How to Produce Effects (Part 6)

So far in this series we’ve gone over a ton of production techniques. (If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, definitely check out some of my earlier articles… they’re worth the read.) This week I wanted to focus a bit more on some of the fun stuff – producing effects within our mixes. Generally I like to work on my effects after all of the music has been recorded, so bear that in mind while you read on.

Keep It Simple

As uninteresting as it sounds, sometimes the simplest effects are the most… dare I say… effective? A radio filter on vocals is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it always sounds so damn cool. A simple flange on your guitar tracks can pique the interest of any listener. And although you may feel like you’re going back to your old bag of tricks from time to time, keep in mind that the bands you’re working with don’t do what you do. They don’t know you added that same effect on 10 songs in the past 2 months. All they know is that it sounds hella cool on theirs. And if they’re happy, you’re doing something right.

Borrow From Different Genres

You may not want to let your metal bands know that you’ve been pulling inspiration from Taylor Swift, but if you hear something you think would work, go for it! Side chaining isn’t a typically “metal” thing to do, but sometimes it can work perfectly. Sampling and pitch shifting are big in rap, but you’ll hear them all the time in pop and rock. Different genres are constantly borrowing ideas from one another, that’s how music evolves. Try taking ideas you find cool and see if they work with different styles. You might just surprise yourself.

Keep it Interesting

Think of how your effects will sound in the song you’re working on. Every decision you make matters, and it affects how the song will be perceived. If you overdo it, your song will sound synthetic. Is that what you’re going for? Is that what the band wants? After you’ve worked out your effects on a single song, think of your effects in context of the album as a whole. If you’re working on a 10 song record, are you using the same effect too many times? Earlier we said it’s ok to use the same effect – but that’s over the span of 2 months and several different bands. You don’t want the record to sound like it was mixed by a one trick pony. Spread out those effects. Keep things moving and make sure each song has it’s own little taste of something special. The more diverse it sounds the more clout you’ll have as a producer.

Don’t Force It

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard effects that are completely out of place. If it doesn’t feel right odds are that it doesn’t belong. You’ll come across bands who want to throw some awkward effects on their songs and that’s fine. It’s your job to steer them in the right direction, and find the right balance for these effects. Just make sure you aren’t making any poor mixing choices yourself. Avoid things like overly effecting intimate vocals, or layering way too many effects on one particular track. If you’ve been working on a particular part of the song for a long time, take a deep breath, step away from it for a while and come back to it later. You’ll be able to listen to it with a fresh ear and more clarity. If in doubt, you can always get input from a second ear.

Be Creative

Firstly, you’ll want to make sure you’re using effects that sound good. So playing it safe is always a great way to go. But don’t let this hinder your ability to create. If you’re feeling innovative in regards to certain parts of the song then go nuts! Add effects, create layers and get weird with it! What’s done can always be undone, so it’s not like you’re stuck with what you create. Find inspiration from other mixers, other songs, and try to create your own sounds. Have fun, and be creative!
I hope you’re able to incorporate some of these ideas in your future mixes and I’d really love to hear what you create. You can always find me online and send me some of your stuff. Please feel free to comment below and send me some links! As always, thanks for reading. Peace and rock on.
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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.

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How to Produce (Part 1)

Produce

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.

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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!

Study.

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.

Hustle.

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!

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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!

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Pros and Cons of Recording Yourself

If you’re anything like me you beam with pride when you tell somebody “I’m a musician!” Some people may mistake your sentiment for arrogance, but let’s be honest, playing an instrument is frackin cool. (Just like that sweet Battlestar reference right there.) Almost every producer I know started out playing in a band and recording their own music – including yours truly. The experience of playing the role of artist, producer, engineer and mixer gave me a unique perspective that was both awesome and horrible – and if you’ve ever done the same, I’m sure you’re nodding in agreement.

Let’s go over some Pros and Cons of recording yourself.

Pro:
You get to do things your own way.

