Filtering by Tag: creativity
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!
- John Mayer
- Chris Lord Alge
- Taxi Music
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).
- Focus on the vocal
- eliminate distractions and clutter that distracts from the vocal
- Find focus in every section of your song
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.
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!