Keith Everette Smith

Producer, Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist

Filtering by Tag: creativity

Charlie Peacock and the Civil Wars

I mentioned Charlie Peacock in my last post. Tonight I was reading blogs in my blog reader and I became more inspired to create something authentic than I have in a very long time. I truly believe that this post will inspire you in much the same way. I’d love to hear your comments but more than that, please thank Charlie for this wonderful post!

http://recordproducer.typepad.com/record-producer/2010/01/performance-production-the-civil-wars-poison-wine.html

My favorite resources

I find myself frequenting many blogs and websites throughout the week as I work. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific solution for a problem I’ve run into, sometimes I’m looking to be creatively inspired and sometimes I’m just looking for some light reading (where I accidentally pick up on new tips and tricks). I’m sure there are lots of sites I’m forgetting and I’ll surely come across new sites as I continue to scan the web!


Here’s just a few….

Gearslutz.com - I mentioned Gearslutz in a post earlier this week. Gearslutz is a public forum for anyone into music production and in particular, GEAR. The people who post on GS tend to be gear fanatics and spout their opinions freely. You can learn a lot on GS. In particular, read through the Expert threads from producer/engineers like Bruce Swedien, Dave Pensado, Al Schmitt and Tony Maserati! (note: Watch out for all the crack heads who speak with no actual knowledge on a subject. It’s actually kinda comical)

Youtube.com - This may be kind of obvious at this point but you’ll be surprised what you can come up with in terms of a quality education on audio by searching for topics on youtube. Some of my favorite
SoundonSound.com - This magazine is fantastic. I particularly love their “Secrets of the Mix Engineer” column. They interview all kinds of mixers and analyze current hits all the way down to EQ and compression settings, types of FX and how the mixer overcame certain challenges along the way. GREAT stuff. If you subscribe to the magazine you get access to the all past issues digitally for free!

Protoolsmixing.com (BLOG) - I just found this blog and am about to dig in and read through all the posts. I enjoy blogs like this because it gives you some insight into the mind of a mixer.

deathbyprotools.com (BLOG) - Another great blog about all things recording. I enjoy the title of the blog too (I genuinely love pro tools! I still think it’s funny)

Tunecore.com (BLOG) - TuneCore is a fantastic resource for digitally distributing your music. They have a passion for educating as well. Their blog features tips and tutorials as well as discussions on issues presented to the record industry. Fantastic!

http://recordproducer.typepad.com/record-producer/ (BLOG) - A blog by music genius Charlie Peacock. This one is pretty new but promises to be very educational! Charlie is definitely someone I’m excited to learn from!


There are certainly more. As I find them I’ll blog them. Please, please… if you have a resource that you think others would enjoy go ahead and post it in a comment! Don’t hold back. Share what you know!

Where's your focus

Where’s the focus?

Mixing for bands can be interesting. Sometimes the guys don’t even need to tell me what instruments they play. I can often tell by listening to their critiques of the mix what they play. The drummer is most concerned with finding the best drum sounds. The guitarist cares most for his solos and on and on.

As a producer I find myself doing the same thing. I am an instrumentalist and sing very little. I can find myself getting really excited about the interesting band arrangement I’ve created and forget about what matters most… the vocal! I think this is a danger for any instrumentalist. I suppose if you’re a vocalist you might care more for the vocal than the band. (I know this is true of at least a few of my vocalist/producer friends so I guess it’s likely to be true across the board.)

The vocal is the most important part of your song. Try to notice when your focus has drifted to some other element, and discern whether or not the focus of the mix has improperly shifted. Maybe the guitars have found themselves too out front in the mix and the energy of the vocal is lost. If so, redirect!

From a production standpoint, remember that everything else in your song has a secondary focus to the vocal. This can actually ease the pain of arranging. Keep your mind’s eye on the vocal and get a feel for what is needed to surround the vocal and lift it into focus.

It can be easy to create arrangements that are distracting and actually take away the vocal’s impact. It might help to play your mix, focus and the vocal and notice when the arrangement has awkwardly stolen the attention. Things like lead guitars, background vocals and programmed FX are typical culprits.

When the vocal is not the focus

Here’s an idea… Rather than placing a busy instrumental part right over the vocal, maybe consider placing these ideas between vocal lines or in vocal-less sections. You should always have something interesting to focus on in your song. When there is no vocal (intro, turnaround, instrumental section, outro) you have a great opportunity to create unique hooks and instrumental melodies that can really support the song without getting in the way.

The mixer and the focus

If you’re a mixer, don’t be afraid to mute, duck and rearrange for the betterment of the song. Be sure you have the blessing of the producer before trying out your arrangement ideas. Some producers are open to re-arranging and some are not. I’ve found that most producers are open to hearing what you can come up with, but don’t get too attached. If he doesn’t like your idea it’s ok. You work for him! At the end of the day the producer should get what he wants from the mix. Hold everything with an open fist (good life advice if you ask me).

Recap:

  • Focus on the vocal
  • eliminate distractions and clutter that distracts from the vocal
  • Find focus in every section of your song

Gear Heads Don't Get It!

Jeremy Cowart is one of the most gifted commercial photographers around. I am not a photographer but I do have many friends who make their living at photography and graphic design.  I do enjoy going to Jeremy’s site to see who he’s shot lately. It will most likely be the artist soaring at the top of the pop charts or the stars from ABC’s newest hit show.

While looking through Jeremy’s blog I was drawn to a title “GEAR HEADS DON’T GET IT.” Automatically I am interested. I mean, I am a gear head after all.

You’ll want to take a quick glance at this article as it is a simple explanation as to why creativity comes before gear.

ARTICLE

MY THOUGHTS:

I am still a gear head, though, I feel as though I’d recovering. I can admit that I have a problem and I am facing my addiction head on! I have a decent amount of gear… larger than most home studios and smaller than most commercial studios. I have plenty of gear to make my recordings. Gear is one thing.. A TOOL! If you are an engineer/producer you should know your gear inside and out for 2 reasons: #1 - so you know what each piece of gear is capable of and #2 so that you can use your gear quickly.. so you don’t interrupt your creativity.

CREATIVITY! - I noticed something a few years ago. When I would ask another professional to critique my work, I never heard comments about the quality of my recordings. I heard critiques of the song itself or the vocal performance. Things like that. I also noticed that when listening to hit songs, the common denominator was not audio quality. The thing that every song had in common was that it was a great song that had character and life!

To quickly get to the point. I hope that all of you are seeking for hone your craft as a musician before crafting developing your craft as an engineer. Even engineers should consider themselves musicians first. Buy only the gear you HAVE to have and learn to create art within the creative walls of your current setup.

10 things you can do to fuel creativity/musicianship…

#10 - Don’t compare your work critically to others

#9 - Create things that have nothing to do with your music

#8 - Take music lessons

#7 - Look at nature, don’t move, breathe deep and stay a while

#6 - Create something truly unique… something only you may enjoy.

#5 - When being creative, don’t compare your work to others’ work.

#4 - Share your work with others… often! Share the bad stuff too!

#3 - Be willing to truly hear the opinions of other. You don’t have to agree.

#2 - Don’t be afraid to have your own taste and your own opinions.

#1 - Smile at your work!