There’s nothing better than having the final say on every aspect of the music. You can write the melodies, the lyrics, hell even the bass lines. Anything goes when you’re in charge. You want to write an 8 minute song? Do it. No one is going to stop you. You’re the only person you have to answer to, and hot damn that’s an empowering feeling.

Con:
You get to do things your own way.

It’s amazing to have such control over your music, but sometimes a little outside perspective can go a long way. Having someone there to reel you in when you’re going over the top may be exactly what you need. Some grandiose ideas may sound great in your head, but if you’re in a room with 10 other musicians and you’re the only one who’s digging a particular idea – you’d better rethink your strategy. If you’re writing the music purely for your own enjoyment, you may be the only one to ever listen to the record.

Pro:
You have all the time in the world to get it right.

You don’t have to worry about about an engineer milking the clock to make a few extra bucks. You don’t even have to worry about punching in to nail that guitar solo you were hoping to rock in one full take. If it takes you 5 hours, it takes you 5 hours. Time is of no importance when you’re working solo.

Con:
You have all the time in the world to get it right.

This may be your downfall. Sure you’re aiming for perfection, but having too intense of a focus can lead to obsession. Maybe you spend 5 hours trying to nail that solo and you still aren’t amped about it. So you try again in the morning, only to realize you hate the part and want to rewrite it. Now, a project that should’ve taken a week will last a month – 6 months – or maybe even a year – if it even gets finished.

Pro:
The songs and mixes are all yours.

It’s very impressive that you were able to play everything and mix it all yourself. This isn’t an easy feat to accomplish after all, and it absolutely takes a ton of talent. Show your parents, show your friends, and share it anywhere you can. You did this, and you should be proud.

Con:
The songs and mixes are all yours.

There are a lot of talented people out there, and everyone should know what their strengths are. Some people are amazing at guitar, while others are wizards at mixing. If one persons talent lies strictly in vocals, they’d be better off letting someone mix their record who has just as much talent at mixing as they do at singing. Splitting the load with other talented people can really help the overall quality of the final product.

Pro:
You will notice every nuance.

This means every time you hear yourself sing a flat note, it’s going to stick out like a soar thumb. The benefit of this is that now you know what areas need some personal improvement. If your drumming sounds sloppy, you know you need more practice with that metronome. This will help make you a better overall musician, I guarantee it.

Con:
You will notice every nuance.

Not just while you’re playing, but long after all the mixing is done. So if you really didn’t like those guitar tones, and you’ve already released your record, guess what. You’re stuck with them. They will haunt you forever. You wanted to add a little more reverb on that bridge? Again, it will haunt you. Forever.

Try to keep some of these pros and cons in mind while you’re tracking your own material. There will always be give and take, so I hope you take something from all this. What are some of the positives and negatives you’ve experienced from tracking your own record? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading.

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Alternate Jobs to Consider for Record Producers

Is your life as a Record Producer getting dull? Feeling unfulfilled, unsatisfied, unhappy? Of course not! Being a music producer is awesome. It’s quite possibly the best job there is. Other than ice cream taster. Or lego player wither. But alas, they’ll probably never respond to the 6,000 messages you sent them. So get back to the music! And when you do, remember, you do so much more than just produce. Let’s take a look at what other jobs record producers would be great at:

Teacher

Record producers are always teaching. Our artists are our students and we’re constantly feeding them knowledge. We teach about the circle of fifths, proper singing techniques, why we’re cutting out certain frequencies, and so much more. Something that comes naturally to us is eye opening for our bands. So we share what we know because that’s the right thing to do. It’s in our nature.

Babysitter

As with any good teacher, we also need to hone our babysitting skills. A ton of bands will goof around and get off track during a session. And though we like to have fun, we still need to be on top of things. If we only have 6 days to track an EP, we need to make sure the whole operation runs smoothly. That means keeping everyone focused, and making sure nobody cries.

