How to Produce Vocals (Part 5)

Last week we took an insightful visit into bass production. At this point we know what to do with all of our instruments, so now we’ll start making our progression into vocal territory. There are a few simple techniques that will really help your songs to shine, so grab a pen and get ready to start taking some notes on how to produce vocals!


Motifing is something I talk about a lot. But what exactly is it? Motifing is keeping a pattern to your vocals both melodically and syllabically. An easy  example is in twinkle twinkle little star. Think of the line “Up above the sky so high”… it motifs perfectly with “Like a diamond in the sky”. It’s the same melody and same rhythmic pattern. The benefit of this is that your songs are more prone to get stuck in a listening audience’s head. Verses tend to mirror one another, as well as certain lines in the chorus. This way by the mid point in a song, listeners already know what to expect and are more likely to remember the tune. This is how you create an ear worm.

Feel the Emotion

When producing vocals, you’ll want to keep an ear out for raw emotion. Vocal cracks and quivers can actually add a huge dynamic to the vibe of a song. They show a side of human frailty that can hit listeners right in the feels. Always be on the listen-out for for vocal takes that have that extra “special sauce”.

Pay Attention To The Lyrics

When listening to vocals, you’ll want to pay specific attention to what the lines are actually saying. If the first and second lines of a verse are contradictory, ask yourself why. Was it done intentionally? Does it make sense in the context of a song? If not, help your artist to make sense of it. And remember to use a lot of imagery. Don’t just describe something as it is, think back to english class and use those similes/metaphors!

Vary the Dynamics

Remember to match the vocals with the music itself. At softer parts of the song, have the singer sing breathier. At more intense spots, ask them to sing through gritted teeth. This brings a lot to the song. Don’t forget to play around with different vocal speeds as well. If your verses are slow moving, try picking up and singing quicker lines on a pre-chorus. Adding that push and pull can bring some well needed tension into your music.

Background Check

Adding background vocals can really help your songs to pop. Background ooo’s and ah’s can lift a chorus. Lower harmonies can warm things up. Overdoing backgrounds can make songs sound very produced, but some bands are looking for that overly processed sound. Listen for what works with other bands in similar genres, and borrow ideas from different styles. Remember not to throw background vocals on intimate parts of songs, it can really take away from the raw emotion we spoke about earlier.

Next time you’re looking to track some vocals, you’ll want to think of all these things. You’ll be amazed at how some small changes will improve the overall quality of your final mixes. Which techniques are some of your favorites? What else are you listening for when tracking? Leave me a comment below and let me know!


How to Produce Bass (Part 4)

Last week we dug deep into producing guitar. This week we’re going to move into the groovetastic world of how to produce bass. As producers, we’re listening to the songs as a whole and simultaneously breaking down the individual performances of each instrument. We know how important the drums are on a record, and seeing that the bass completes the rhythm section, we have to view it as equally significant. So let’s start reviewing.

Follow the Beater

First and foremost we need to understand that the drums and bass are like peanut butter and jelly. They’re best friends – not meant to be separated from one another. Drums and bass should “lock in”. The bassist should make a conscious note of where the kick drums hit and he should be matching his fingering pattern accordingly. If the kicks are hitting on 2’s and 4’s and the bass is hitting on 1’s and 3’s, we’ve got a problem. Make it match and your songs will sound much smoother.

Don’t Play Lead Bass

I’ve seen it far too often… the bass player in a band is not a bass player. He’s a “lead bass player”. A converted guitarist who hasn’t studied his craft well enough. The bassist is a supporting role – not a main character. It’s meant to pad the songs, not to take over (unless your name is Flea… or Victor Wooten). Have the bass player avoid overplaying and definitely don’t let him solo at inappropriate times. This leads perfectly to the next tip…

Keep it Simple

Although it may sound boring, 99% of the time keeping it simple is key. Bassists may fiddle around for hours trying to find the perfect lick, only to find it muddles the mix in the end. It’s amazing how following the root notes can actually make a song pop. Avoiding too many passing tones is also essential for bassists as they tend to muddy the mix. Chromatic notes on a bass don’t always translate as well as the same line that may be played on a lead guitar. The low end messes with your ears.

Watch The Fills

Fills are terrific. Listen for the drums and try to follow them when you can. Match the toms, hit a harmonic on a cymbal ping, and highlight those embellishments. But don’t overdo it. Fills lose their appeal if they’re played too often, so don’t throw them in after every single chord rotation.

