My wife and I have a common hatred… jogging. We live right by a park and we simply can’t see the point of running around a park aimlessly. We always chuckle watching parents jogging with strollers, they look like they’ve stolen a baby. My sister is a triathlete, just the thought of it tires me out, she trains relentlessly to make sure she is in shape for the events she competes in.
Production without any limits can be like jogging - it’s fun and keeps you in shape, you may even be able to run a marathon but the truth is that having goals can help you to focus and give you far better results.
Recording and mixing for fun can be great, but it has it’s pitfalls, mostly down to having no restrictions and certainly no goals. If you are not careful you can disappear down a black hole and spend your life chasing your tail.
If you want to sharpen your recording and mixing skills then here are a few ways you can do that, most of them drawn from the world of being an audio professional.
Set Yourself An Imaginary Deadline
Professionals don’t have limitless time to finish jobs, in most cases the deadline can be very tight. Try setting yourself an imaginary deadline in which to track the session or to finish the mix. If you don’t know what that deadline should be then you need to consider the second thing professionals face… budgets.
Set Yourself An Imaginary Budget
If you are not able to set an imaginary deadline then sit down and figure out how much you would want to earn as an audio professional.
If you want to earn £26,000 a year from mixing then that equates to around £100 a day before any taxes, overheads and deductions - factor those in and you will probably be looking at earning £150 a day, 5 days a week, every week of the year, few professionals have this amount of work so we’re working on the liberal side of income.
So if you get £500 to mix an album then you need to mix around 3 songs a day. You may think that £500 to mix an album is not a lot, you are right, but sadly the internet is full of ‘pro mixing’ sites that offer mixing at utterly stupid rates. Even if you imagine your business can work in a bubble without competition, then if you need to earn £350 a day and someone have given you a £350 to mix some tracks then the maths isn’t hard to do - you’ve got a day! Your budget will determine how long you have to do the job in.
Find Yourself An Imaginary Client… A Fussy One
If hard deadlines and tight budgets don’t sharpen you up then client requirements will. Audio professionals all have their stories about nightmare clients, the reality is there is no such thing as the perfect client all jobs have their challenges.
A challenge can be a simple as the client changing the brief midway through the project (common), the deadline changing, delays in the project for a multitude of reasons and of course the final part of the process getting client approval of your work. Bottom line is that client approval is the thing that will get you paid. They may ask you to change something, then change it back again, and back again after that. They may ask you to change everything, or to submit another version. This is part of the terrain and another way to keep you sharp. It certainly teaches professionals about organising sessions and creation different versions of the same project - partly in an attempt to be quick at changes and partly to second guess them coming in the first place.
It’s OK to be creative for fun, but if you are doing it with any possible intention of becoming a professional then the sooner you learn to work with tight deadlines, tough budgets and fussy clients the better.
By all means spend 6 months mixing an album, it might be perfect by the time you’ve finished it although I doubt any more perfect than had you spent a week mixing it - but few are going to give you that kind of time to mix an album or finish a post mix if you’re a professional.