Fear not – this post has nothing to do with Michael Jackson – although, now that we’re here, I will say that the outro of that song is WAAY too long.

Onwards…

The heading of todays post is a suggestion – a little tid bit of advice that I once got many years before I was ready to take it.

“Eleanor – can you actually hear yourself?”

“No, I don’t like listening to myself.”

Eeeee – wrong response!

What if you walked in on a painter, tripped over their easel in the pitch black of a dark room.

“Shit man, turn on the lights! How can you see?” you’d probably gripe. And say the artist responded thusly:

“Oh no, I don’t like to see what I paint.”

Uhhh…what?

It seems so obviously silly when put into that context but it’s amazing how often that logic trips and falls on the precarious jaunt from visual to audio expression.

 

A little while back, I wrote a blog on the home studio. In three parts, I broke down the basics on how to set it up, where and with what equipment.

I’m sure many of you reading this are already up and running, but for those of you who aren’t, lend me your attention for just a few while Facebook uploads your weekend warrior pics.

Get some shit recorded.

It’s not about creating epic sounding recordings with a laptop and a 57. You’re not aiming for stardom via your closet (if you are, hopefully there are some fishnets in there). It’s about getting ideas that are stuck in your head into a medium that can be shared – with others, but also, perhaps even more importantly, with yourself.

It may sound pointless and strange but you have got to hear yourself from the outside. Particularly for singers, it is impossible to know what you sound like from your own head, literally.

It’s like sitting inside an acoustic guitar and commenting on the EQ. Your opinion is vastly compromised! Not only because this is your baby but also because you haven’t taken a step back yet to notice that huge damn mole on the kids face.

When we first started demoing songs for our upcoming EP, we recorded 20+ songs into Pro Tools. Listening back was an eye-opening, jaw-dropping experience.

Wow, that intro is too long. I really shouldn’t hit that note there. Don’t do that pinch harmonic, ascend instead of descend, etc, etc. The habits of your comfort zone, guitar or mic in hand, are stripped away when you sit or stand in front of two honest speakers, playing back yourself to you.

It pushes you to become your own producer – gives you the chance to listen without hiding behind performance and passion.

At the beginning of this year, we had 18 songs recorded. By the time we had a listening party for some industry friends and fans, we had whittled that list to 11, and only 2 songs were the from that group of 18. In effect, we wrote over 30 songs, and used Pro Tools as our co-writer/producer, helping us separate good from bad, strong from weak.

Aside from this, it’s also an excellent pre-production tool. Our band is basically the guitarist and I. The drums and bass are brought in for recordings and shows but aren’t present for the writing process. Instead of floundering through rehearsals, shelling out money to argue over drum fills, we laid down some drum tracks – via Addictive Drums. Again, it’s not perfect but placing and editing loops gives us the overall sense of what we’re looking for, and the drummer too.

Furthermore, it gives the producer a chance to actually do some pre-production without having to come to rehearsals or waste studio time nit picking. We send him tracks – he makes comments, suggestions. We edit, send back, etc.

So then, by the time we make it into the studio, everyone knows the edits, harmonies, fills and changes. There’s nothing to argue over and nothing to discuss other than the occasional pop up idea.

This saves enormous amounts of time and money!

 

Now many bring up the argument that live footage/audio can serve the same purpose.

No.

Live footage and audio is great and I strongly encourage every band to invest in that at some point. However, that is best for shaping, well, your live show. It also produces that un-sugar coated reality, blatantly proving that no one should try that move, even you, or that those two songs should really go towards the beginning of the set, and scratch the third one.

It doesn’t give you an honest representation of how an EP would or should pan out. It won’t tell you anything about your studio mic technique or how you sing in a booth compared to stage. Let’s face it – on stage, if you fuck up, as long as there’s energy and vibe, no one will notice or care. If you fuck up on a studio recording…it’ll be obvious.

Bottom line, if you want to be your best in the studio, take some time at home and produce yourself, nit pick yourself – see which songs are best live and just don’t translate to the studio and vice versa.

 

Listen to the songs and imagine that you are a fan.

What would you like? Dislike? What would make you buy this, or not buy it? Is it strong enough to stand with the other songs? A filler? A single?

 

We as musicians have so much technology available to us. I know I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of it. But without the setup and workflow that I have, we would still be bouncing iphone melodies back and forth, blind to major flaws and major strengths.

So, turn on the lights, set up the easel and offer to make dinner for your neighbors cause it might get loud 🙂

 

And if anyone has advice, suggestions or questions on this topic, lemme know – this new digital age is a learning process 🙂

 

 

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