I can’t stress how important this is. We’ve all heard the phrase “fix it in the mix”. Often you hear this come from someone who is trying to show how good of an engineer they are. Imagine a guitar builder who builds guitars with inherent problems but says he’ll fix it after it’s nearly built and then brags about how good he is at fixing guitars. Why not just get it right the first time? If we stick with the guitar building analogy, at some point all the wood filler and extra glue and such is taking away from the sound of the guitar. It is now much less of a guitar than it would have been had the builder just taken the time to get it right the first time. Recording is so similar. The more you tune a vocal or EQ a guitar, the less it becomes what it really is and could be. Sometimes this is all you can do and you have no other choice, but often if you were really honest you’d agree that more often than not you could go back and re:record.
The rule of thumb is this – when you can’t recapture the vibe or the magic of the recording – run with it. Sometimes the vibe overshadows the short comings of the recording. This often happens with a scratch vocal, sometimes you just get it right with the emotion of the moment before the song is over developed or over thought. Sometimes that means we’re going to have bleed when a guitar and vocal is recorded at the same time. Sometimes that means you didn’t use the “perfect” mic since you didn’t expect to use that take down the road. Again I’ll deal with that any day with a fantastic performance over a perfectly isolated lifeless recording any day.
Bottom line is mixing should be fun. If you take a little more time and get the mic right and the performance right the first (or second or third) time, the record is going to all but mix itself. If you want a great example of this. Check out this video done here at Sweetwater. If you listen to the raw tracks you’ll hear a pretty dynamite recording to start with. All Fab needs to do is put the final touches on the mix and it sounds amazing. Sure he had great gear and great musicians, but knowing how to best use what you have goes a long way in making better recordings.