How to enjoy recording with headphones
It’s something I’ve struggled with when I’m in the studio playing on a record date. How do you get that “live” feeling of response in your instrument when you’re playing bass through a tiny set of headphones? and ultimately how do you enjoy recording with headphones?
It’s been a long road of trying to figure it out, but my recent session with Bob Reynolds and John Mayer in NYC was probably (and thankfully!) the best cue mix I’ve ever managed to dial up. We had individual mixers so we could adjust anything we wanted at any time without having to ask the engineer, and I was using some Ultimate Ears custom moulded in-ear monitors, so I think that was really helping.
The reason I came up with writing a blog post about this topic is the Kurt Rosenwinkel video below the text on this page. As I was watching him play his solo in the studio I was thinking how unfazed he is by the studio environment, and that his sound, note selection, and time feel are no different in the studio than they are live at the Vanguard in NYC. That’s something I admire in anyone who can nail it in a studio environment, and it’s a concept that people who don’t work in the studio very much often overlook, and rarely amass the experience to fix. Shit, it’s taken me over 15 years to start getting it right for myself! And it’s quite a specific thing for bass players (I’m afraid that’s pretty much the only instrument I really have experience enough to report on…) with trying to recreate that low end and moving of air that occurs when you play live with a speaker cabinet close by. When I was in the studio last month my amp and cabinet was in the next room, and when Mayer showed up the second day I got booted to a room even further away so he could use the main amp booth. I was reliant entirely on the headphones, and it was really satisfying to finally get it right and be comfortable enough to play exactly the way I wanted.
I highly recommend investigating in-ear moulds if you’re recording a bunch, and even the cheaper generic buds if you don’t want to burn the money on a set of custom moulds. The more conscious you are of the process the sooner you might reach your goal of enjoying recording with headphones!
But check out this burning session with Kurt Rosenwinkel in the studio in Portugal, and maybe you’ll see what I mean in terms of him being himself and not being hindered by the studio environment at all. leave me some comments and let me know what your studio headphone preference and setup is, and also if you’ve found a way to enjoy recording with headphones! I would love to hear some different stories.