The Temptation To Try Every Technique

2012 Dec 28, 2012

Here’s a piece of advice for your next recording or mixing session: don’t try every new trick or technique you’ve recently learned. Instead pick one or two major things you want to try and experiment with those. The temptation is to use every great idea you’ve discovered or heard of, at once. And while I’m all for experimentation, I’m also a firm believer in limiting your options. Here are a few reasons why this mindset will help your tracks.


Via Michael Flickr

It’s Hard To Know What Made The Difference

Let’s say on your next recording project you decide to try a lot of new things in the hopes of getting a better sounding track. Perhaps you intend to record at a 96kHz (instead of your usual 44.1), use a new drum mic placement method, switch the impedance on your mic preamps, and record your band live instead of overdubbing like you usually do. And imagine that at the end of the day your recording sounds the best it’s ever sounded. Great! But one question, which of your new techniques really made the biggest difference if at all?
You don’t know. That’s the problem. Obviously what you did worked, but what about it worked? Was the sample rate switch really a game changer? Or did simply moving the mics on your drum kit make all the difference? We don’t know! And not knowing is a handicap because you won’t know much more for next time. Instead if you simply chose one or two of those techniques, you’d have a better clue as to what makes a difference. Then try the other two the next time.

It’s Hard To Stay Focused

If you go into a recording or mixing session with 10 different things you want to try, you’ll never be focused. You’ll be jumping all over the place tweaking knobs, trying to tell if you hear a difference or not. Your final results will sound just as distracted and disjointed as you were in the studio. Imagine trying to mix a song while thinking about 31 mixing tips. It’s insanity! At least all at once it is.

If, however, you decided to pick two new techniques for mixing on your next song, you could focus on the actual song with plenty of focus and still introduce new concepts to your mix. The techniques would serve the song, not the other way around. Focus is such a critical part of anything in the studio, so don’t let new techniques (or even worse, new gear) get in the way.

It’s Hard To Stay Motivated

Finally, think about this: if you go into a new recording or mixing session with a laundry lists of new things you simply “must” try, you’re easily setting yourself up for disappointment. What if some of those techniques don’t work out at first? You feel inadequate, like there’s something wrong with you. Sometimes a tip or idea looks so easy in a video tutorial, but just doesn’t pan out (no pun intended) in real life, for you. It’s OK, you’re not weird.

But overtime, with enough focus and attention you can easily implement much of what you learn into your sessions. But if you try all at once and much of it doesn’t work out, you get frustrated and impatient. Frustration and impatience lead to a lack of confidence and motivation. And might I submit to you that a lack of confidence and motivation leads to poor mixes, every time.

On Your Next Project

Do yourself a favor: on your next recording or mixing project, decide ahead of time what one or two techniques you’d like to try and commit to those. Experiment like crazy with them. Take note of what you discover. At the end of the projet listen back and decide if those tips/tricks/techniques helped or hurt your results. Then rinse and repeat the process with more techniques the next time. It’s a much more reasonable way to work, honestly.

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