redwood recording studios

An Introduction To Redwood Recording

The Location

Recording is hard. I don't mean that it's hard to set up microphones and route signals and push buttons. Yes, there are years of knowledge that one has to acquire, and some basic physics that one needs to understand, but with experience and good equipment the engineering of a recording isn't such a terribly difficult thing. No, I mean that for a musician, recording can be a serious pain in the you-know-what. Believe me, I know this. Haven't you ever noticed as a musician that when a performance is being recorded, you never play your best? Worse yet there's that feeling, after about 3-4 attempts at something, that you'll never be able to play it. Suddenly your mind is thinking about what you ate for breakfast, whether you remembered to lock your car, that movie you just saw, and damn...there goes take 5. I've spent twenty years getting to know these feelings, and I've learned several tricks over time to minimize them. The best I've found so far is to record in the middle of a secluded redwood forest, in a beautiful (and beautiful sounding) room overlooking the trees, far from any distractions.

This is the idea behind Redwood Recording Studios. To get here, you have to climb a twisty road up into the Santa Cruz Mountains, leaving all thoughts and cares of daily life behind you. Recording here is more like going on a retreat than a recording session. Between takes, walk down forest paths which literally surround the studio (which makes fire insurance difficult to obtain), or just relax out on the deck and enjoy the silence. If anything can help to focus the mind for the difficulties of recorded live performance, this is it.

The Manifesto

The thing that interests me most about recording is the elusive goal of capturing the energy and sound of a live performance, with special emphasis on the way a band sounds on a stage to the musicians who are performing the music. As a young musician attempting to record my various projects, I was almost always struck by the lack of energy and "life" in our carefully-recorded, overdubbed sesions. Live recordings were sometimes the exception, but the rooms often sounded boomy or boxey, and the equipment used to record live shows was usually not so hi-fi, to say the least. Despite this however, there was something about live shows or even recorded rehearsals that sounded more authentic to me, more alive.

Over the years, I've come to believe more and more in a certain "less is more" theory of recording. I'm pretty disinterested in baffles and drum shields, isolation booths and drumsets with a dozen microphones, and I'm especially uninterested in massively overdubbed recordings, with each musician playing in their own separate world, sound space, and time. The product of such sessions often sound to me like many musicians playing in their own separate world, sound space, and time.

For some styles of music and/or some projects, this style of recording may be required, but more often than not I believe it's used as a crutch both for the bands without the experience to control the sounds and combined mix of their own live instruments, and for the engineers who fear the lack of control that's inevitable with any live, multi-instrument recording. In a live recording, if one instrument bleeds into another you usually can't fix a mistake by either instrument without a noticeable change to the mix, and if the cymbals bleed into everything else (which they will), then there's no going back. Take it or leave it. Future repairs to a bad instrumental track, typically performed with surgical precision on any close-mic'd carefully controlled recording, are virtually impossible.

I gladly sacrifice the control that clinical studio practices provide for the unique, otherwise unattainable sound of multiple instruments playing together in the same room at the same time - multiple overtones mixing and twisting around each other and together to create what so many live musicians love most about music...it's not separate musicians or separate instruments, but rather a single, combined sound: a band, performing a song.

The Equipment

If you'd like to get more of a sense of whether Redwood Recording Studios is right for you, please do click on to the next topic of conversation...

the recording equipment