If you’re a producer or recording artist, there’s often no better way to improve at what you you do than to learn about how other successful artists have produced their albums.
While there is no “correct” way to record music and get a great mix and master, there are popular albums that seem to have been recorded just perfectly.
These two documentaries offer a great view into how some of this past century’s most memorable recordings were made.
Muscle Shoals chronicles how a small blue-collar Alabama town became a recording hub for some of the most iconic artists in music history.
Following mostly the story of Rick Hall’s FAME studio, it shows how a handful of local studio musicians calling themselves “the swampers” were able to capture a magic sound that brought everyone from Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett to Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones to Florence, Alabama (of all places!) to make their records.
When Dave Grohl found out that the legendary LA studio Sound City was in bankruptcy, he decided to buy its one-of-a-kind analog board and tell the story of it going from being the most sought after recording studios for rock albums to bankruptcy in the face of digital recording.
When Sound City Studios was established in 1969, they inadvertently had created a fantastic space for recording drums. Against all convention, the large box-shaped room combined with the custom Neve 8028 board had a unique way of mixing drums and other instruments. That sound brought some of the biggest rock acts around, including Neil Young, Tom Petty, Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers to name a few.
Sound City explores how those albums were created as well as what might have been lost in the revolutionary transition from analog to digital recording.
What’s great about both Muscle Shoals and Sound City is that they offer an inside glimpse into how some really great records were produced, removing some of the mystique that can surround getting a chart-topping mix and master. They’re a reminder that getting that magic sounding mix takes the right combination of musicianship, space, gear and a little luck. And, when that mix is just right, it can make for an unforgettable record.