If you’ve been keeping up to date with my articles, you’ll know one thing about me. I’m a bit of a control freak. I talk a lot about “having control”, and “controlled environments”… and that’s because it’s part of my style. I’ve tweaked my techniques to help me feel comfortable, but more importantly I’ve developed my skills to help suit my needs as a producer.
Every aspiring producer has high hopes and dreams of being the next Dr. Luke, but we can’t lose our heads. We have to be practical. We have to think of our livelihoods and how we can build a name for ourselves. Sometimes that may mean compromising some of our beliefs for the overall benefit of our careers.
I’ve gotten a lot of flak for using Melodyne, elastic audio, and using MIDI instead of a real piano. But I wouldn’t change a single thing. As producers, we have to work with the hand we’re dealt. That means if a project comes in and their singer is tone deaf… we’d better be doing our damnedest to make them sound as pristine as possible. If our recordings don’t sound top notch, it’s going to be rough showing our past work to potential future clients. We’ll lose business and create a sub-par resume. Double the negative.
It may seem like you’re cheating, but trust me you’re not. You’re using your skills and the beauty of technology to create something beautiful. If not for you, that singer may never stand alone on his own two legs. Your job is to make artists sound better… that way they can realize their dream. In the process, you’re helping yourself and furthering your own career as well.
Recording technology also works to your advantage when you’re on a deadline. If you’ve booked out a week of studio time, you’ll want to finish all of your sessions on a schedule. If the drummer isn’t nailing his takes, you’ll need to consider punching in and out of problem areas and fixing flubs with elastic audio. Is it really worth it to re-record a fill that can easily be fixed with some quantization? Quantization will take 10 seconds. Re-recording could take hours. Sign me up for quantizing any day!
When it comes to MIDI, there are some fantastic plugins out there that sound like the real deal. I don’t know about you, but I can’t just put $10,000 towards a baby grand. That money would take me a lot further if it were spent on some solid gear and microphones… those I’ll end up using every single session. The piano may sit around for a month or two before a pianist comes through. And even then… are they a solid musician? With my old friend MIDI, I can always quantize!
I know many purists out there are going to disagree with my techniques, and that’s fine. Everyone has their way of doing things. As we build our pedigree, we can get away with more. It’s the reason Justin Timberlake can write a 5 minute song and get away with it, but if Johnny No Talent writes the same 5 minute song it’ll never gain any traction. You have to earn your way to the top… you can’t start there. Then, when you’re at the highest point of the mountain… do whatever the hell you want.