Here at The Recording Revolution I encourage and challenge my readers to boldly navigate through all the home recording hype and spend more time making quality music and recordings and less time debating things like tube vs solid state, 44.1 vs 96k, or Mac vs PC. With the New Year just around the corner and people readying their list of New Year’s resolutions, I wanted to suggest a few of my own “revolutions” to both challenge and reset your thinking and change your actions this year when it comes to producing music in the home studio. Here’s to a year of musical productivity and learning in 2010…
Via John Holm Flickr
Don’t Spend Another $100 Without Writing/Recording A Song To Warrant It
Why spend more money on gear this year if it doesn’t help you reach your songwriting or producing goals? Isn’t the point of all this stuff to help us make music? Believe me when I say I know how easy it is to “fall in love” with the gear and forget your love for the art. But don’t let yourself do it. Have a reason for each purchase. Ask yourself a few sets of questions each time you want to make a home studio related purchase:
- Will this help me be more creative and fruitful in my songwriting? (or recording)
- Does this purchase help me accomplish something in my studio that I cannot already do adequately?
- Will this piece of gear (software, book, resource, etc) help me to create better sounding recordings to a noticeable degree?
Learn To Use The Bundled Plugins And Software Your DAW Offers
Most DAW (Digital Audio Workstations) out there today come bundled with some fabulous plugins for your use right out of the box. The unfortunate assumption of many studio owners is that there is an immediate need for third party effects and plugins to get the job done in both mixing and song creation (virtual instruments, loops, etc). This becomes an unnecessary set of purchases that offer a mostly redundant set of features. The truth is, people can and do make fantastic pro recordings and mixes with the included virtual instruments and plugins that come standard. Do you really need 3 compressors, 4 drum machines, and 5 different EQs? The answer is a resounding “no”! It’s a waste of money AND time deciding which one to use. Why not take this year to get to know YOUR bundled software and start making great music for FREE?!
Be Open To Critique
Make this year the year you lower your pride and get your songs and recordings critiqued. What I mean is this…offer up your best recordings to friends, family, and other musicians you respect for an intentional listen (or two or three). Tell them you are trying to improve your craft and you’d be grateful if they would tell you what they think of what they hear. Don’t preface it with “things to listen for” or excuses for what they are about to hear. Simply have them listen to the recording and give you an honest assessment. What YOU are looking for, however, is any trends that appear in the critique. These will be your guide for future projects. Listen for “negative” statements like:
- “It sounds really muffled (or harsh)”
- “I can’t really understand the lyrics” (i.e. it’s hard to hear the vocals)
- “I have to keep turning the volume up and down throughout the song”
And then of course listen for “positive” comments like:
- “It sounds so professional!”
- “I love the chorus, it is so sweet!”
- “It sounds just like XYZ’s latest album”
The key is not to take it personally if most of the comments are negative, and also to not get ahead of yourself if they are all positive. Instead, listen to the comments and see what you can do with them. For example, if a song sounds “muffled” to some listeners then you might need to reassess your overall EQ balance and listening environment when your record and mix. If It’s “hard to hear the lyrics” then you may need to better compress or automate the lead vocal volume. On the flip side, if your listeners really just enjoy the song and are commenting more on the song itself and less on the way it “sounds” to them, then you’re in the right ball park. The average listener doesn’t know why a recording sounds good if it’s good, and they don’t really care. They just want to hear and enjoy the song. So if they’re jamming to “your sweet hook in the chorus” then you’re putting out at least a decent recording!
You Can Do This
If you’re reading this blog then you must care somewhat about making better recordings and creating great music. The New Year is a great time re-adjust your thinking and challenge yourself in the months ahead, so why not start this “revolution” with me and re-think how you approach music making. If you simply implement these three ideas above you will spend less money this year, learn your gear better, and become aware of where you are doing well and where you can improve your recordings this year. You can’t ask for much more!