So next time you start tracking some bass, take all of this advice into account. It’ll help save you a headache once you start mixing. Low end is always a problem and you’re always better off tracking things correctly in the first place. What tricks do you like to use when you’re tracking bass? I’d love to hear in the comments below!


How to Produce Guitar (Part 3)

If you’ve been keeping up with the series, you already know what you should be listening for before you even press the record button. You should also be an expert on drums… and today, you’ll be a pro at producing guitars.

Growing up as a guitar player, I’ve always paid attention to the chords, the leads, and every lick in between. But playing guitar and actually listening to the guitar are two completely different concepts. Even the greatest guitar players can use a little guidance when it comes to tracking on an album. A few simple pointers can make an insane difference.

Think of the Listener

Not every guitarist wants to hear it, but they are not the center of the universe. They may have more finesse than Slash, and more licks than Clapton, but are they using them correctly? If you’ve got a guitar player that is soloing throughout the entire song… you’ve got a problem. For the most part, when the vocalist is singing, they should be the focal point. The song needs to breathe. The listener needs time to digest and process all of the emotions in the music. It can cause a real headache if there are too many things happening at once. So please, for the sake of the listeners, keep your guitar players in check.

Listen to the Drums

You should really break things down by instrument. Listen to how each one plays off of one another. Are the drums building? If so, the guitar should follow. Do the drums hit a stop on 3 and the guitar stops on the & of 3? Well, that’s going to sound sloppy on a record. Everyone should be on the same page. Stop together. Build together. Match one another dynamically. This will make for a tighter and more coherent sounding record.

Building the Song

You always want to keep things moving on a record. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it… At live shows, you can keep an audience engaged. We need to find a way to keep them just as focused when they’re solely listening. So how do we do this? Easy, build the song. On double verses, consider adding a lead at the midway point. You could always add extra beats to the strumming pattern as the song progresses, and you can even play more complex chords as the song goes on. There are plenty of ways to move the song, and remember to try pushing forwards. Keep the feel of the song, and build the emotion.

Subliminal Padding

A great way to lift a chorus is with a little thing called subliminal padding. One of my favorite bands that do an incredible job of this is Coheed and Cambria. Why do their chorus’s hit so much harder than the rest of the song? What’s their secret? It doesn’t even sound like the lead is doing anything special! Well, that’s the beauty of it. The guitar isn’t doing anything special. Doubling the rhythm guitars and playing simple octaves that follow those chords is an amazing way to build a chorus subliminally. The audience will feel the song get bigger and they aren’t sure why. This is a great technique to throw into your production portfolio.

Beware the Wall of Sound

Sometimes too many guitars can actually be a bad thing. You’ve heard the term wall of sound, and sometimes it works. But if you allow the guitarists to run the session, 99% of the time they’ll throw as many guitar parts in as humanly possible… It’s in their nature! Your job is to keep things in order. You won’t be able to mix 8 guitar leads at the same time, there just isn’t enough sonic room. So keep things simple… it’ll save you in the long run.

Next time you’re recording guitars, keep some of these points in mind. You’ll be surprised at how much these simple tricks can help. Are there any tricks that you use when tracking guitars? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below, I look forward to talking more! Peace and rock on.


How to Produce Drums (Part 2)

First of all, I’m really excited to be writing this series! I think it’s going to be very beneficial for a lot of my readers, so please feel free to spread the word! I grew up as a guitar player, and when I first started producing all I ever focused on were the chords. I mean drums, really? Are they even that important? When I was 16 I remember saying that a good song is always going to be a good song regardless of what the drummer is doing. (I also thought Bulbasaur was the best Pokemon.) But guess what… I’m not 16 anymore. I grew up. I learned a LOT about music. Drums can absolutely make or break a song… and more importantly Charizard would obliterate Bulbasaur in a battle. Here are a few non Pokemon related tips to help you out when you’re looking to produce drums.

The first thing to bear in mind is that you are the conductor. You’re leading the sessions. But you’re not a dictator. Your word is not gold. You give advice, and the band will either take it or leave it. Certain changes may sound weird to a band initially, (especially when they’ve only ever played their songs one way), but if the advice is good, and the band is open to great ideas, you’ll win them over sooner rather than later.


