When working on a given project, I often find myself reaching for all the different tools I have to work with. It makes sense doesn’t it? Why am going to keep this midi controller here if I’m not going to use synth pads, organs, effects and other virtual instruments? Why shouldn’t I add some piano parts? I’ve got basically unlimited tracks too, why not double track 3 guitar parts and pan them all crazy like for a giant wall of sound? Then acoustic guitars… then vocals… then a bunch of back ground vocals… Yeah! Lets do it!
NOT! I have learned from my last few projects that less can and most of the time WILL be “more”. The song I am currently working on really is teaching this concept moreso than others. So I got a basic format laid down. A single acoustic guitar, one rhythm and one lead electric, a B3, bass, drums and vocals. It’s really not a lot going on so far. At the end of my last recording session I was right about to add some piano parts and guitar over dubs but I had to leave for work, so I bounced a stereo file and converted it to MP3, put it on my phone and took off in the car. (the car test is kinda my bench test because I’ve listened to music in there so dang much I know how it should sound)
To put it quite simply I was blown away by how great the track sounded, even in the beginning stages and as an MP3. Tight bottom end, full sounding mids and just a bit of sparkle. I decided that there was no need for anything else other than the BGVs and a final vocal track. It’s still hard backing off from some piano but it sounds so clean to me and I like the simple feel and lack of muddyness.
Moral of the story is, if you find your tracks super busy, complex and muddy, maybe you’ve simply got TOO much crap going on. Isolate the basic feel and direction of the song and ask yourself if there is anything that can come out without affecting that direction. You would be surprised how far you can get with just a few well recorded, well performed tracks. This might not always be the right tactic but it helps sometimes when your song feels cluttered. Hope it helps you guys. It’s sure helped me!