Welcome back! Today is the last installment of this month's focus on Making the Best Out of A Bad Situation, and it’s also a 5th post for the month so it’s the perfect time to discuss briefly about reflection on the things that went wrong, or variables that are totally out of your control. It’s easy to get embroiled in the negatives when things don’t go your way, but I often find my strongest achievements have happened when it’s not gone my way the first time around and I want to share with you all today how I try to adapt this mindset in the studio.
Let’s dive in!
I’m sure many of you have come across this idea before, but it’s helped me no end when I’ve been planning, or when I’ve been working with large groups to build towards a common goal (such as an album), where things can get a little overwhelming during sessions in the studio. There’s been days where the guitarist just isn’t playing well and we get stuck on a take, or the vocalist hasn’t warmed up or practiced, so it's inevitably going to be more work for you as you know there’ll be editing somewhere down the line. Compartmentalizing a bunch of problems can help you tackle them much easier than if you were to just charge in without much thought prior; but the real benefit is how it can help you in reflecting on the issues you faced and how to avoid them in the future.
When I was first starting out, all I was really focused on was learning the fundamentals of recording, however, later on down the line it occurred to mean that I wasn’t able to achieve the same sound as others within my recordings - and it bothered me no end. For a while, I kept complaining about the problem while at the same time, continuing to practice, but in the end I had to try and break the problem down into the components I thought were the cause of this issue. As you can probably guess, the microphone I was using at the time was not good at all so that was of course a major issue that sprung to mind first; but the main problem I saw was in the lack of equipment I had like all the other studios I longed to work within.
I got stuck in that mindset for literally years until it finally clicked that the issue was down to the most simple variables (aside from the microphone of course): room treatment, practice, and a lack of knowledge. When the lightbulb finally went off in my brain, and I started to breakdown the problems I had into smaller and larger issues, which could I tackle first, and which ones were going to take more time to either save for or similar, the progress I was seeing within my own abilities was leaps and bounds above where I had been previously in a far shorter time frame comparatively. But the best lesson I took from all of this was more that where I had been failing for a long time, I was now able to learn from those mistakes, which gave me a huge amount of self confidence.
If you already have some sound treatment up then the next step I'd recommend is to use Sonarworks while mixing - it's made a huge difference in the way I now hear what I'm working on.
Setting Goals after you Fail
That brings me nicely to the next point, which is setting goals after things have gone wrong so you can avoid more problems in the future. We’ve spoken a good few times already about the beauty of hindsight, but this is more on the idea of how to continue building your skills, or the studio. Sometimes, it may not even be massive failures that give you moments to pause and ask what needs to be done for you to progress. It could be as simple as not enjoying the kind of bands or artists that you’re working with, the quality of the recordings, the amount of mix notes you get given back - all of these are things that I’ve also wanted to change at some point in my career as well, and so I set my sights on how to change things.
Looking back, the biggest impact was without a doubt, joining or purchasing courses or classes for me to practice and hone my craft, and all of those courses had been broken down into individual lessons which I could revisit even to this day when I’m not sure on something. Recently we teamed up with mastering.com who had a new challenge for newcomers to try their hand at, in the form of Fix The Mix where they worked with some incredible producers such as Jake Kodweis, Caleb Loveless, Warren Haurt and more. Courses like this one and the ones from URM, creativelive and such, are the perfect gateway to improving quickly and avoiding issues that you may have been facing in the past that keep repeating themselves.