This is easier said than done when you’re dealing with some drummers. My ear is always instantly drawn to the kick drum. When I hear a complicated bass drum pattern that doesn’t match the song, I’m trying to figure out why. I’ll ask the drummer why he has so many kicks, and most of the time he didn’t even realize it. Some other band members are just like a younger me, in the sense that they weren’t overly concerned with what the kick drum was doing. But on a record, these things are important. You’d be amazed at how much a simple 4 to the floor can improve the overall feel of a chorus.

Listen for Dynamics

Again, sometimes drummers have a tendency to get lost in their playing. (Other instrumentalists do too, but when the drummer does it, it stands out so much more.) Listen to the drums in context of the song. Should the drummer be playing on his crash cymbal during a palm muted, vocally driven verse? Or might it sound better if he switches to a closed hi-hat? Sure the ride cymbal sounds cool during the the bridge where the guitar rings outs, but wouldn’t it feel warmer if the drums had more space, maybe half time on the floor toms? Don’t be afraid to experiment with different feels making the drums bigger and smaller as the song opens up and gets softer.

Think of the Listener

This is a pretty interesting idea. Assume you’re writing the record for people who don’t fully understand music the way you and I do. You need to tell the audience what they’re listening to. Make it blatantly obvious. If you’re playing your verses on a hi-hat, switch to an open hi-hat for the pre chorus. Then really open things up with a crash cymbal for the chorus. Not only does it make the songs sound more coherent, but the audience will feel the changes and follow the songs easier. Engaging the audience in such a way will lead to more people grooving to music at live shows. Try it out, you’ll be surprised, and your bands will be highly impressed with this simple piece of advice.

Don’t Be Busy

Stop the drummer from trying to be the center of attention. He’s a supporting character. On drum solos he can go as bananas as he wants, but when the vocalist is singing an intimate lyric, the audience should be focusing on his words. I don’t want to be drawn into a powerful verse, then have it ripped away by a drummer who insists on playing a fill that is completely out of place. This goes for crash cymbals as well. They don’t have to play crashes on every down beat in the chorus, sometimes it works, but usually it’s just overkill.

Transitions are Key

A beautiful transition can lift a verse, make a chorus pop, and improve certain parts of the song. If moving from a verse to a chorus feels awkward, consider changing the drums around. Hitting a stop at the end of a verse is a nice trick that can make a chorus hit hard. Building up to a chorus can really lift it, and sometimes the perfect fill can really solidify select parts of the song. Try out a bunch of different ideas, and always keep in mind, it all starts with the drums. All of the other instruments will build off of what they’re doing.

I really hope you take this advice into account next time you’re looking to produce drums. I’d love to hear some of your experiences, so definitely write a comment. What have you found works when you’re recording drums? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for next weeks article on guitars. Peace and rock on.


How to Produce (Part 1)


The last article I wrote focused on the transition to producer-hood. After writing it, I received a ton of responses from musicians who couldn’t quite see the difference between the two. So today, I’m planning on clearing up some of the confusion.

Someone Who Plays an Instrument

When I talk about musicians, I’m talking about anyone who plays an instrument. Think back to when you first started honing your skills. When you were learning to play scales on a guitar, what was your main focus? I know when I first started the only thing I could think is “Am I even holding this thing the right way?” Then, as I got more comfortable my focus shifted. I started to pay attention to how hard I was pressing the strings. They needed to be held down all the way, or else I’d get fret buzz. Once I got my technique down for holding the frets and picking correctly, I could pick up the speed of the scales and really start grooving. The point is, the more I practiced, the more I could open my mind and see a bigger picture.

Becoming a Musician

When you’re playing alone, your focus is on yourself. So as you make the transition into playing with a band, now you start learning to play with 3 or 4 other guys. You learn to adapt, and you learn that you are not the main focus. You all need to contribute together in order to create something that blends well together. If the drummer wants to play a solo in the middle of every single verse, the only person who’s going to want him around is himself. So he’s stuck as a merely “a drummer”. Every other instrumentalist (including soloists) who can visualise a bigger idea is more of a “musician”.

Using your Musician Skills to Produce

Having an open mind allows you to progress smoothly into producing. It isn’t easy, because as a producer you must give up a ton of control. Some musicians are not comfortable giving up that control, and that’s completely fine. Different strokes for different folks. I prefer guiding others and helping them adapt their skills. (I think it’s the teacher instinct in me.) Using your skills as a musician who can see things from a broader perspective can help others in amazing ways.

