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Music Production: Inspire & Encourage Creativity

Transcript
Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well.

And as ever, please subscribe and go to producelikeapro.com and you can sign up for the email list, and if you sign up for the email list, you’ll get some free behind the scenes stuff on our Vimeo page. You’ll also get some music to download. Some files to edit. You can enter our mix competition. I’m sure whenever you’re watching this video, we’ll have another mix competition up, and lots of fun stuff! Of course you’ll get information on future competitions, etcetera.

So please sign up for the email list and please subscribe. Thank you.

So today, I want to talk to you about something pretty simple. I’ve been asked a few times over the last few months while we’ve been doing this to talk about the psychology of working with musicians, and singers, performers in general.

I think that’s actually a fantastic question, and I think it’s something very important for us to talk about and for us to think about. My experience has been varied. I’ve worked with all kinds of artists. From independent local artists all the way up to some of the biggest artists in the world. I’ve been very blessed to work with all of these different levels of artists.

To be honest, they’re all very similar. I think if you’re a musician and an artist, whether you’re massively successful or a hobbyist, you still have the same loves and hates and insecurities that everybody else does. So bearing that in mind, and remembering that when you come into a session as an artist, you’re putting your whole soul on the line. Especially singers. For a singer, it’s like they only have their voice. They can’t pick up a different guitar and plug in a different pedal and get a different guitar sound.

Obviously, we can alter their vocals somewhat. We can do all kinds of fun stuff to it and pitch it and tune it, but their characteristic of their voice is their characteristic of their voice.

So bear all that stuff in mind when you’re talking to singers and musicians. Remember to encourage, obviously. Get performances out of them. Make them feel comfortable. Get into a situation where you feel like you can communicate with them freely and you’re supportive of their stuff, and also I think it’s very important to indulge the creativity. Don’t be one of those producers — and I’ve done this in the past. I’ve learned from mistakes. Don’t be a producer that feels like you have to tell them what to do and how to do it.

Obviously, your job is to, as a producer/engineer/mixer, is to guide them and help facilitate making a great recording. My good friend and one of my early mentors, Dave Jerden said to me, “Sometimes, you get in there, and you get stuck in, and you pull the song apart, and you help rewrite the song, and you change the tempo and the key, and the arrangement and everything, and other times, you just get out of the way of the artist and help them make a great recording.”

So the skill is learning when to do that. Sometimes, you can come along and you can literally say, “Wrong key, wrong tempo,” you know, tell them that the chorus is really a verse, and they need to rewrite a chorus, I mean, that happens a lot, but at the same time, sometimes you get a song where the idea and the creativity is there, and you just need to facilitate an environment where they’re really creative, and they can create something really wonderful and unique.

So you have to adapt. The guys that have one way of doing it are not going to make anything beyond, like, generic recording. Now, it’s wonderful that we can know our DAWs. We know Pro Tools, Cubase, Nuendo, you know, Studio One, any of those, Logic, and it’s great that we know those, and it’s great that we know how to grid our drums if we need to, how to edit our instruments tight, how to tune our vocals in tune, but just remember, that is one and only one way of doing something.

Correcting things is only one way of doing something, and it will create good sounding music, and sometimes great sounding music when the style of music needs the humanity pulled out of it, and it needs that sterility put into it, but that’s not the only way to do something. Capturing incredible performances will always trump all that stuff.

If a singer comes in and just wails and gives you something spine chillingly brilliant, if you then spend two or three hours in Melodyne timing it all up perfectly and tuning it all up perfectly, you’ll find with some objectivity if you stand back and listen to the two vocals, you may have killed a lot of what was great about that vocal.

So obviously, a lot of experience will teach you when to correct something and when not to correct something. There’s no one way to do it, but I think the most important thing and the most valuable thing is to be open to the creativity of the artist.

I have found that when an artist seemingly comes up with a crazy idea, like, “Why don’t we put the guitar over here, mic this, and do that, and put a flanger on it, and pan it over here, and do this,” it might sound like the craziest idea, and you can sit there and debate them for 20 minutes as to why you don’t think it’s going to work, or in my experience, you can spend 5 minutes and do it, and find out whether it will work, and sometimes, the craziest idea that makes no sense whatsoever can also be the craziest, best idea you’ve ever heard.

So indulge the creativity. Be somebody that people want to come back to and work with. Be somebody that they enjoy working with. Don’t be somebody that is self righteous and believes, “Well, I know what’s best.”

We’ve all done it. I’ve been there. I have definitely been a guy that’s — you know, especially when you’re caught up for time, I actually find that getting into massive more big discussions with artists all the time takes up more time than indulging the creativity and helping facilitate incredible recording.

So basically, the most important thing for me is be somebody that somebody — that people, artists, enjoy working with.

You know, bring a positive work attitude to it. Bring a positive work ethic. You know, work hard. Work as fast as you need to. Be good and skillful at your tools so you’re not just looking at your screen all the time. Use your ears. So the best way to do that is to obviously hone your craft on your DAW and know how to use it fast enough that you’re not dependent on it. Then let your ears take over.

If you’re an engineer and you don’t play an instrument, learn to play an instrument. Learn to play the piano, the guitar, whatever it is. Piano for me, I think would be — I started off as a guitar player, then turned out to be an average piano player. If I was doing it all over again, I would’ve started on piano, just because when you plug in a USB keyboard into your computer, it’s playing in tune. When you pick up a guitar, we’ve got all kinds of tuning issues.

Your ear will develop so much quicker if you use a keyboard than a guitar. Having said that, I love guitar. I play guitar every day. It’s — I’m passionate about it, so you know. It’s either or. But if I was starting again, I’d start on the keyboard.

The other thing as well is if you have a keyboard, a USB keyboard and you’re learning to play that, that’s also the device you’re going to use for programming drums and for all kinds of fun stuff. Putting bass lines down, string lines down, triggering Melotron samples, vocals, loops, you name it.

So getting yourself a USB keyboard as an engineer and learning how to play keys, even on the most peripheral level will be a godsend for you, because you’ll develop an ear, and if you develop an ear, you will know how to tune vocals to suit, not just tuning them to the grid in Melodyne or Auto-Tune.

So best of luck with everything. Remember, number one, be creative and help indulge the creativity and help it flourish. You want the creativity to flourish in your sessions. You want to facilitate that so artists want to come back and work with you continuously.

Most of my — the people I work with are continual, repeat customers. I’ve been very blessed to work with the same artists a lot over the years, and I’ve learned how to facilitate that and be a guy that they want to continue with.

So please, as ever, subscribe, go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list, and leave me your comments. I’d love to hear your experiences on your — when you do sessions and how you interact with artists and how that’s gone, and problems you’ve had, and let’s discuss it. That stuff is fantastic, and I love hearing about it, and I learn from it as much as you do as well. So thank you ever so much for watching!

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.
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