No Sound is an Island!!

Kenny’s Tip of the Day - No Sound is an Island!!!

One of the most common rookie or novice mistakes you can make (and we have all done this) is go for the best sound possible on the track you are about to record.

Whether it be Bass, Guitar, Piano, Vocals or even Drums. While Drums might be the first thing you record, it’s rarely the most important thing you’re going to record. So why treat it as such?

What I’m getting at is that sound does not exist in a vacuum. Many people try to treat it this way by creating space for each sound in the mix. But it doesn’t really work that way. Nor should it work that way either.

Everything reacts to everything else. So a Piano that sounds great when you turn on the mics to get your piano sound, might sound terrible in the arrangement and the song that you plan on placing it in.

How often have we found a great Kick or Snare sample only to find that it doesn’t work with the song or production that you just plopped it into?

In the beginning, it will be hard to know what will work where, until you experiment. Get the sound you think you want and then put it in the track you need it in very quickly and get a really good mix. If it’s not working in that context, CHANGE it. Don’t wait for the mixer (whether it’s you or someone else) to figure out how to make it fit.

Make it work now. Try something else. The part you’re adding must work in the context of THIS song. Otherwise, why add it at all?

Over time, your ear will be trained to understand the sound you need. A really big Acoustic Guitar (frequency wise) isn’t going to sit well in a 100+ track dense arrangement. You need to thin it out. Reduce the mud and bring out the percussive quality of it. And it makes sense to do this right away so that you can judge the finished product.

Thinking you’ll “fix it later” can lead to realizing that this particular sound doesn’t sound very good thinned out or treated like that. Maybe a different guitar would have been the better choice.

All of this leads back to my basic premise that no sound is an island. When you’re making a delicious meal, who cares what the salt tastes like on it’s own. Or the garlic or the oregano. The ONLY thing that matters is how it enhances the rest of the meal. And it’s exactly the same in audio. Every sound or sonic picture is meant to serve the song. A great sounding snare drum means absolutely nothing if it’s not the right snare for this song.

That’s why, even if you’re just going for a drum track, it’s better to have the whole band playing along. Even if you’re not keeping the Bass, Guitars and Vocals, it’s much better to have them playing along. Listening to everything. To make sure the Drum sounds are going to work in context with the rest of the band. A great drum sound is a drum sound that works for a specific song. Not by itself.

You can learn more by watching my tutorials at

I hope this finds you. Well… Kenny Gioia