In my many adventures in music I have had the privilege of working with a bunch of amazing artists who have a broad spectrum of knowledge. It is fantastic working with new up and coming talent, the perspective is fresh and often the newer artist still has that fire that the industry tends to beat out of you. But at times I notice a few habits that less experienced artists have that make them look like a newbie. So I figured I would make a list of the worst problems I have observed that make you look like a rookie!
#1 PLEASE, PLEASE talk and act professional, don't start a conversation with YO DAAAWWGG GET AT ME!
Pick up Jay-Z's book "Decoded" he sounds smart, and articulate. If the first time you email me, and you say something like this, I am likely to ignore you. First impressions matter. Have fun, do something to stand out. (I once sent an artist I wanted to work with a picture of a Quadricorn.) But if you sound like an unintelligible punk no one will work with you.
#2 Thinking or suggesting that MP3 is a good format for ANYTHING.
It makes me sad that I have to even talk about this, but I do. MP3 is fine for listening to a record when it is all done (if it is encoded at at least 256k) but for doing production work it should NEVER be used. MP3 is a format that removes information from an audio file to save storage space. I can pick out an MP3 file by ear almost every time. You can especially tell if you listen to the high end of a cymbal hit. Deliver everything to .wav or maybe .aiff but .wav for the most part is the standard format, usually 24bit 44.1.
#3 Thinking your $20 Radio Shack mic can cut it.
A good mic matters. Don't get me wrong, create your art with the gear you have. But quality does matter, strive to make everything the best you can. Or at least don't look down on someone who does.
#4 NOT learning.
Honestly I don't understand this one at all. If you want to be any kind of artist you should always be learning, always be self educating. If you are a lyricist, are you reading all the great writers? If you are a composer are you watching YouTube videos on composing? Are you listening to all the music you possibly can? Dedicate your life to learning and perfecting your craft. That is what you want right? In fact I would say that if you come home from a gig and don't relax to Muddy Waters, or Dr Dre, or whoever moves your soul you are in the wrong profession!
#5 Trying to do everything yourself.
Another one I don't understand. Composing, mixing, mastering, graphic design are all different skills, and personally if the budget is there a different person should do each. Now if the budget is not, do whatever job is needed to get the job done and create your art. But know that it is not ideal, even Kanye who is the pickiest producer in the game right now does not mix or master his own work. A quick aside to that, a good cover sells the album, so make sure this is great! Hire a designer if needed.
#6 Thinking nice gear is for suckers.
The best analogy I have ever heard for this is fine wine. For years, when you are starting out in life the box of wine from Walmart is fine. But then you spring for a cheap bottle of wine, and boy it is way better than the box. Over the next couple of years every few months you buy a nicer bottle of wine. Before you know it, you are drinking $300+ dollar wine because it tastes and is better! So you go to a friends house and they offer you a drink from the box of wine and you take a swig and you realize it is NASTY and undrinkable. You look at your friend and ask how he could drink this crap, and he looks at you like what? It's cheap wine, it tastes good and gets the job done. I think you get the point. $3000 compressors do make a difference, nice monitors do matter. It's a taste you develop over time as you are exposed to good gear. I want to stress that you need to create your art no matter what gear you have, but don't think good gear is a waste.
#7 Thinking top producers don't earn the money they make.
Man when someone says "So and so is just overrated", man it makes my blood boil. ANY musician that is having success at that level both worked hard, honed his or her craft and networked like crazy. Those overnight success stories you hear are fiction. Plain and simple. If you want success in this business you go and make it for yourself. But don't try and make yourself feel better by knocking someone else.
#8 Not doing a real mix when possible.
Since I do a bunch of work in the hip-hop genre, I find this to be a huge problem. A producer may make a beat, then and artist will do the vocals over the top. The stereo backing track and the vocals are then mixed. THIS IS THE WRONG WAY TO DO IT. It is a freaking epidemic in the hip-hop genre. You want to create the illusion that the song is one cohesive whole. And let me give you one example on how to do that using an reverb effect. Most of the time a mix engineer is going to put a reverb on a bus so he or she can send small amounts of the original signal to the reverb. This creates the illusion of a different physical space. You want all the instruments to sound like they are at least in a similar space (I know this is a broad rule, and there are certainly exceptions) so when you mix the vocals on top of a stereo mixed track you lose the ability to create the illusion that the vocalist and the music are in the same physical space. This is one of many reasons to break down all the tracks including vocals and do a real mix.
#9 Don't put a bunch of effects on your tracks and especially not on your vocals!
It is really easy when just starting out to become enamored with the technology. But it is absolutely the sign of a rookie, your vocals should be clear a crisp and understandable. It is the first thing that people are going to connect with and if it sounds like you are in a subway tunnel in New York, well you get the picture. Pick every effect for a specific reason and desired result. If there is a problem with the original recording, re-record it. If the original recording is amazing, it should be easy to give it the final polish it needs.
#10 Never quit mid-project, or if you do send all your work over!
First off, don't do this. If you are collaborating with someone else and have a bunch of work done, finish it. It is really disrespectful to use up someone else's time because you are lazy. If for some reason you just can't finish, apologize and send them every take, every .wav file EVERYTHING you have worked on so that maybe they can finish this project. Also tell them why you can't finish and none of the "I am just not feeling it" crap.
#BONUS POINT. Don't underestimate the power of good mastering.
Don't feel too bad, even long-time mix engineers don't fully understand mastering and has been a "black art" for years. But good mastering makes the difference between a rookie project and a final polished album. And yes, mixing and mastering a VERY DIFFERENT SKILLS. Do not confuse the two.
So, that is my small list I hope this can help all you up and comers at least be able to talk the talk. And as always feel free to contact me anytime!
Source: Drunk Pedestrians