Psychologist

We play the part of the psychologist a lot more than you’d think. It’s amazing how many people will open up when they’re recording. Maybe it’s the environment of pouring emotion into the music, but it really gets the feels flowing. Singer/songwriters divulge their innermost secrets about why they wrote a particular lyric and you’ll be shocked at some of the stories you hear. You just need to be there and be a good listener. Give them encouragement/support when they need it, and hopefully when you’re done you won’t need a psychologist yourself.

Businessman

As a record producer, you’ll learn it’s about more than just the music. Business decisions need to be made. You’ll need to maintain your equipment, handle your finances, and upkeep the calendar. You’re in charge of your own bills, so you’ll want to know how to best handle your overhead and workflow. But the benefit is that you don’t need to wear a suit. Unless you want to. Then do it.

Salesman

Guitar leads aren’t the only leads record producers should concern themselves with. You’re going to need to up your negotiating skills if you want to make it in this business. You need to be able to close a deal in order to make that money, so brush up on your sales chops and be prepared for a lot of persuasive chit chat. Have confidence, and don’t sell yourself short.

Garbageman

Bands won’t clean up after themselves. They just won’t. You’ll need to scrub toilets, take out garbages, clean up wrappers and vacuum the floor. Keep your studio tidy and you’ll have a much nicer work environment. The cleaner, the better.

The morale of this story is don’t quit your day job. Because your day job is like, at least 10 jobs. Nothing beats being a record producer, and I personally wouldn’t change it for the world. I love going into work and knowing I need to have such a vast skill set to make it through the day. It keeps things exciting and fresh. I’m grateful music production is a thing. Otherwise I don’t know what I’d do. I guess I could always take up blogging… Anyway, thanks for reading. Please feel free to share our content and take advantage of our entirely free site. Peace and rock on.

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Music Producer Pages

Music Producer Pages

The Importance of Facebook Music Producer Pages

Last week I finished my How to Land a Band series and got a ton of messages from producers telling me that my article was extremely helpful. (I love to hear that, so keep em coming!) Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite working so well for them. After a few conversations, I found myself giving out similar advice and figured I might as well write an article on it, and here we stand. Or sit. Or lay. Whatever.

The first question I kept asking people was “do you have any Facebook music producer pages?” The common thread was “yes, but it doesn’t make much of a difference”. Well, honestly, that’s because they aren’t using it correctly. Let’s go over some things.

Take it Seriously

When you’re creating your music producer pages, make sure you’re professional. Look at your page as a billboard for yourself. Include a picture of yourself so people can see you’re a real life human. For your banner, include a picture of gear, or your studio name. Add pictures, and create tabs that link to your YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Outside Website, and most importantly songs you’ve actually produced. That’s the best area to send bands who want to hear the quality of your work.

Post Often

If you haven’t posted in 5 weeks, it makes you look lazy. Once a week is a good amount to post, and the more, the better. Make sure you stay on top of this. Potential clients want to know they’re working with a diligent producer, and not some deadbeat who doesn’t even have the time to update a simple Facebook status.

Write Posts with Significance

It’s your wall. Write anything you want. Want to write an inspirational quote? Do it. Want to add a picture of cats, do it. But try to keep it musically oriented. Writing about what your favorite band is up to is great, and posting articles about industry trends is even better. It makes you look like an authority figure when you post about audio. Bands take notice and they want to work with someone who has a passion for what they do.

Promote Your Artists

Make sure you’re promoting your artists. If you’ve got a band in the studio, promote them. You’ll get them a few likes, they’ll get you a few likes. It’s win win. Plus it shows that you CARE. And that’s what this is all about. So share their show announcements, talk about their upcoming release and endorse their new album on iTunes. It makes you look better, and your clients will love you for it. This will also help to promote repeat business.

Promote Yourself

Talk about your accomplishments. Brag a little. “Just finished an 18 hour day, but the guitar tones sound AWESOME #worthit”. Maybe you’ll only get 2 likes, but here’s a little tidbit of advice, add a picture and you’ll go from 2 likes to 14. It’s ok to be a little egotistical, but don’t overdo it. Be proud, but not arrogant.

