Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Want To Know What's Wrong With Your Music?

What's Wrong With Your Music graphic
Here's something that I just have to get off my chest - again. I posted this 3 or 4 years ago, but it bears repeating once more.

Readers often send me their music to comment on, and while I'd love to get to everything, it's just not possible. That said, there are a number of traits that I notice among the songs that I do listen to that I thought were worth a mention, since they encapsulate the typical problems when they do appear.

Before you send me a link to something to listen to, make sure that your song doesn't have any of these following problems first, which will save us both some time. We're assuming that the song is good in the first place, of course, since everything starts there (that's another discussion altogether).

1. No groove: Every song has to have a pulse and it has to be made obvious so the listener can feel it. Every genre of music has it. If it's not there, nothing else counts. Sometimes I hear songs where the groove just isn't there because of poor playing, or it's not made obvious in the mix.

2. Bad drum tracks: I don't mean the sound, but the actual playing. A number of people have sent me their "masters" recently that have such horrible playing that the only person that's ever going to like it is their mothers.

What do I mean by bad playing? Rushed or slow drum fills, uneven tempo that's way too noticeable, and floppy uneven kick and/or snare hits won't cut it.

The problem is that most musicians who've never worked on a real record project before are just not critical enough and let too much go that should have been re-recorded, fixed or edited. Your basic track is the most important thing you'll record next to the vocal. Make it as perfect as you can before you move on.

3. Tracks out of the pocket: This means that a part doesn't groove against the rest of the track. The number of songs I get with vocals that rush, or the bass being out of the pocket against the drums, or another instrument that way too early or too late is really a shame. Usually the songs I get have their owners more worried about the sound than the playing, but great playing beats great sound any day.

4. Out of tune: Tuners are cheap. Use one. There's no excuse in this day and age.

5. Bad recording: The real key to a great sound is a great player first, then a great instrument, although a great sounding instrument can make a mediocre player sound a lot better. Get those two first and everything else will take care of itself.

6. Bad mixing: Mixing is so much more than balancing instruments and adding effects. It's finding the groove and building around it, then finding the most interesting element and emphasizing it. There's a lot of really good info out there if you're mixing chops aren't up to par. Try my Audio Mixing Bootcamp course on Lynda.com for starters (here's a free 7 day pass), or learn some tricks of the pros with my 101 Mixing Tricks program (you can start with 4 free tricks).

Here's the bottom line. There's a reason why pros exist. Spend the extra money to work with one, at least for one project. You'll be surprised how much you'll learn.

Oh and by the way, if you're going to ask that I critique your song, send me a link that I can stream (even YouTube is OK). DO NOT send me a file. There's a legal issue involved and it fills up my hard drive and takes time to download. I can't promise that I'll listen as my time is limited, but I will try.

Also understand that sometimes there's just not much to say about a mix. You made some decisions that reflected your creative taste. They're not right or wrong, but they're probably different from the way others might've made them. They're not right or wrong either. Some questions just don't have an answer.

1 comment:

Rand said...

Isn't it ironic that the very best music, both in performances and recordings, were done long before the over-abundance of state of the art digital technology?

The reality is too many people today have just become too lazy by allowing technology to do the work instead of themselves paying their dues - yes, just like the 'good old days.' And there's a lot of truth in that 'old' saying.

Granted, the true learning process never ends, and we're all at our individual levels of ability. But only when someone dedicated has learned, practiced and perfected their craft, then you're ready to make your artistic contribution.

Do your damn homework before taking your test! ♫


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