The art of recording music obviously involves the intersection of technical skills and creativity. It's certainly this juncture that fascinates many of us, and has lured us into a life of placing microphones, tweaking settings, and moving faders (real or virtual). It's a passion that involves constant listening, learning, and diligence. But it is also an art that does not lend itself well to the current, internet-driven style of learning.
If I want to learn how to replace the battery in my laptop I can find information on the web, of varying qualities, but most will contain correct information. There's only one goal in mind: the process is linear and should always result in the same, exact conclusion, which is a new battery properly installed in my laptop. I search out the information, perform the task, and the problem is solved.
But when I'm trying to record and create music, is this an appropriate way to learn? Should I be watching a video about capturing only one kind of snare drum sound? Will a lone comment in a forum thread lead me to the best bass recordings ever? Of course not, and in most cases one is likely to stumble across a process that will yield undesirable results for the situation at hand.
These days I meet so many engineers and self-recording musicians that are piecing together their skill sets from a variety of sources. They learn from streaming videos, forums, books, online tutorials, blogs, podcasts, and even, uh, magazines like this one. That's one way to compile a lot of information, but I worry that people might be going about it in the wrong way. I am concerned that they attempt to solve each recording problem one at a time, and that they then consider the “problem solved.” I think this is a dangerous part of this “new” process of learning.
When I first started working on my online video courses for Lynda.com, I resisted the idea of showing how I mic'd drums, or how I would mic an acoustic guitar. But then I realized these courses would just be certain scenarios that would work for others some of the time. I wasn't trying to create a full-fledged course with every possible mic'ing technique and mixing trick, rather I was simply augmenting existing information. It is my hope that these will be a part of the curriculum someone is learning from, where maybe a few questions will be answered for the learning recordists, and that they'll find other knowledge in additional and different ways. One needs to learn from as many sources and resources as possible.
Capturing and presenting a successful recording is a process involving many constantly moving targets. An adept recordist needs to be on the perpetual lookout for what isn't working in a tracking session, overdub, or in a mix. Knowing how to do any part of the process in only one way means they have abandoned many other possibilities. But being able to listen deep into a recording, and make choices on sounds by drawing from a wide palette of experience, is what makes a recordist great at their job.