Making music by ourselves at home on our computers is fun and rewarding. We get to learn all the cool tricks and techniques that our favorite bands used to make those great records we love. I’ve really enjoyed learning about both the art and science of making records. (In fact, the process of making a record seems to me to be the perfect fusion of art and science. Note-to-self for another blog post!)
However, one technique that’s pretty much always used by the pros is one that we shouldn’t ignore when making our own music: other people. Pretty much all the big records of the 20th century were made by the artist working together with a myriad of other professionals – producer, recording engineer, mix engineer, mastering engineer, studio musicians, and yes, even the label guys. Now, the whole point of making music in the home studio is not being able to, or not wanting to, work with all these other folks, and that’s OK. But we should still ask other people for help now and then.
Who? Pretty much anybody who listens to music. Your spouse, your siblings, your parents, your kids, your friends, whoever. If you happen to know somebody who can give you technical advice, that’s a bonus. It’s likely you probably don’t, but your average music fan / family member can still give you some much-needed help.
Get a sanity check – if you’re mixing your own song, you’ve probably heard the song a thousand times. Have someone with a fresh set of ears listen to your song as a fan (not from a technical perspective). They’ll probably be able to easily point out things that you may have missed – “I can’t hear the lyrics in the second verse” or “the guitars seem too loud” – you get the idea. We can try our best to listen as a fan but it’s hard to pull yourself out of the “trenches” when you’re so involved in every aspect of the song.
I was lucky enough to receive both types of advice (“listener” and “technical”) on the song I’m working on right now (“Free Radicals”) and both were incredibly helpful. One person was able to easily point out sections of the vocal that needed to be louder (I had totally missed this but it was obvious when they told me). The other person gave some great technical advice about how to mix the kick drum better and clean up some mud in the song. Hopefully I’ll have it out soon!
Have a song you’d like me to listen to for constructive criticism? Let me know in the comments and I’ll check it out. Not that I’m a pro by any means, but you get what you pay for. Since only two people have read this blog, it probably won’t take me to long to get to it… 🙂