Answer Messages

Whenever someone sends you a message, make sure to respond. Firstly, you don’t want your respond rate to be 2 weeks. Secondly, occasionally you’ll get a really good lead that you weren’t even expecting. So make sure you’re constantly checking that inbox and keeping up to date with it.

This isn’t as easy as it seems, it takes time. And for the first few weeks you aren’t going to notice any results. But if you’re consistent and you make a point to keep at it, I guarantee you’ll see results on your music producer pages. I hope this article has helped, and if you’d like to see me cover something next week, please let me know. As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below. Peace and rock on.

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Contacting Bands From Your Studio at Home

How to Land a Band From Your Studio at Home (Part 3)

By now you should be feeling pretty confident with your ability to find the right band for your professional studio, or studio at home. If you still have some questions, you may want to go back and refresh yourself on Part 1 and Part 2 – or feel ask me a question directly in the comments below.

“Sure we know where to find our bands and that’s a great start. But Justin, come on, anyone can do that, get to the good stuff!” I know you’re hungry for some knowledge, so open up your brain hole and get ready for a healthy portion of learn-age.  When it comes to contacting a band there is a ton of methodology behind it, so open wide.

Write Privately

Firstly, and most importantly, make sure you are sending your messages privately (especially if you have a studio at home). Don’t publicize your quest for new talent on someones wall for all the world to see. It’s tacky. And after you start sending hundreds of messages your name will get noticed – (and not in the good way). So leave those walls alone.

The Cookie Cutter Message

DO NOT send a bland, generic, (obviously) copy-pasted message to a potential client. Here’s an example:

“Hey guys, I really love your music, you’ve written some great songs! I’m a music producer and would love to talk to you more about working together. Contact me back. Thanks!”

Sure, you can copy paste this message 600 times from your studio at home, but no one will respond to you. And if you’re sending the message via Facebook, you’ll get pegged as spam after about your 20th copy-paste. If you’re lucky enough to not get banned, I guarantee your name will make its way through the grapevine of bands who talk to one another via groups and forums. Once your name is shown in a negative light, it’s hard to detach yourself from that stigma.

Studio at home

Written Publicly, and Generically.

Actually Listen to the Music

When writing a message, personalize it. Quote a lyric, talk about how the harmonies lift the chorus, make mention of the unexpected saxophone solo. Do whatever you can to show that you’re an actual human being and not some lame old robot. When a band sees you took the time out to actually listen, it hits them right in the heart. They are real, live people who poured their soul into that lyric you just quoted. You’ll make more of a personal connection which will progress into a promising conversation.

What to Include

I’ve written thousands of messages to bands, all as unique as the bands themselves. I always find myself incorporating these 4 things.

1) How I found them.
2) Something that struck me about their music.
3) Asking about their current goals.
4) Letting them know who I am.

You can incorporate them all in one paragraph, or 4 depending on how much you have to say. You’ll notice things that work and things that don’t, so take note.

Writing by Region

One thing that strikes me is how vastly different bands from different areas will respond to the same message. I’ll give you an example. When I was in New York, I’d message bands and tell them something I like about their music and something that could use improvement. I had an overwhelmingly positive response using this technique. The bands in NY craved that constructive criticism. When I moved to Austin and tried that same strategy, bands went ice cold. Here, the bands didn’t take well to criticism. They saw it as insulting. I needed to revamp my approach. Instead, I left out the criticism and received much warmer replies. So bear in mind, something may work at one place/time, but don’t grow too attached to it because you will need to make amendments.

It’s a Numbers Game

One thing you need to know is that not every band will respond to you. You may message 10 bands on a Monday and receive 0 replies. Then you get back on your horse on Wednesday, and score a perfect 5/5. The point is, you need to send out a ton of messages. Because even the bands that do reply are not a guarantee to work with you in your professional or home studio. The more nets you cast the better, so get out there and keep fishing.