Play to the Strengths of Others

One of my favorite things about producing is the talent of the artists I work with. I’m not a drummer. I don’t have an amazing voice. I can’t shred like Slash. But I’m a A+ player when it comes to the basics. So if I’m working with an artist who has an amazing voice, and I hear a beautiful melody in my head, you can rest assured I’m going to share that melody with her. Before she even sings it I’ll have full confidence that she’s going to absolutely kill it. When we have confidence in ourselves and our abilities, and we combine our tenacity with the pure talent of others, the possibilities are awesome.

Think of it like making a movie. The producer is the visionary, the actors are the talent, the crew get the job done, and the writers make it all possible. Find your skills and run with them. Find your passion and follow it. I love producing. I love helping others. And it still allows me to be a creative musician. I’m going to build off this idea in my next series (which will go into exactly what producers are listening for before they even start recording each instrument), so please be on the look out. And as always, thanks for reading. Peace and rock on.


Transitioning from Musician to Producer

So you’re looking to hang up your guitar, jump into that big comfy chair and twist a few knobs around, huh? Well, first you have to make sure it’s the right decision for you. Are you really willing to give up touring and live shows? Can you give up your creative control and allow someone else to take the lead? Do you really want to be the person behind the curtain? If you answered yes to all of these questions, then let your journey from musician to producer begin!


First things first, you can’t just jump into production without some working knowledge of a DAW. You’ll need to learn how to track, edit, mix and master before you get into the actual production side of things. The reason for this is that you want to know how each and every aspect of the process goes. You’ll use this knowledge to your advantage as you take your bands through the entire recording process. Once you’ve mastered your skills as a mixer/engineer, you’ll really need to start studying different genres to tackle the fun that comes with production. 

Leggo Your Ego.

If you want to make it in this business, you can’t have an ego. Let the other guys have theirs, but you’ve gotta be cool. Remember, the bands you’re working with are the stars. You’re just there to help facilitate the process. They get the glory, even if you put in all the work to get them where they need to be. 90% of bands won’t appreciate or even truly know how much you help them out. But don’t get discouraged when this happens. You’ll be building up a portfolio of great sounding songs, and it’ll make you a better producer in the long run.

Become More than a Musician.

To become a producer, you’ll need to acquire some chameleon skin. Most people hear the word “producer” and they automatically jump to the conclusion that this person has no idea how to play an instrument. In 99% of cases, this isn’t true. Most producers have some knowledge of an instrument – but their true genius comes from their knowledge of more than just that. They have a keen business sense… they’re multi-taskers… they can think on their feet… and deal really well with people. They are leaders, inspirational speakers and hard workers all blended together. Being a producer encompasses far more than just playing a few chords.


Never stop hustling. There will always be someone out there trying to be the best. Trying to be better than you. Don’t let them. Push yourself past your comfort limits and do what you can to grow as an artist. Are you killing it on the pop punk front? Then get some bands in that play hard rock. Don’t feel comfortable working with metal? Well, get yourself a few metal heads and record some tasty licks. Don’t just settle for ok. You wouldn’t have done that as a musician, so don’t do it as a producer either.

I hope this article has piqued your production interest. If you’re looking to make the transition, or even to record as a hobbyist, I’d love to hear from you. What have you found to be your hardest mountain to climb? What have you enjoyed or dis-enjoyed? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you and discuss!


Six Tricks for the Perfect Mix

This article will not make you a perfect mixer. There’s not one (or six) trick(s) that can give you a “perfect mix”. If there was, we’d all already sound just like Chris Lord Alge and life would be boring. Every mix sounding the same. This is meant to help you out with a few things I’ve learned along the way. So please read on and hopefully you’re able to take something positive away from my ramblings.

1) Record it Right in the First Place

Personally, I will never take on a strict mixing gig. One of the reasons I avoid mixing projects is because you never know what you’re going to get. Some recordings are straight up unsalvageable. It’s tough to deal with tracks that were played without a metronome, or where a vocalist is out of tune. At these points, you’re talking about doing more editing to save the song than actual mixing. If you do it yourself, make sure you do it right from the get go. Otherwise, you’ll be doing your best to fix someone else’s mistakes and your name will forever be tied to the stinky turd you’ve volunteered yourself to polish.

