These are 5 very simple (not easy - there’s a difference) things EVERYONE can do to improve their tracks, irrespective of where you are on the journey.
1. Get Another Point Of View
We discussed this recently in the article Producing In Pro Tools - Is Self Production A Good Idea? The quickest way to a better song, performance or mix is simple, ask someone you trust to give you their opinion. Irrespective of who they are, a professional or your mum, even if they can’t articulate it in a way that a professional does, they will still offer you a gem. It may be a simple as, the drums are too loud, or I can’t hear the words. Remember in most cases the people buying your songs are not the professionals, so even their advice counts.
2. Strip Back To Basics
I’ve never known a track that hasn’t sounded better with stuff removed. You might be thinking - the track I’m working on is just a voice and a piano - try it just with the voice and see how it sounds. In most cases, tracks have so much baggage that you could mute half the tracks and improve it on the spot. Now you’re asking, what if it’s just a vocal? Sing less!
3. Play Or Sing Better
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the difference between an average track and a great one is the performance, have you really worked hard on getting a great vocal, guitar or drum part or are you just settling for second best - no genius was ever caught saying ‘that’ll do’.
This may seem like a huge contradiction to the previous point, but in reality your best moments will come when you are relaxed, not when you are wound tighter than a spring. Red light fever is a common studio sickness, so my advice is if you’re in the chair then don’t tell the person when you are in record, conversely if you stress every time a take is needed, then get someone else to sit in the chair for you.
5. Fame Is A By Product
I’ve met a lot of bands who just wanted to be famous, I can’t recall any of them making it to the cover of Rolling Stone. Success takes determination, but trying to be famous is like trying to fall asleep, the harder you try, the harder it gets. Concentrate on being the best songwriter, performer or producer and let fame worry about itself. Luck is often found on the long road of hard work - in fact that’s my experience, the harder I work, the luckier I am.
So - all those tips cost zero, follow them and let me know what happens.