Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Why Do We Love Complicating Things?
One glaring issue that I see in music production today is the dilemma of one who gets lost in the technicalities and logistics of creating art. It's really supposed to be the emotion, expression of oneself and the feeling that should be the main motivators/reasons for creating "art". Many artists treat the creation process in a series of "do's" and "don'ts", but unfortunately that leads many artists to forget about why they got into art in the first place, which is their love for music! The truth is, everyone has an opinion, including me as I express my thoughts in this article. I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, but I want to help redirect people's focus back on to whats important in the art making process. Everyone seems to have the best recording, mixing or mastering methodology and some will say that there is only one "right" way to go about doing this or that, but is that really true? I find that an artist truly finds freedom and joy in their work when they lay down these "rules" and instead adhere to "guidelines" or apply "good" advice (which honestly is relative).
Experimentation Is Key
The best way to make art, is to simply experiment on your own and see what happens. For example, I wasted 2 years of my life obtaining music equipment, taking online music education classes/courses, watching YouTube videos and learning all sorts of tips and tricks and other techniques to learn about the music production craft. I was trying so hard to dedicate this time in becoming my own producer, audio engineer, songwriter and performer that I found myself absolutely stuck, going nowhere and not making any music at all. The problem is not that I was learning so much, but it was the mindset that I had in my own head that was holding me back. I had this perspective that I had to learn everything there is to know about music production before I could even begin my music journey. I beg you, please do not make the same mistake I made. Please learn, while experimenting at the same time and putting what you've learned into practice. If you don't, all this knowledge will go to waste and you will forget so much of what you've learned. To summarize, no amount of knowledge will ever be enough, as you will always find yourself wanting to learn more.
So, choose to apply what you know and keep moving forward!
Falling Into the Trap of the G.A.S. Predicament
You'll also find yourself trapped in the thinking that just because you don't have that piece of equipment that you've been eyeing for months because you can't afford it, that this is the real reason why you can't move forward. Many people call this G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), which means that you always feel the need that you never have the satisfactory amount of equipment to make good music and that by buying more stuff, that you'll somehow be a better artist/musician/producer. Acquiring stuff is great an all, but believing that your craft is held back by your lack of equipment will always keep you from creating art at a swift pace. Like I mentioned before, It's better to take the knowledge, music equipment, software/VST's, DAW's you have and put them to use! It sounds like such a simple and obvious concept, but sadly we all overlook this issue and fall into this trap from time to time.
Just Another Opinion...
"You should sell half of all your equipment and get a iMac", (I use a PC) is what one friend said to me once. He also said, "You should also use Logic (One of "Apple's" DAWs) instead of what you're using now (Which was Reaper and still is to this day) cause Logic doesn't have these issues" (I was trying to troubleshoot recording issues or something similar). "Ludicrous!" I thought. Why in the world would I sell most of my keyboards, guitars, microphones and other equipment just to start all over from scratch learning how to use an entirely new DAW and OS platform. I would get comments every now and then from this person regarding stuff like this, but eventually I had to overlook their arguments, because they were simply just more "opinions". This person has experience with Logic and Apple products, so why wouldn't they promote them and redirect me to using those platforms to try and help a fellow musician out, right? Sometimes these kinds of people need to stay out of our creative process, because they, unfortunately, slow us down from being productive. They usually have well intentions, but their opinions can actually hurt our creative mojo and keep us from expressing ourselves fully. A person shouldn't really have creative control over the creative direction on a project unless they are collaborating with you or you are asking for their opinion. It's kind of like someone interrupting you while you're painting a portrait/landscape and they insist on you using a "green" color instead of "blue" on your painting. Kinda rude, right? Again, this isn't always someones intention, but it often comes off as condescending and controlling.
Now, If that doesn't kill a creative vibe, I don't know what else could.
So how can I go about making things simpler and become more productive in my music studio?
Here are just a few ways to keep things simple and get things done:
"Just do it!" Yep, "Nike" said it best! Try to make as little excuses as possible when it comes to working on music. In other words, "commit, dedicate, succeed".
Keep moving forward when you're tempted to stop and over analyze your music journey. Nothing wrong with thinking deeply about a recording, mixing or mastering issue, but try not to dedicate too much of your time to things that are more trivial, like focusing 2 hours on a snare or bass kick drum in your mix. Also, don't let discouragement from your lack of skills keep you from committing to making final decisions that help work towards finishing your song!
Set deadlines! If you never set a deadline, then you're giving yourself permission to never finish your current project/s.
Plan ahead and set aside a few hours on different days of the week to get some work done during your music sessions. This won't guarantee that you'll make your deadlines, but you are more likely to reach them if you follow this method.
Work on 1 project/song at a time (or no more than a few songs until you finish those). It's tempting to work on different songs, but you can find yourself never finishing any songs at all when you keep going back and forth between unfinished projects. It's more important to finish than it is to start.
Use templates in your DAW instead of starting your project in a fresh, empty, blank state. Having a template with tracks for vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys and more can really help improve your workflow.
Close out all internet tabs and unnecessary programs on your computer and keep your phone away from you so you won't get distracted. These things can easily reduce your overall workflow.
Use automated mixing and mastering plugins to reduce the time it takes to finish the post production phase of your track (especially if you're a beginner!). Sometimes we take alot of pride in doing things ourselves, but you have to ask yourself whats more important, compromising a bit of creativity in order to save time or spending an unnecessary amount of hours mixing and mastering your tracks? Why not let an algorithm created by audio engineer professionals do most of the hard work for you? You can always edit the presets afterwards and make some edits here and there if you don't like the results.
Here are some of the best automated plugins/services I use:
iZotope's Neutron 3 (universal mixing for any instrument or vocals).
iZotope's Nectar 3 (for mixing just vocals).
Toontrack's EZmix2 (easy to use presets to get you started mixing and mastering)
iZotope's Ozone 9 (for mastering your track, but is more complicated than eMastered).
eMastered (an online based service that masters your track. It's simpler than Ozone 9, but not as customizable).