Man, how do the pros make it look so easy? I can't seem to do what they do...
It really hit me the other day. Running through the mixing process in class, bringing up the faders and building a mix from scratch. As I started explaining what I was doing and why, I realized how quickly I can build a mix. It was second nature for me. But looking at the students, it made me think back to when I started. I started thinking about what it was like watching someone build a mix and it sounding so great. Every time I would try, it would never sound them same. I could never seem to get a mix settled in as quickly. As I explained the why and what I was doing, it made me question, "Are they going to understand, or is this going over their heads?"
Of course my hope is that they "get it". That everything I was doing at that moment was being soaked up, and they could go home and reproduce this mix quickly and easily. But sometimes it isn't as simple as that. I have spent years studying, watching, learning, and doing. Years of continually working on my skills, getting a little better each time. To the point now, I can quickly and easily build a mix. I am just talking about panning and setting levels, no eq, or compression. No reverbs delays, etc. Just the basics, using my ears to set the mix to sound balanced.
Of course I explained my methods. The "why" is very important, more important than the "what" I am doing. (At least in my opinion) In the end that's the theory behind what I am doing right? I'm teaching my thought process, the reasoning behind my fader and panning moves. However, my theory is derived from years of "doing". Yep, years of making stupid mistakes, what I now look back on as "bad" mixes, and eq and compression mistakes. At the time though, I really didn't know any better. I was mixing to the best of my abilities, using every tip and trick I knew. And while I want to spare students from these mistakes, I feel like they have made me a better mixer.
For me, I learn best by making the mistakes. I'm sure others would agree, we learn from our mistakes. The idea of me showing students, "Don't do this" is a conundrum at best. While I can teach and show the "do this" "don't do that" concepts, until they experience it themselves, will they learn the lesson? I never did, I had to make the mistakes in order to teach myself what was incorrect. Granted, not everyone learns that way. Some are able to watch and replicate. But If they are replicating what I ma doing, will they figure out their own methods?
It really boils down to the practice. As with most skills in life, you have to do it, learn your limits. Aim to grow where you are weak in order to become better. I know I fell a lot when learning to walk or ride a bike. So the same can be said about learning to mix. I can give someone all the tools to make a master piece, but unless they have put in the hours, it might not come to fruition. Am I going to stop teaching the little tips and tricks? Definitely not, I would have loved someone to give me pointers on honing my craft faster. Whether or not my skills would be where they are now faster is a matter of debate. The fact remains, help is help. Knowing how to do something and actually doing it is very different.
Make the best you can with the knowledge you have. Teachers and tutors can help you achieve your goals, but know you will still make mistakes. Perhaps even the same mistakes they teach us to avoid. But what a way to learn, to have experienced the silly, stupid mistakes that made you strive to be better. Don't forget to accept the failures with the triumphs. In the end, mistakes strive us to do better, and push our limits. Use your acquired knowledge to make the mistakes, and experience the joy of growth.
He's going for distance, he's going for speed...
What is it that makes you appreciate someone's business? We're talking from a consumer standpoint here. When you consistently go back to a place of business, what drives you there? (No I don't mean your car) It might not be something you think about, but something keeps you coming back. Is it the product? A business that puts effort into their product usually sees that effort reflected in sales, right? Is it the customer experience? There is nothing like being treated like royalty. You feel as if you are the most important person at that moment in time. It can be a great feeling. Is it the fact they are a friend? We all love supporting our friends. It can be a great feeling to help out friends.
Perhaps its all of the above? maybe all of these things come together, creating an immersive experience. Then again, maybe it's none of them. We each place value on things differently. So, for a business, how do they guarantee everyone will feel valued? We all do the best we can. Let's face it, everyone is human, we all make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes cost us business, but all we can do is learn from it and move on. It's a hard road to travel having everything you do reflect upon your business. In the end, if you own a business, the in turn makes you and the business one entity. At least in the eyes of your customers.
The best thing you can do is to go above and beyond. Every time, make it an awesome experience. To the best of your abilities of course. I'm not saying throw away money, or put other customers on the back burner. It's a balancing act. Like a man on a trapeze. swing one way too far, and possibly lose everything. Something that seems to excel in the investment world is the idea of going above and beyond. You promise a 20% return, but give them 30% instead. This shows the investor you went above and beyond to give them more. Your time was spent giving them more than promised. This usually makes people want to invest again.
As a business, we try to do the same. Providing excellent customer service, an exceptional product, and showing you genuinely care, are ways a business earns your trust. Whether it is a product or a service, all of these things can be accomplished. It takes a lot of effort to do this everyday, for every customer, but building a brand is not an easy task. Reputation is everything. It can lift you up to the highest highs, or stick to you like the stench of dirty gym socks. We all try to provide the best we can, and sometime we fall short on our marks. A business learns and grows, but only with time and diligence.