2) Nothing is Set In Stone

…until it is. That means get funky, get experimental, and get weird! Your mixes are not final until they’re up on iTunes. So have some fun and try out some different effects. If your clients are digging them, fantastic! If they don’t like all the flange you threw on their guitar, that’s an easy fix – just bypass the plugin. Simple as that. Don’t limit yourself because you’re afraid something might sound off-putting. What’s done can just as easily be undone.

3) Hold the Compression

Something I learned very early in my career is that even a light touch of compression can make a world of difference in a mix. You don’t need to slam your drums or vocals with compression, just give it a little tap tap taparoo. You’ll be impressed with how much you can do with so little.

4) Practice Your Craft

Yes of course you should be reading blogs, (cough cough, like this one), but what you should really be doing is practicing every chance you get. Just because someone loves one technique doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Look at my compression example – it’s something that works for me in most cases. I never go too heavy on my compression. But if you go through my catalog of songs, there are a few tunes I’ve doused with heavy loads of it. The more you work your craft, the better you’ll become at it. Practice makes perfect.

5) Edits Make Perfect

Practice makes perfect, and so do edits. You’ll be amazed at how much better a mix will sound when the vocals have been properly aligned with Melodyne, or the drums have been quantized perfectly with elastic audio. Even editing out mic bleed can dramatically improve the quality of your mixes (especially editing your toms on your drums). I know some people are more traditional with their approaches, but if you don’t like the way your songs sound after some finely tuned edits, revert back to #2.

6) Make it Your Own

No one ever told me when I first started that I could do whatever I wanted. Well, here I am telling you that you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. You don’t have to take my advice, I’m just telling you some things that have worked for me. If you’re using some techniques that are completely unheard of, but you’re making your clients happy and making a name for yourself, you’re obviously doing something right. There is no right way and wrong way to do this, it’s all about what sounds good.

I hope you’ve been able to get some sound advice (oh boy I love a good pun) from this article. And honestly, if you’re using some obscure methods that your clients love, please hit me up and tell me what you’re doing. I’d be pumped to hear about it!


5 Key Points You Need To Hit During Your Introduction With Your Artist

How To Convince Your Client That You Know What You’re Doing (Part 3)

This is a guide to being respected, feeling valued, and creating personal brand ambassadors. In PART TWO, we went over the primal brain and first impressions. Now, we’re going to talk about your introduction. A good introduction can set the tone for the entire record. If you do this properly, you’ll establish that you are a professional and the client will feel that you are a valuable part of his recording process.

Your introduction should have one main goal. Clarify Your Role. This will go a long way to change your client’s expectations. Artists bring their musical prejudices with them to each session. When they first see you, it may remind them of a bad experience they had in a different studio. Your presence may induce fear from a client who wants to protect the integrity of the song. Or, your client may have seen too many Metallica documentaries.

Here’s how to properly clarify your role:

1. Start with “I – You – I”

Before explaining what you can do for the client, introduce yourself, and explain why you’re looking forward to working with them. Sample introduction…

“I’m so glad to be working with you. You have some fantastic grooves and melodies that I can’t wait to be a part of. Before we get started, I want to tell you a little bit about myself, and my process as a producer. I’ve been producing records for ___ years.”

2. Qualify yourself.

Add some quick resume highlights. Even if you have little to no resume, you need to find a secondary way to connect with the client. I would personally say something like this…

“I started out as an artist, so I see everything from that perspective first. But, I’ve also done A&R for an indie label, so I know how those guys think.”

(And, if you feel you have little to no resume highlights at the moment, you can use your drive and excitement as a qualifier.)

“I’m obviously a music lover, but I’m also an incredibly hard worker. I care deeply about the record we’re about to do.”

3. Tell the client how to think of you.

As strange as it sounds, telling the client how to think of you is the most important step. Here’s how you can do that…

“I want you to think of me as part of your team. We both want to make the best possible record. I’m going to give you my professional advice to help facilitate that.”

