When it comes to making a great recording or mix, your creativity will get you further than your technical prowess (or lack thereof). In reality these two pillars on which all great recordings are built (creative taste and technical knowledge) are both critical. But at the end of the day, I see time and time again that it’s the creativity pillar that trumps the technical one.
Homemade EP Lands Record Deal
A great example of this is the first EP from the band Fitz And The Tantrums. I was at the recent NAMM show in Anaheim California this weekend and enjoyed a great live taping of Pensado’s Place (with legendary mixer Dave Pensado hosting of course) at the Avid booth. Their guest for the segment was founding member and lead singer Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick.
Pensado was asking Fitz about the band’s debut EP. Turns out Fitz recorded it all himself in his house with an old version of Pro Tools LE (version 6) and one microphone. That EP, Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1, lead to performances on Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, and eventually a record deal.
Limitations Are Not A Problem
Now, I used to use Pro Tools LE version 6 and let me tell you, it can’t even do half the stuff Garageband from Apple can do these days. It was a powerful DAW for basic tracking and editing, but there was no Beat Detective, Elastic Audio, virtual instruments, automatic delay compensation, or high end plugins. Also, the track count was limited to 32 tracks max. Compared to Pro Tools (and other DAWs) today, it’s like baby software.
And yet, that didn’t stop a guy from creating not just demos but full blown productions that propelled his new band to stardom. In fact Fitz mentioned he only now has upgraded to the latest version of Pro Tools. He didn’t care. What he cared about was creating great music that he loved. Mission accomplished.
Just Diving In
Fitz said himself in the interview that to him “creativity trumps technicality” when it comes to recording and mixing. When he produced his debut EP, he didn’t know what he was doing. But he had a specific musical idea in his mind and then got to work in Pro Tools to make that idea a reality.
He describes his editing and mixing work as “sloppy” at best, with chopped up audio missing crossfades, and plugins just being thrown on at random. It seems like a chaotic workflow, but to him it was all about throwing something up and trying it. If he got a great sound with it, he kept doing more of that. This describes discovery in the studio at it’s best.
Don’t Wait Any Longer
I’m not sure what you’re waiting for or what’s holding you back from making the best music of your life. Maybe you’re waiting until you have that magic bullet piece of gear to take your tracks to the next level. Or perhaps you don’t feel you’ve learned enough techniques to make pro sounding recordings. Or maybe you don’t have any deadlines or timelines drawn out.
Whatever it is that is keeping you frozen in your tracks, you must let go. Don’t wait any longer to get busy in the studio. Michael Fitzpatrick didn’t have the latest gear or even great audio training. He did however have some great songs written and a burning desire to make music, to make art. He found a way, and so can you.