Paul White has become a bit of a celebrity on our magazine of late. His articles on recording and studio integrity have been hugely successful and, we assume, have helped a lot of people sort out their priorities when it comes to recording.
Although we don’t normally publish book reviews, then, we thought it only proper that we take a look at his new tome The Producer’s Manual, and tome it is, weighing in at a highly informative 352 pages and published by Sample Magic.
It’s a full-colour glossy book that intersperses photos, highly informative diagrams and Paul’s advice very neatly and clearly – the kind of thing that first-time producers would do well to read cover to cover, but also a reference manual to dip into for anyone from the lowliest aspiring amateur to the seasoned pro. That’s not an exaggeration either – some of the tips in this book will be surprising and helpful revelations to even veterans of the (analogue or digital) circuit.
Everything is ordered in a readable and sensible way – the initial chapter on the history of recording gives us some grounding in what we’re trying to achieve and what others have achieved, and is worth a read generally to anyone who wants to apply true context to their own endeavours.
Then we look into ‘classic kit’, and while this is half an exercise in drooling and day dreaming, it’s also a nice way of understanding how technology has progressed, and goes a long way to explaining why, ooo, let’s say 80 per cent of modern accomplishments have been focused on recreating a golden age of recording in both analogue and digital tributes to the original gear. I’m guessing that the core demographic this is aimed at are those who are still in their bedroom working their way towards a project studio, or those who have money to burn and can get fully kitted out at a moment’s notice. Happily, the book doesn’t give advice exclusively to those of you packing the best equipment – when discussing recording the compiled articles will refer to a ‘large capacitor mic’ for instance, rather than a particular model.
Still, there are certainly tips on what kind of thing you should be buying, all unbiased of course. The chapter on The Studio and its Kit suggests various possibilities in terms of the general area you should be shopping in, and also takes broader looks at the setup of your room.
Once you’ve soaked that up – although you’ll likely have your own ideas anyway, it’s more just a ‘filling in the gaps’ chapter – you’ll be getting into the bulk of the book, which takes you through the effective recording of anything you can think of: Vocals, electric instruments, acoustic instruments, percussion and so on. This section is also prefaced by a chapter on acoustic treatment too – no stone left unturned etc.
If you’re already feeling comfortable in that area, then you’ll likely still be very chuffed with the following sections on EQ, compression, delay, reverb, pitch correction and so on – it doesn’t matter which DAW you’re using, because the chapters concern themselves with the science behind them and practical tips for using them within your recordings. Some of it’s written in long-form, but some parts are instead partitioned off into step-by-step guides with a photo accompanying each stage – as I say, whether you’re a Cubase, Pro Tools or Logic user, a curve is a curve, so you won’t be missing out on information and help if you’re using something that Paul isn’t.
Each of the aforementioned recording possibilities covered in earlier chapters – vocals, guitars, acoustic instruments and percussion – than have their own dedicated chapter on production, so you’re not left floundering after you’ve actually pulled off the recording! Again, there are a lot of little tips here that might have gone under the radar when you first learned production technique, so this is worth pouring over – who knows if there’s a menu option you’ve never used before that could completely reinvent the way you work?
Then there are pre-mixing duties, mixing and mastering chapters. They’re not huge, but because a large part of these end stages entirely go on what you’re hearing and what you like, all Paul can do is give pointers in terms of what to watch out for, figuring out what you want and making your workflow more efficient. In fact, that’s another reason this book is so worthwhile – you can make the best of your recording sessions and work faster if you know exactly what you’re doing and have the confidence to make editing decisions, so even if you’ve been doing this for years I’d urge you to have a gander.
At the back is a comprehensive glossary of terms which is always handy, especially if you’re only just starting in production. Along with the index, it rounds out the book nicely.
I found myself going “oh RIGHT” on multiple occasions while working through this book – there’s a lot in here that I’d simply never investigated or thought to investigate, and it’s improved my production knowledge no end. You’ll likely find a similar moment of revelation if you work through everything here, but equally it’s a good safety net when you’re out of your production comfort zone – a great many of us falter when we finally get that drum room sorted and realise we’re not 100 per cent sure how to actually record a snare properly.
So, Paul will continue to write articles on a regular basis for DV Mag, but if you want the foundation principles to hand, this is an invaluable book.