4. Default to the client’s decision.

This little piece of reverse psychology is very disarming. Letting the client know that she can overrule you will stop the power struggle before it gets started. It will also tip the power towards the producer! You just qualified yourself, then told the client you’re going to do anything you can to make the record better. Now, throughout the session you can say things like “Hey, just give this a try. If you don’t like it after we hear it this way, we’ll go back to the old way.” In my experience, the client will at least try the vast majority of your ideas. Here’s how I would add that to my introduction…

(“I’m going to give you my professional advice to help facilitate that.”) “But, I was an artist, and I understand that you need to love your music. It takes a lot of drive to go out and tour on a record. I don’t think I would have gotten through it if I didn’t love what I was playing. So, if we try out an idea and you don’t like it, I want you to feel comfortable telling me that. We can try other ideas or head right back to the original way it was played.”

5. Get to work.

End your introduction by actually starting to work. You may want to show the client how you’re planning to mic the drums, or talk to the client about her tempo changes. Show the client that you care about the record by talking audio while you set up the session. Say something like…

“So, lets get this record started. Could you come inside with me and make sure these drum microphones are in good spots for you? Drummers play differently, and I don’t want you to adjust your style to my microphone placement.”

Remember that this is likely to happen in conversation form. So, learning this monologue is not as important as understanding what points you want to make during this introduction discussion. Here is the entire introduction…

“I’m so glad to be working with you. You have some fantastic grooves and melodies that I can’t wait to be a part of. Before we get started, I want to tell you a little bit about myself, and my process as a producer. I’ve been producing records for ___ years.

I started out as an artist, so I see everything from that perspective first. But, I’ve also done A&R for an indie label, so I know how those guys think. I want you to think of me as part of your team. We both want to make the best possible record. I’m going to give you my professional advice to help facilitate that. But, like I said, I was an artist. I understand that you need to love your music.

It takes a lot of drive to go out and tour on a record. I don’t think I would have gotten through it if I didn’t love what I was playing. So, if we try out an idea and you don’t like it, I want you to feel comfortable telling me that. We can try other ideas or head right back to the original way it was played.

So, lets get this record started. Could you come inside with me and make sure these drum microphones are in good spots for you? Drummers play differently, and I don’t want you to adjust your style to my microphone placement.”

I hope that this introduction will convince your client that you are a valuable part of the team. If you do this properly, you’ll avoid butting heads with the client for the majority of the record. In PART FOUR of this series, we’re going to talk about handling problems and disagreements that come up during the record. These situations can turn into record ruining monsters! But, I have silver bullets ready for you.


How To Hack The Primal Brain Using Dogs, Ben Franklin, And Elevators

Part two of our “How to convince your client that you know what you’re doing” series.

This is a guide to being respected, feeling valued, and creating personal brand ambassadors. In Part One, we went over how to identify the problem clients. In Part 2, we will discuss how to make and change first impressions. Here’s how to hack the primal brain using dogs, Ben Franklin, and elevators. Note: These tactics are very powerful. Only use them if it benefits both you and your client.

1. Why your dog seems to know what you’re thinking

We’ve all been in a situation where we know we’re being judged. Opinions are constantly being formed, and they are most commonly formed based on feeling. Consider how illogical that is.

In a split second, the brain makes a primal decision. Friend or Foe? This decision is made by a part of the brain that we do not fully control. We actively read body language. But we passively read faces. And we’re very good at it.

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to know what you’re thinking? Dogs and humans look at human faces the same way. We look at each half of the face separately from left to right while searching for that person’s intent. Face’s are NOT symmetrical. Expressions work across our faces. So being able to read each side separately is powerful. Perfection is alien. That’s why when you symmetrically invert Sylvester Stallone’s face in a photo… [images style=”0″ image=”” width=”700″ align=”center” top_margin=”0″ full_width=”Y”]

He looks like an alien!

We consciously look for symmetry and ignore imperfections in that symmetry. This leads us to believe things are symmetrical. It’s also the reason we recognize face shapes while looking at craters on the moon or mountain structures on Mars. The imperfections in symmetry is what shows that persons emotions.

I will explain how to train your face using elevators in a moment. But, lets go over a much simpler way to hack into the primal brain.

2. The Ben Franklin Effect

“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.” – Benjamin Franklin

A person feels obligated to do favors out of kindness. Completing a favor gives that person a sense of pride, accomplishment, and completion. The brain is pleased by these feelings and the brain attaches you (the person who asked for this favor) to these feelings.

As a music producer, I ask for something that will help me produce the record I’m working on. Simple requests do work, but leading requests work more consistently.

Simple request: “Could you bring that guitar you mentioned?”

