. In processing I generally applied a little EQ, some delay to fatten, followed by some reverb and then compression. I found that each song required a slightly different setup/intensity of effects depending on instrumentation etc..
When it came to capturing guitars, I followed the usual guidance about recording quite dry and applying any effects other than drives in the DAW. For the most part, the room didn't influence all that. For acoustics, I placed the NT1 condenser a little way off the fretboard-body join, and placed an SM57 on my desk, directed at the body of the guitar by my arm. I was pretty happy with how that dual-mic setup came out, just needing to drag some waveforms around to align peaks and troughs where they were out of alignment.
I'm quite sure I did a lot of things in a painstaking, manual way when there were ways to speed up the workflow, and as time passes I find more ways to work faster, but I actually enjoyed the process of manipulation and constant listening. Just use your ears, is all I can say. I'm probably leaving out plenty because this is a pretty intensive process, so will try to think of more to add soon.