The fast tempo, distorted and captivating riffs, dominant power chords, and shouted vocals are some of the most common traits of punk music. To be a punk lover means that rules don’t restrain you, and you can get creative without abiding by constraints.
But what about recording punk music? Are there some punk recording techniques that you need to stick to because they’re better than the rest?
If you’re a punk lover, you’re definitely in the right place because, in this article, we’ll discuss the most successful punk recording techniques and how you can make the best of your recording session. So, keep on reading to learn more about them.
Why is Punk Challenging to Record and Mix?
All the massive drumming, overwhelming vocals, and out-of-this-world guitar tunes that characterize punk and other heavy music genres are the exact reason why this music can be more challenging to record and mix. When these audio components are treated carelessly, your music will end up underwhelming, which is the opposite of what every punk fan wants to achieve.
During your recording and mixing sessions, you want to highlight these outstanding elements and bring them out in balance. Fine-tuning the sounds of every instrument and vocal element and combining them in the right mix will deliver the effect you want to create with your punk music.
What are the Best Punk Recording Techniques?
The purpose of your recording session is to bring all the sounds in harmony and not to make them fight with each other and cancel each other’s effect. When not done right, your music might sound muddy and distorted or too polished that it no longer sounds like punk.
The ideal balance will help the guitars shine out without fighting with the vocals and will still show off the drums without being too overwhelming. Although there are several differences between old-school punk rock and modern 2000’s pop-punk, there are several techniques that can be used with several punk subgenres to bring the essence of the music.
In any punk song, drums tend to move fast, and your job is to bring them out. You can use a high-pass filter to remove any low-end noise.
This is not what you would do with a kick drum, where you would typically boost the lows around 60Hz. Instead, you can boost your drums around 100Hz, and stop before around 250Hz. Exceeding the range can make your music sound too muddy.
For the beater, you need to highlight the mid-range around 1 to 4kHz, with a special emphasis around the 5 to 8kHz range, while staying away from the 10 to 12kHz range. Increasing the equalizer range will make your sound too polished, which is not desirable in punk.
Every instrument needs a unique equalizer setting to bring it out. For the snare, you need to use a low-pass filter while showing the crack between the 2 and 4kHz range. For the tom drum, you can either cut the midrange around 800 and 1000Hz or leave it to add a unique vibe. For the cymbals, you need to boost the tunes above 6kHz to add brightness to your music. Adding a low-pass filter will eliminate harshness.
The most recognizable trait of punk is using distorted guitar tunes, but the Equalizer comes here to remove the unwanted resonances without making the guitar sound too polished. This can be done by automating your EQ settings to make sure they work for your performance.
Start by applying a high-pass filter as high as 80Hz, so it doesn’t affect the frequency of the lowest strings. At the same time, it will remove any unwanted low ends that make your music unbalanced. You should also pay attention to multiple guitar tracks in your song, as each one of them needs specific settings, even if they were all played by the same guitar.
Although distortion is one of the most known traits of punk, too much distortion can make your music sound fuzzy, especially when they interfere with vocals or cymbals.
Although there are multiple punk subgenres, the bass usually needs to sit under the kick drum. This is why you need to clean any unwanted hum or buzz using a high-pass filter. You should fill the range between 200 and 600Hz to bring out the bass. If the bass seems overpowered by the guitars, add more noise between the 1 and 2kHz range.
The vocals in punk should show a strong attitude and emotions, so the vocalists aren’t always focusing on proper microphone placements, so recording and mixing can be more challenging. You can use a high-pass filter to remove any room noise. You can also bring out the aggressiveness of the music by highlighting the midrange around 1 and 5kHz.
The Best Punk Recording Engineers
If you want to get inspired, there’s nothing better than following up with some of the legends who made punk sound the way it does today. These recording, mixing, and mastering engineers worked with punk and knew how to bring out its magical elements.
The American audio engineer and mixer worked with some of the most famous names in the world of music, including Steve Winwood, U2, OMD, The Rolling Stones, P!NK, Avril Lavigne, and Marilyn Manson. He started out as an assistant to his older brother, Chris Lord-Alge, who also worked as a sound engineer, and ended up receiving 3 Grammy Awards.
The multi-talented sound engineer is a record producer, music journalist, and band member. He’s famous for his work with various acts like Nirvana and The Pixies and also for his outspoken views about the music industry. He has been known for his passion for stretching the boundaries of musical instruments, especially the guitar.
This record engineer and producer has worked with some of the most famous rock and punk bands, including Kyuss, Coheed and Cambria, Parkway Drive, and Bad Religion. He started by playing the guitar in New York and later managed to work his way up by working at several local studios.
Everything that makes punk as thrilling as it is will make it also more challenging to record and mix. With the tips we’ve explained in this article, we guarantee that your recording session will be more fun and rewarding.
Of course, as a punk lover, you know that you don’t have to stick to the rules because punk is all about breaking away from the norms. So, get creative and experiment with various settings to find what works for you.