Leading request: “That guitar is going to be a huge help to me. I need it for the record. You can bring it, right?”

Leading requests are more exciting. The favor sounds larger than it really is. This will correlate directly with the pleasure your client feels when she does you that favor.

3. Elevators – The rise of walking emoticons

Training your face to display the proper intention cannot be done alone. A mirror is of no use to you. You need someone who does not have a set opinion on you to read your face. So, you cannot practice with friends or family. That’s why you should use elevators.

In an elevator, you will meet people who have no intention of talking to you. Start by engaging people in the elevator in conversation. Use your face to say things silently. Show surprise, concern, joy, pain, and other emotions without saying a word. Keep mental notes on which faces worked to move the conversation in the direction you wanted it to go. After you begin to really understand how to use your face in conversation, start conversations using only your face.

I personally thought this was a fun exercise. After getting the hang of it, I would enter a crowded elevator and stand towards everyone. I would be the only person facing the back of the elevator. This afforded me a lot of eye contact with people who were unsure about my intentions. It’s amazing how different the reaction will be when you change your face emotions. I was able to make people laugh without speaking! They’d smile and even laugh if I was displaying the right amount of surprise and happiness in my expression. I would be asked if I were okay if I displayed sadness with my face.

If you happen to be a fan of the television show “The Office” than you’ve seen this in action. Those actors do single camera candid shots and talking head style shots that move the story along without any dialogue.

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Look at the lips from left to right. They show a slight curve up at first and a straightening towards the right. This person has mixed emotions in his lips. It leads you to believe he is concerned about something. Of course, when you look at it as a whole you can tell by this expression that he is very troubled or concerned at the moment. But remember, that’s just your brain doing all the work for you.

So… dogs know your intentions, Ben Franklin is a brain hacker, and elevators are a great place to meet new people.

In the next article, we will speak about convincing a client you’re valuable while you work with them.

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How to convince your clients that you know what you’re doing (Part 1)

This is a guide to being respected, feeling valued, and creating personal brand ambassadors. Music producers work with artists from all walks of life. The artists have different skill sets and varying levels of experience. But, you’re the producer. You have A LOT of jobs to do. You manage the sessions, help structure the songs, place the microphones, get the tones, supervise the performances, edit the audio, stop the artist from making mistakes that they’ll regret later, and that’s just scratching the surface. Even with all of that in mind, I still see this as a dream job. But, there’s one thing that can quickly turn this dream into a nightmare.

Your clients!

Part 1 of this series explains how to spot the problem client.

Identify the person who will give you the most trouble. The problem clients come in several forms, but they are very easy to spot.

Here are the archetypes I most commonly see:

1. The know it all. This person has went to school for music. They have their nose up in the air while they explain their grasp on music theory.

2. The know it all audio student. This person is going to or has went to school for audio. He is probably the person telling you how to use the microphone you’ve owned for 6 years in a room that you spent months fine-tuning.

3. The hobbyist. This person will quickly say something like “That’s not how I do it in garage band.” Or “I read an article on what you’re doing. I should forward it to you.”

4. The idealist. This person will tell you how the record has to be produced with absolutely no real knowledge on the subject. Watch for statements that contradict themselves like “I want the drums to sound like they do on that Taylor Swift song, but there’s no way we’re using any drum samples. We have to record it live like Rage Against The Machine!”

5. The quiet leader. This person hides in plain site. The entire band defaults to his decisions, and look at him every time you ask a question about their music. He is comfortable being king of his small group, and he is waiting to see you fall in line so he can secretly run the session himself.

6. The too cool. This person has worked with other producers that he considers more high-end than you. He’ll spend most of the session telling you how good the other producer was while second-guessing everything you do. You may even hear something like “I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but I’ve been in the studio before.” Followed by him telling you how to do your job.

Have you dealt with any of these archetypes? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section.

Now you know how to spot the clients who are most likely to mess up your workflow, turn the band against you, and ruin what can be a great record. In Part 2, we’ll learn how to disarm these record ruining time bombs by gaining their respect and confidence.

If problem clients are a real worry for you, you’re not alone. I originally spoke about this subject with the interns I’m currently transitioning to producer roles. They’ve worked on dozens of records with me and are very capable of doing the job. What they’re worried about is dealing with difficult clients. Here’s what I told them…

Please check back for Part 2 on April 14th.