The Beauty Of Not Knowing What You're Doing

2013 Nov 15, 2013

Do you remember what it was like when you first started recording or mixing? When you had absolutely no idea what you were doing? Well, for some of you that might not be a memory, but a current reality. For some of us though, every article we read, every video tutorial we watch, and ever mix we do puts us one step further away from that beginning stage.

Via CollegeDegrees360 Flickr

Tweak Until It Sounds Right

And of course that’s the goal, to move away from being a beginner and instead become a master of your craft. But let me warn you about something. If you get too much knowledge and too much experience you can easily fall into the trap of over thinking things. You believe recording and mixing is a technical endeavor and not an artistic one. 

And therein lies the beauty of being a beginner, not knowing what you are doing. You don’t think, you just act. If things don’t sound good to you, you simply grab some knobs or a microphone and tweak until things sound better. What a glorious concept that is!

Beginners Use Their Ears

The wonderful thing about not having a bunch of technical know-how and sweet mixing tricks up your sleeve is that you have only one thing to rely on, your ears. All a beginner can go off of is what she hears coming back to her out of the speakers. There is only one constant question that drives the entire recording and mixing process: Does this sound like what I want it to sound like yet?

And ultimately isn’t that the most important question? All of the techniques and tutorials in the world can’t help you if you don’t know what you want your music to sound like. Like Dave Pensado told me, “I can teach you how to get a good kick drum sound, but I can’t teach you what a good kick drum sound is.”

Beginners See The Big Picture

When you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t realize all of the small minute details that need your attention. Things like phase, gain staging, headroom, mono, compression ratios, pre fader sends, etc. Not knowing those things can be a problem to be sure. But you know what is a bigger problem? Not seeing the big picture.

Too many of us home studio owners have gotten lost, seeing only trees and not the forest. We forget that it’s a song we’re creating, not a piece of code. We’re shooting for an emotional reaction (and fun), not technical perfection.

Don’t Misunderstand Me

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I am a firm believer in getting as much education as you can. Guess what? I run an online education site on audio recording and mixing. Surprise!

And I understand that one of the hardest things about being a beginner is that you haven’t developed your ear yet. That comes with time, trust me.

But what my goal is today is to get you to think. When you were a beginner, and had no clue what to do with your DAW and your audio interface, there was something magical about that time. You simply were trying to create great sounding music and you would mess with it until things sounded right.

I think we need to get back to that mindset.

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