Recording Is A Process Not A Project

2013 Feb 15, 2013

If I’m being honest, I don’t really want to gain experience and spend time building up a recording/mixing skill set. I simply want to churn out pro recordings in my studio now. Period. I’m sure you do too. That’s because we’re such a project oriented culture. We want instant change, transformation, and improvement. We don’t have the patience to go through a process of learning. We only want results.


Via jseliger2 Flickr

Setup For Disappointment

Let me be clear: you can get better at recording and mixing one simple tip, philosophy, and technique at at time. In as little as 5 minutes really. My hope is that you learn something from my website today that you can turnaround and go make better music with right away. But if you really want to make great music in your studio and become excellent at this craft long term, then you mustn’t view recording and mixing as merely a task you can accomplish. It’s a lifelong process.
There’s never a moment when you will have “arrived” and you’ll have learned all there is to learn. There’s no real finish line to shoot for. Thinking that way is so linear and it only leads to disappointment because you won’t ever reach that line. Or if you do reach what you think is the finish line you’ll realize there’s another line just ahead. So close! This creates an exhausting, fruitless search for the “answer” or the “magic bullet” to recording better music so you can check this off your bucket list.

Forget Inquiry, Let’s Meet Standards

There’s a big reason why we don’t have patience to explore the recording arts as a lifelong learning process. It’s called the Industrial Age. After 100+ years of industrialization in many of our nations we’ve been swept into the thinking that we should pursue every course of life as economical and systematized as possible. There’s no room for exploration. In fact, author Seth Godin says it best in his book The Icarus Deception:

We transformed school from a place of inquiry into a facility optimized for meeting standards. This is something the industrial age taught us – that there are answers and that you need the answers in order to succeed. Memorize enough answers and you’re set. – Seth Godin

Does this not ring true for many of you? We are so conditioned from a young age to get the right answers. That leads to better test scores and better grades in school which lead to better opportunities for more school, which can lead to better work when we grow up, which is supposed to make us lots of money and bring us endless happiness.

Well, that conditioning leaks over to the home studio. We get into recording because it is fun and we are artists. But we turn it into an answer seeking mission, rather than a process of musical inquiry and growth.

Redeeming The Process Of Learning

I know that this is a little on the philosophical side today, but stick with me. I want you to make better recordings and mixes. Period. I believe that great music should be captured with sonic excellence and innovation. A bad recording doesn’t do a great song justice. However, in order to get better at this, you need time. Time, and then more time. There really isn’t a shortcut. The only shortcut I can think of is to do more work sooner.

You’re in a process, it’s a fact. So stop fighting it. Stop looking for one line answers to your problems.  Your drums sound flat and dull? Your answer isn’t a plugin or a new microphone. Your guitars sound harsh? There isn’t one solitary EQ move you can do to make them sound warm, lush, and beautiful in an instant.

Stop looking for the magic pill that will cure your crappy recordings disease. Instead embrace the process of getting better, discovering new things, creating new sounds, making mistakes, and trying again. The result? You’ll be happier and ironically you’ll get better!

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