Strive to do your best in what you do. As a business owner, this is a goal every time we get a new or returning client. Seeing clients faces light up with joy is the greatest feeling around. But the same can be said from any aspect. Musicians that put their heart and soul into every performance gain followers. Adorations pour in as the listeners show their appreciation. Even when presenting food, going above and beyond makes the customer feel that time was spent in the creation just for them.
Go above and beyond, take it to the next level.
Effect? Affect? The Affects of Effects? Oh the joys of the English language... But I digress.
Space is a wonderful thing. It is how we measure an area. Is it big? Perhaps its small? It could be lively, or dull. Maybe for lack of a better word, it’s bombastic! Everywhere we go, and everything we hear is affected by space. Which means everything we have ever heard is influenced by space. That last concert you went to, whether it sounded good or bad, was being altered by the space it was in. Yes, even if it was outside. Any and every surface available, sound will bounce off or be absorbed by. Even the temperature can play its part on how sound is perceived. “Ok we get it. The space has an affect on everything. Why should I care?”
The average listener might not care. But for every gigging musician and audio engineer, space is everything. Even DJ’s should be concerned about space. If a DJ makes a bomb track that sounds lit, (did I use that slang right?) but it sounds terrible in the club, was it a bad track? Not necessarily. A guitar player in a gigging band gets their tone so sweet before a gig, shows up and starts playing. Once they are in the club, the tone doesn’t even come close. The live engineer sets up a PA and plays music through it, but the track just doesn’t sound like it should. It’s the fault of the space! Well, kind of the fault of the space. Part of the job of the live engineer is to adjust the PA for the room. This can be difficult if the venue is empty. Bodies make a huge difference, soaking up sound that may be problematic. But, the same goes for setting your tone on an amplifier. It may sound good in the rehearsal space, but that doesn’t mean it will sound good that room you’re playing in now.
Space can take away clarity, make drums boomy or mushy, muffle vocals, add unwanted reverb, or cause feedback issues to a rung out PA. “So, I should adjust my amp for each venue?” YES!!! Absolutely! Some of the best players tweak amps and pedals for each new venue. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, a small dial move here or there can bring your tone back to where it was at rehearsal. Small cuts or boosts in a PA system can tune it to a room, allowing vocals to be present and forward, making it easier for the crowd to understand what you are saying. Drums can be a harder to wrangle in. Tuning up for each venue can be time consuming and frustrating. But if you have the time, use it. Take pride in your craft and spend some time getting your instrument to sound its best. You may gain some new fans just because you made a few adjustments before the show!
”So, I sound good during my live shows, but I just cant seem to get the same sound recording. Help!” Oh recording... How fun you can be.... There is nothing like harnessing in your tone, working tirelessly, tweaking, adjusting, fine tuning. Only to have microphones put in front and it sound dull or lifeless. Yes the tone is good, even the performance. But something is missing... For whatever reason, it doesn’t sound like that killer night and the club. You know, the one where you melted faces with your 3 minute long solo? But why? Why doesn’t it sound the same? The settings are right, the amp tone is there, your even feeling inspired to shred it up.... Well, its the space! You were in a specific space, that worked well for your sound. “But I have reverb and delay on my amp, doesn’t that count?” Well, yes and no. You probably had those on anyway right? But that reverb, delay, and air throwing speaker tone still needs a space to be in. If you put the microphones directly on the grill cloth, you are capturing the essence of the guitar signal. But, we don’t listen to guitar cabinets with our ears to the grill. We hear a guitar cabinet in the room. With your reverb and delay working harmoniously in the space.
In other words, re-space your amp. If the microphones are on the grill cloth, they are picking up the raw tone of the amp. Without coloration of a room of space. You get to decide what kind of space it will be in. Big rooms, small rooms, rooms that are made of rocks. Remember everything we hear in a space of some kind. Even if it is small and tight, or large and boisterous. When in a recording environment, we tend to capture a more sterile and accurate picture of tones. That allows an engineer to place the instruments in any space they so choose. In so doing, creating a feel or vibe, adding character to the track. Space is a wonderful thing. Too much space however, can muddy and remove definition. It’s a fine line of adding just enough to create realism or vibe, or too much and drowning things out unrealistically. Use your ears when adding space to instruments, you’ve done it at every show you’ve ever been to. You listen and make a judgment on whether its good or bad, muddy or clear, dead or lively. You ears are king, so let them rule.