Being both a Musician and an Engineer

I recently found a blog post about how to successfully be both a Musician and an Engineer that made me realize we have a ton of interns and students that are both.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  I am a composer and do everything from write, arrange, perform, mix and master my own works.  I have inadvertently discovered ways to do it all while not compromising any of the steps.  Here are some of the things I learned.

Don’t wear too many hats

When I sit down to work on my own work, I make sure that I’m going to only cover one area of the creative process.  This means, I don’t write and mix in the same sitting.  I tend to compose and adjust dynamics as I write.  So I don’t want to confuse this with mixing.  I will usually create sketches and record these and jot them down.  Since my music tends to have many layers, I will add in dynamics as I go to create a cleaner idea.  One thing I won’t do is mix it in the same sitting.  And I definitely won’t master anything.  Each of these processes uses different skills and thought processes, you can feel overwhelmed and not very creative.

Take a Break

I will however do these the same day, what I make a point of doing is get away from the desk for a while.  I’ll watch a TV Show, go for a walk, workout or read.  Anything but think about music.  Then I can come back and work on another part of the process.  This gives my mind a chance to switch gears and cleanse my palette so to speak.

Give yourself Deadlines

I always give myself a deadline.  Whether completely arbitrary or actual.  Be sure to give yourself a realistic amount of time.  My albums usually come out in August or September, so I wil be sure to start backwards and mark when I need to have what done.  I’ll start by when I need to deliver the masters.  When mastering should be done, when mixing should be done, when composition should be done and even add in when I need art and other marketing done.

Use a board to stay Organized

I have a dry erase board on my wall.  I mark all the processes I’ve completed and keep accurate notes.  A rough idea of this is

Track Name :  Time : Number : Comp Complete : Arranged : Mixed : Mastered : Note

It’s not only a great way to keep a running total but also to take your mind of off what needs done.  You always know where you stand in the process.  I also typically have to hit a Minute Count between 60 and 70 Minutes, So I can tell if I need to add more songs to fill that.

Don’t be too picky

When it comes to musicians or engineers, it’s a hard thing to say “That track is Done”  When I check one off I will try to let it sit for as long as possible before returning to it.  If time allows I will go back and listen again to see if there is anything I can improve.  Odds are if you hit the point to call a track done it will sound better to come back after some time away.

Get a second Opinion

When you have an engineer to bounce things off of it’s easy to get feed back.  When you work alone, not so much.  I make it a point to play my mixes for not only for another engineer or musician, but I also let my fiance listen to them.  She gives me very honest feedback and won’t hear the little nuances unless they stick out like a sore thumb.

Get away from the Music

I found a great way to get away from the studio is to work on building hype for the release.  Get very active on Social Media and be sure to keep your fans updated and engaged.  I will also make 1 or 2 tracks available as a sneak peek.  I also usually have interviews and podcasts to take part in.  So find ways to get yourself out of the studio, although don’t stay out too long.

Enjoy all of the processes

This is why we do both.  We enjoy writing, performing and recording.  So be sure that if you hit a wall, step out, take a walk, read, clean, work out, whatever, and come back in work on another part.

If you have any tips or tricks you would like to share, or would like someone to listen to your tracks, Please feel free to comment below or on our facebook page.

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