Renowned Melbourne music producer Simon Moro gives us some hints on how musicians can capitalise on isolation.
Everywhere I turn, I’m inspired by the ways in which artists are truly taking advantage of the disruption to our industry – from everything such as daily live streams, fun covers, to lockdown album recording. Recently I’ve been mixing John Foreman’s Australian Pops Orchestra for Arts Centre Melbourne’s YouTube channel. It’s 70 tracks all recorded on people’s mobile phones at home – definitely a fun challenge.
Anyone that’s read my articles or attended my masterclasses will know I’m a strong advocate for the importance of getting a professional touch on your mixes. Until you’ve experienced the difference, your songs are likely to be falling short of their potential. So let’s discuss the pros of producing at home and preparing something for a mixer, with audio examples of the difference between a pro mix and a DIY mix.
Trust your gut
You’ve now got all the time in the world… more than ever before. You’re working on your music, and you have great intuition. Have you ever written a song and every time you play it, you hate the bridge? Or, you quietly cringe a little in the second verse? Well, this is your gut telling you something needs to be addressed. So stop being lazy, be proactive, stop at that section and fix it! Ask questions like: Does this section need to be in the song? Why do I hate this part? Why does this feel wrong? Maybe they were placeholder lyrics you got too comfortable with. Perhaps you re-wrote the rest of the song, and the bridge is a relic from a song that once was. Listen to your gut and get the composition right!
Treat your room
When you’re recording, really listen to your recording space. As an exercise, place the mic in the middle of the room and make a recording walking around the space – talking, clapping, strumming a guitar. Keep a distance from the mic then play the recording back, and you’ll hear the sound of your room. Does it sound good? Does it have the mood you’re trying to capture? Or does it sound like a kitchen, classroom, or office? Experiment with placement objects like mattresses, hung blankets, bookshelves etc. in the room, and record again. Get your room sounding like the space you want people to hear your music in.
Capture the performance and produce
You’ve got your room sounding great, so now focus on performance and programming. Get used to the idea of committing your sounds. When I’m producing, I refrain from any mix processing, like compression, EQ and automation. I limit myself to one reverb, one delay and static fader positions. If I’m EQ-ing or compressing, it’s only ‘what I’d do in tracking’, and I consider it part of the sound – like gentle opto compression on a guitar, or, amp simulation. By working like this, you avoid ‘fixing it in the mix’ before you’re even at the mix.
Get it mixed
So now you’ve finished production and are ready to mix. So you want to mix it yourself too, which is fine, but it’s definitely worth investigating the difference a pro mix can make. When it’s our job, we’ve mixed 100s of songs, we do it every day, and have for decades. Think about the first song you wrote, to your 100th song. Did you improve? If your goal is to make an impact, you owe it to your career to get as strong a result as possible. To hear the sort of difference it can make to the impact of your music, below are some examples of my mixes vs. home/less-experienced engineers. I’m working with the same session files, the difference you hear is from experience and the gear.
Take this time to collaborate, make music, and reach out to each other. There are a lot of great mixers, producers and session players out there ready to work remotely. Do some research, make connections and create offers. What skills can you sell or trade? Let’s survive this time of uncertainty by supporting each other and come out on the other side stronger than ever!
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