If you know me, you know I’m an advocate of saving your money and not buying pointless gear. But in some cases I’ve been a little on the cheap side. Some things are simple studio basics that we all need. Back in my college days I was making enough money to buy what I needed, but I kept the cash for myself and did stupid stuff like what I explain below. Enjoy.
So another week is upon us and I have more confessions of dumb things I’ve done as a recording and mix engineer. Now, I’ve been freelance recording for over a decade now and when I was first starting out, one easy way to make some cash in college was to record a lot of the music major’s senior performance recitals. We’re talking pianists, violinists, and of course vocalists.
I made little fliers all across campus advertising that I had a mobile recording rig and for a flat fee of a few hundred dollars I could give them a “professional” live recording of their recital. People lined up to pay!
Stereo Recording Is Simple, Right?
And it was somewhat true. I owned a simple Pro Tools rig (i.e a laptop and an Mbox) and one condenser microphone. Now, I’m no idiot, and I knew people would want a stereo recording of their concert. So I was in need of one more microphone. Simple, I’ll just borrow another mic from a friend each time I do a recital.
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It’s amazing to me how quickly I can jump to silly conclusions when things go wrong in the studio. Earlier this week I shared a confession about how I recorded an entire album’s worth of drums without ever listening back to the tracks to see how they sounded, and without doing any mic placement. Today I have another bogus drum recording confession. Enjoy!
But The Gain Is All The Way Down
It all started one sunny Florida day when I was setting up mics for a drum tracking session for a talented friend of mine. We had “rented out” a massive empty house with a super cool entry way. It had a nice built in reverb and was the perfect place to record some drums.
The drummer got the kit setup and tuned, I placed mics in some initial spots around the kit, and then we began to get signal levels into my DAW. The drum overheads came first and once I had set an appropriate amount of gain on the preamps I moved on to the close mics, namely kick and toms.
The moment I asked the drummer to give me some kick drum hits I noticed something strange: I was getting a ton of signal into my preamp and DAW, even though the gain knob was all the way down. In fact, at times the kick drum was even clipping.
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Newsflash: I do dumb stuff in the studio and have made a ton of mistakes over the years. Today I have another classic mixing fail for you. When I was first introduced to the concept of using a reference track in the mixing process, I thought it was great because virtually every time I referenced a track, my mix sounded better than the pro mix. At least it did in my home studio…
I’m not sure if you know this or not: I’m not the world’s greatest audio engineer. In all seriousness, I spend a lot of my time teaching people like you how to record, mix, and produce music in the home studio, but that doesn’t somehow make me some super engineer that knows it all.
I’m just a home studio guy, like many of you, who has learned a lot over the years, made a lot of mistakes, and continues to hone this craft. I’m proud of the work I do and the mixes I create for clients, but today I’d like to get real with you guys.
Some Of The Dumb Things I’ve Done
Today I’d like to start a brief little series of articles and videos called “Confessions Of An Engineer.” Over the next couple of weeks I want to share a handful of the dumb (read: amateur) things I’ve done in my home studio adventures over the years.
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This lesson comes from Ben Sword, founder of Music Marketing Classroom…with an excerpt from the “Superfan Building” module of their training. Click here for the whole shebang >>
OK - so recently you might have heard a lot of people saying that you need to be on social media “Engaging” with your fans…
…but the mission of this lesson is really to show what on earth that means, the practical steps of how you can do it each day, and the benefit it’s going to have for your music promotion.
First off…WHY Should You Even Bother?
This is a question that was also bouncing in and out of my head for a while until I discovered “Check Move Theory”.
This concept tells us that the more positive interaction (or “Check Moves”) fans take with the artist, the closer the connection will be…
…and that will ultimately lead to more support, whether that be financial or just help with promotion bringing in new fans by word of mouth.
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What if you don’t know anything about sales or marketing? How do you get your music out to more people and how to do you make money off of your music so you can continue to make albums and be creative, maybe even make a living?
Here are some thoughts…
People Pay For The Value You Create
At the end of the day all income or money is generated by someone adding value to someone else’s life. Business and sales are simply the art of creating value in the lives of others. Whether it’s selling you a car that helps you get to work or selling you a great meal at a beautiful restaurant, each add value to your life. The music business is no different.
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I’ve been fascinated in recent years at the ongoing debate about whether or not musicians can still charge for their recordings. There is a lot of data on both sides of the fence and many artists from the bedroom rocker all the way up to major label bands taken a stance.
For my most recent EP release I decided to try an experiment of my own to see first hand if there was any merit to giving my music away for free. The results are fascinating.
Name Your Price Isn’t The Same As Free
Now I wanted to offer my EP to people for free. But I didn’t want to say it quite like that. I made the important distinction of offering my EP with a “Name Your Price” option. Sometimes this is called “Pay What You Want” but it’s exactly the same thing: a subconscious suggestion.
If I said my EP is “free” then I know exactly how much money I’ll make off it: $0. But when I say “Download my EP and name your price (or pay what you want)” there is a subtle shift in mindset that happens. The customer knows that technically they can download it for free, but part of them feels like the really should pay something.
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Every time I complete a recording or mixing project I try and take a moment to sum up what I learned from the process. This week I released my latest solo EP, The Tree and I’ve enjoyed sharing it with many of you, hearing feedback, and celebrating the completion of a 3 month journey.
But today I want to point out a few lessons I learned along the way in hopes that it will encourage you to keep learning and stay humble!
Drum Editing Isn’t Always Necessary
Now I could have told you this years ago. If you have a talented drummer who is fairly comfortable playing to a click track, drum editing isn’t always needed. In fact, my mantra has been to only edit if you need to. Otherwise leave it alone. But truth be told, I actually love drum editing. In fact, there’s some addictive quality to using Beat Detective to snap transients to the grid. I know, I’m weird.
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On Monday I released a brand new EP and along with it a little documentary showing you behind the scenes process for this project. If you missed the first part of the documentary, check it out here. Today I have the final half for you. This inside look into my recording and mixing process will hopefully encourage you to go make some music of your own, or to finish that latest project.
And of course, if you’d like to check out my new songs go here and download the EP. Name your price and get to listening!