I’m hoping that these strategies will help you on your quest to work with new talent. They aren’t meant as gospel, more so as guidelines. You should borrow a few ideas from me and make them your own. See what works best for you.

Next week we’ll cover how to respond to a band that replies to your initial message and how to bring them into your professional studio, or studio at home. Then the conclusion of this segment will be the ups and downs of the entire band messaging process. Thanks for sticking with me so far, and please stay tuned for more.

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Part 1
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8 Tracking Techniques Used by the Pros

When working on a record, there’s a ton to think about. So for now, let’s simplify. Take your attention off of gear and mixing, and focus your thoughts solely on tracking. I’d like to share with you 8 of my favorite techniques to use during sessions. (Note: I layer my tracks, so apply these techniques accordingly)

1) Take an artist through the song one time.

I call this creating a roadmap. It’s a great technique because it allows you to hear the entirety of an instrument or vocal (it also allows the vocalist to warm up his or her voice) without any interruptions. If the artist flubs a part, don’t stop and start again. Hear out the entire song to make sure everything sounds correct. If you have questions about a particular part, show your client the trouble spot and work it out together. If the entire take was perfect, then congratulations Johnny Cage, you’ve achieved a flawless victory.

2) Make sure the track is at a comfortable listening volume.

This may seem obvious, but you should create a balanced mix for the artist who is currently recording. Ask them if they’d like anything louder or softer, and adjust accordingly. In addition, let them know if you’ve done something that may throw their ear. If you’ve muted out a vocal line – enlighten them. If you’ve panned their guitar through the left speaker, let them know they’re only coming out of one side.

3) Decide if you want to record section by section, or in full.

After creating your roadmap, you’ll need to decide the best approach for recording. There are some artists who feel more comfortable recording a song all the way through and then cleaning up any sections that were sloppy. Others will prefer to track one section at a time – so you’ll need to keep recording the first verse until they’re satisfied. Only then will you move on to the next part of the song. See which technique will work best with your artists and you’ll save yourself a ton of time.

4) Punch in and out on downbeats.

When you’re looking to make a punch, don’t just hit the record button arbitrarily. Make a calculated approach and hit it right on a downbeat. The punch will sound cleaner, and you won’t have to drag your crossfades to match the grid. When punching out, use the same approach. Remember to tell your artists to play into and out of sections – this will make your crossfades sound much more natural.

5) Delete the audio in a region you’re trying to record over.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself listening to a song and you hear a guitar come slightly off beat. You’ll show your client and they won’t hear the mistake you’re talking about. You’ll want to track that part over, but if the artist is confused, they may not know exactly where they should be punching in. I’ve found a simple solution for this is to delete the region of audio that sounds sloppy so the artist can visualize exactly where they’ll be punching in and out. This has been a go to technique of mine for years. (If this confuses you, check out my producer quick tip on the matter)

6) Use beats and measures to tell an artist where to come in.

If visualization doesn’t work for your artist, another great tip is to count the beats aloud for them. Don’t just say something like “come in right after the cymbal crash”. Give them specifics. Say something like “you’ll want to hit the snare on the downbeat of 1, or the upbeat of 3”. Sometimes you’ll find combining this technique with a visual (such as a hand motion) can be just what your artist needs.

7) Give reliable input.

When giving an artist input, remember to always give a reason for what you say. Don’t simply tell them you don’t like their bass part. Give them a reason you don’t like it. Perhaps the bass isn’t following the root notes and it’s losing some body by going too high on the neck. Always be honest with your clients – they’ll appreciate it more than you’d think.

8) Let the artist listen to their final takes.

The last thing I like to do is let the artists listen to their performance once it is finished. If they are satisfied, it means they’ve given you their blessing and you’re ok to move on to the next session. If they are happy in the moment, they’ll be thrilled with the final product.

Next time you’re tracking an artist, you should definitely use some of these techniques. Have you ever used any before? What are some tricks you use?

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