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9 Things That Shouldn’t Derail Your Record

1. Self Doubt

It can get lonely in the studio and feel isolating. The nature of songwriting is self-exploration. This sometimes means dealing with aspects of yourself or your life that aren’t perfect.

Realize that this is the opportunity to let all of those things out. Forget about whether your music may be judged as good or bad. Or how much it will sell. Or if you will land a record deal.

In the end it doesn’t mater — it’s art. Somebody will always have something bad to say about everything. They tend to not matter. Art isn’t a competitive sport. It’s about expression. Say what you need to say.

Just remember, the only person you have to live with is yourself. Don’t let yourself down or destroy the moments of creativity and excitement with hesitation.

2. Needing New Gear

We all say “if I just had…” things would sound so great. There is no time like the present. No EQ or compressor is going to deliver your idea any better.

Ears forgive poor sound with an inspired performance. Ears are bored with great sound and a boring performance.

You will forever be adding to your collection of instruments and gear. Always find a way to make things work with what you have.

3. Dead Weight

Don’t keep negative people around you. If someone gives you bad vibes, don’t hire them. Don’t work with them. Don’t bring them into the safe place. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Make sure your team is supportive. I don’t mean that they always tell you you’re right.

Be equally scared of shiny happy people, they may eat you. Find people that love what they do and want every experience to succeed.

Only allow people on the sessions that are invested in the time they are there.

4. Critics Choice

It’s nice to get some feedback when you’re making a record. But, too many cooks in the kitchen can be a bad thing.

You have to trust your heart. I usually recommend keeping the “opinion pool” pretty shallow while making a record.

People can un-knowingly create a negative uncertainty about a track. They don’t know they’re sending shock waves out.

You really only have to answer to yourself. What’s your vision? Have a few that you trust, make the rest wait for the release.

5. New Material

You’re always going to be writing new material. Know when there is a cut off point unless something really specific comes along.

It’s unlikely you’re only going to make just one record. If you keep adding and taking songs off the record you will only make one record and it will take years.

There is a time stamp to a group of songs. Let that be an era. Box it up and send it out. The next record will document the next phase of your life.

6. Revisions

Often when finishing a record we get really uptight about small revisions. That tambourine is .5 dB too quiet. That’s going to make the difference in my record being a success. Psssstttt … No, it won’t.

This falls in the ‘time to wrap it up’ category. Don’t suffocate your project. You need to let it fly on its own. The music and songs will speak for themselves. Don’t hold up progress over minuscule changes.

Be concerned only with the big changes.

7. Adding More

Don’t overcomplicate your music. Not every record needs to be Pet Sounds. Some records sound great sparse. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Space is just as powerful as a large arrangement. Ask yourself often what does the song really need? Consider every element that gets added.

Try taking things out after they’re recorded. Does it sound better without it? Just like with EQ, cutting is often better than adding.

A common mistake by new producers is cluttering their arrangements. Have you ever seen the show Hoarders? You don’t want your record to sound like that.

It’s great that you like your new pair of bright orange sneakers, but they don’t go with the black suit you’re wearing to the awards show you hope to attend.

Often when songwriters do their own production they get self-aware of space. It makes them feel naked. From a listening experience though, it’s really compelling.

This goes to say that your core performances need to be great. The better the foundation the less you need to build.

8. Perfectionism

There are going to be moments when your weaknesses are going to be exposed. You may hear things in a take that nobody else will ever hear.

Know that this exists and that you’re the only one likely to be bothered. When someone says I don’t hear it, you don’t need to explain ten different reasons why you don’t like the way you pronounced “love.”

They’re just saying in not so many words, it’s not bad! You’re just fixating on a small thing about yourself you don’t like. Often these are the things that others like about your performance. We have a tendency to think of these quirks as defects when really they’re gems.

9. Not Having Fun

Make sure to have fun in the studio everyday. Don’t take yourself or anyone around you too seriously. Enjoy the process and let your imagination soar.

We all do this for the love of it. Being too harsh on yourself or others around you is a real buzz kill for everyone.

If you follow these nine rules, the process for your next record should be pretty smooth.

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Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at guitaristmarkmarshall.com

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  • I tell these things to my clients all the time. It’s great to hear it from someone else. Awesome article!

  • Yes yes yes! Finally someone who’s laid this out in front of everyone. Great advice! http://www.bigtonerecordings.co.uk/

  • Dee

    Thanks for this.

  • hunkE

    This is terrific advice

  • Ray Stroud

    That’s me! I even have a Logic Pro template set up to get as close to Pet Sounds as I could 🙂

  • Alex Sate

    The guy that wrote this knows what he’s talking about. Very good advices. I’ve already said some of these things to myself, but never really moved on. Maybe, it IS very important to hear some things from other people to make sure you’re not insane or just trying to cheer yourself up 🙂

  • Claude Cundiff

    This is awesome! Thank you!

  • Thanks mate. I feel like I knew that all, but sometime we need to hear it from someone else. This is awesome article. Cheers!

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