Recording Technology Is Your Friend

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.


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.

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!


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!


Record Producers Guide To Saving 306 Lives

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 TWO, we discussed how to hack the primal brain using dogs, Ben Franklin, and elevators. In PART THREE we focused on diffusing initial tension with an honest and forthright introduction. I promised to start giving you the silver bullets for the record ruining monsters that you see in the studio. The first monster we will deal with is reactive thinking.

Reactive thinking is a skill taught to athletes, pilots, and marines. It’s the reason they can make split second decisions when they encounter a change. It’s how professional baseball players decide what pitch is being thrown, if it’s a ball or strike, and how to best hit the pitch in less than 4 tenths of a second! Reactive thinking has also caused airplanes crashes, surgeries deaths, and your recording sessions to fall apart.

First, here’s how to train your brain to make reactive decisions:

1. Make a mental picture of how things should be. Consider the baseball player. He would picture the perfect release of a fastball that crosses perfectly in the center of the strike zone.
2. Consider the alternatives. The baseball player may picture a poor release that will guarantee a ball. He may also consider a release that causes spin on the ball. Go through every alternative to the perfect mental picture that you originally had in your head, and tell your brain what you should do in each situation.
3. Run the situation in real life as much as possible. Your brain will now process new alternatives to the perfect mental picture and attempt to come up with the proper reaction to it.

This is a skill that can make you incredibly valuable in high-pressure situations that need split second analysis. It can also cause catastrophic failures.

Air Transair Flight 236 was in danger of crashing due to reactive thinking. This airplane, carrying 306 people, had a fuel leak in the line leading to the right engine. The fuel there was leaking at a rate of a gallon per second. The onboard computer alerted the pilot that there was a fuel imbalance. This was not a part of the perfect mental picture he had in his head. Reactive thinking told him to correct it the way he had so many times before. He diverted fuel from his working engine, into the leaking engine. This caused both engines to flame out due to fuel starvation.

This seems like an illogical decision to make. But, reactive thinking isn’t based on logic. It’s more akin to muscle memory. And, if you’re wondering, the pilot recovered from this and was able to make an emergency landing by gliding his massive plane to the closest runway and doing what’s called a “dead-stick” landing. He was a very skilled, experienced, and smart pilot.

What does this have to do with your recording session? Everything! This type of thinking doesn’t just happen when you need to make split second decisions. An artist almost always has a mental picture of how their song should sound. Sometimes they have a mental picture of how the session should go, and how you should do your job. If something does not fit into the perfect picture the artist has in his head, he will attempt to remedy that.

Before I explain how to break this cycle of reactive thinking, you’ll need to understand something very important. It will not work if you’re trying to manipulate the situation in your favor. I have used this method before and it works extremely well. But, only in situations where it is in the artists best interest. I once had a band in for a preproduction session that hit a wall. I pointed out a transition that was destroying the lift of their chorus. The drummer was starting the chorus on a downbeat while the rest of the band and the vocal came in on the previous upbeat. They were literally starting to play the part at different times! After pointing it out to the drummer he told me that was how it’s supposed to go. Of course, he was referring to the mental picture in his head rather than the actual song. He was sure he was right, and would not even attempt to play it properly. Here’s what I did.

How To Break Someone Out Of A Reactive Thinking Cycle:

1. Ask for a temporary change for experimentation. Instead of saying “You’re absolutely wrong!” (Even if the person is.) Ask the person to consider it a different way.
2. Ask why he can’t try it differently. If you still get pushback ask the person why he won’t attempt it a different way. Remember that his brain is holding him hostage, and he won’t have a logical answer.
3. Show your human side. If you’re still met with a storm of no! Make a grandiose statement to diffuse the tension he’s feeling like “I’ve been known to be stuck in my ways from time to time. Truth be told, I’ve been in this situation before. It feels like some imaginary person is holding a gun to your head and telling you any change is wrong. So, you don’t try any of it. When I get that person in my head, I try to remember I’m in control. Then, I dress the imaginary person up like Wilma Flintstone and imagine that Stone Age cutie cheering me on.”
4. Explain the psychology behind his feelings. This is a last resort. People generally don’t like being told how their own brain works. Soften the blow by telling the airplane story. Don’t forget to explain how talented and smart the pilot was when he stopped thinking reactively and assessed the situation properly. If this doesn’t work on the person thinking reactively, it has a good chance of convincing his band mates to continue the conversation for you.

Now that you know how reactive thinking works, consider if you may think reactively as a creative professional. Do you cringe when you so the cheap guitar the artist brought in for the recording? Do you hear it out on the setup that he apparently thinks sounds great before starting to defend the affront to your perfect mental picture?

Ready for the next monster?


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.

[images style=”0″ image=”” width=”1280″ align=”center” top_margin=”0″ full_width=”Y”]

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.