What Did You Learn This Year?

2012 Dec 24, 2012

One of the best ways to get better at recording or mixing is to learn a few new things, use them like crazy, and then repeat the process. But with so much information out there (good and bad) it’s far to easy to have “learned” hundreds of tips and techniques in a given year, but not really know what you learned.

As this year draws to a close, I’m personally looking back to think about the one, two, or maybe three things that I learned and benefited from the most. I want to cement these in my mind so that next year I can use them like crazy. Sure I may have learned more than 3 things this year, but I can’t remember them all, so instead I’m focusing on three. Today I’d like to briefly list three things I learned, but then I want to hear what YOU learned this year.

Via Alex Flickr

Kill My Pride And Use Reference Tracks

I’ve always known I should use professional reference tracks in the studio, but up until this year I’ve only used them sparingly. Big mistake. Reference tracks give you instant perspective on your recording, mix, or master. They help you know if your bass is out of wack, if your snare drum is too loud, or if your vocals sound muffled. Why do we hate reference tracks? Because we’re prideful. We don’t want to hear how bad we are and think we can do it on our own, without any outside “help.” Ironically, if I want to get better I should simply pull in some other pro tracks and reference them in all three stages.

Be More Subtle On The Mix Buss

I always have a few plugins on my mix buss, but this year I’ve really cut back how hard I hit those plugins. Whether it’s an EQ tweak, a compression adjustment, or some saturation I’ve learned to dial back how much those plugs are actually touching my tracks. Being subtle on the mix buss is paramount because the smallest of tweaks there equates to a massive adjustment since it’s applied to every track in the mix! So now, I simply make the tweak and dial it back further than I think it needs to be and just learn to live with it. Less is more they always say!

Have A Reason For Every Track

In the past I would be prone to record (and use) as many tracks as I thought helpful to a song. I would layer lots of guitar and vocal parts. I would try tons of different tones, thinking it would give me options in the mixing stage. The reality is, mixing is harder, takes longer, and isn’t nearly as clear when you have too many tracks. This year I’ve become intentional about listening to each track in the mix and determining if it should exist at all. If it’s not adding something unique to the song, it’s gone. Plain and simple. In the end I wind up with fewer tracks, fewer EQ problems, more clarity, and better mixes. What a concept!

What About You?

There you have it, the three big things I learned this year. What about you? What one, two, or three tips, techniques, or concepts did you learn this year that are worth writing down and implementing more of next year? Leave a comment and share with the community!

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