The Fastest Way To Improve Your Engineering, Songwriting, And Performing

2013 Feb 25, 2013

Want to be a better recording or mix engineer? Of course you do. What about a better songwriter, or musician in general? That would be nice too. Is there some secret method to get better? Nope. Is it simply a life long journey of trying and failing? Yes. But it doesn’t have to a take a lifetime to get better.


Via Defence Images Flickr

Recording 12 CDs In 12 Months

Recently one TRR reader passed along this article on CDBaby about an artist named Mr. Billy. He does rock music for kids. Awesome. What’s crazy though, is that recently Mr. Billy decided to write, record, mix, and release 12 albums in a year. That’s 12 full length albums, each with roughly 12 songs. 144 songs people! That’s insane! You should read the whole article because this guy totally embodies the Recording Revolution mindset. But listen to what he said as he summed what lessons he learned in the process:

Interestingly, my songwriting, production and especially my vocal skills improved with each CD…crazy huh? The more I did, the more I could do. – Mr. Billy

Did you catch that? The more music he made, the more music he could make, and the more he improved. That’s exactly how we get better. By doing a large body of work. It’s the only way to improve, and most people will give up too soon. But the other mistake we could make is to not move fast enough, to put out only a little bit of music here and there. If we really want to get better faster, we need to put out more music faster.

Don’t Be So Hung Up On Perfection

You may have heard the famous Jim Collins quote: “Good is the enemy of great.” The idea is this: if we are quick to settle for good (performance, skills, achievement, etc) then we won’t pursue great. We’ll never quite get there because we were too easily satisfied with only being good. But with recording and mixing I think the phrase really should be flipped around. “Great is the enemy of good.” Our pursuit of amazingly perfect tracks takes us away from actually making good tracks, and we end up with bad sounding tracks.

I’ve written about the 85% solution before and it’s worth repeating here. Don’t shoot for a 100% perfect recording or mix. You’ll never get it. Instead shoot for 85% of the way there. It’ll be solid, you’ll be happy, and it’s way better than giving up and having nothing to share with the world. That’s part of what Mr. Billy embodied in this ambitious project. He recorded tracks quickly, efficiently (mostly on an iPad), and simply. He didn’t have time to over-tweak or obsess about gear. He just made music.

Could Mr. Billy have produced better tracks if he had more time? He doesn’t seem to think so. And in fact Mr. Billy says his imperfect albums are actually selling better than any of previous work:

Are the CDs perfect? No. But are they good enough for my crowd? I think so. IF I had more time would I have done a better job…mmmm… maybe, maybe not.

The funny thing is that many of these CDs are selling way faster and with more consistency than my other CDs. Three of these have hit the CD Baby Top Sellers list… not the genre list, the MAIN ONE! None of my CDs had ever done that before. – Mr. Billy

What Are You Going To Do Next?

Does this sound crazy? Recording and releasing 12 full length albums in a single calendar year? I sure do. But that’s why I love the idea! It’s crazy enough that it gets me fired up. Mr. Billy is a total inspiration to home music makers everywhere. This guy gets it. He spends more time actually making recordings than he does thinking, debating, or talking about making recordings. We should too.

So what are you thinking right now? What challenge or endeavor is tugging on your heart? What project do you keep kicking around the idea of, but never actually taking action? I’ve got mine, and I’m sure you have yours. It doesn’t have to be writing and recording 144 songs this year, but it could be something else just as awesome. You know you want to get better at this craft. Here’s how: make more music!

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