I want to let you into a secret; I have a friend who lives in the house opposite me, and we are having a challenge about who can get the best looking lawn. A few months ago I woke one morning looked out the window to see his grass destroyed, with patches of dirt where there was once lush grass. I thought it might have moles or some drunk had come one night and trashed his garden.
Now Kevin (name replaced to protect him) is a big Irish man; he has played rugby for years. If you don't know what rugby is, it's much the same as American Football, but the players don't wear all the protective gear the 'tough' American players use. Kevin is also over 6' tall and built like a brick shithouse.
So I asked Kevin what had happened to his grass, he looked at me almost crying and said 'I hired a f*cking scarifier' and it did this to my lawn. It was meant to remove the moss and thatch, but it looks like I was trying to plant potatoes.' He was right it did look like he was trying to plough a field and not gently remove the unwanted moss.
Fast forward a few months and Kevin's lawn is now starting to look nice; mine, on the other hand, has a severe moss problem.
I tried using some of the treatments to remedy it, but after applying lawn sand, it looked like I'd hired a flamethrower and randomly employed a scorched earth policy.
I did a lot of research, and all the advice was to scarify and overseed the grass - I hope you are still with me on this episode of Gardener's Tips?
But having seen what Kevin did with a scarifier and what I did with lawncare (I use that word lightly) products, I thought if I proceed then I'm going to end up with something resembling the Somme. I nearly purchased the machine several times, after all, it can't be that hard, can it?
Then I came to my senses and called a lawncare professional, who came out and within minutes was telling me all sorts of things I didn't know about the 70 metres of land at the front of my property. Within 10 minutes we had a plan to give me the best front lawn in the kingdom and all for a lot less than the price of the equipment and when factored in the cost of my time.
Obviously, I'm telling you, but Kevin can't know how my lawn is going to look amazing in 12 months, so please keep it to yourself. Remember he is a big guy!
Time To Make A Call
Joking apart, in the same week, I had a new project that needed some, what we refer to in the music business as, shit hot guitar playing. It wasn't a lot of playing, but it was a particular style, pop and funk. I have hanging on my wall two great Telecasters, an Eleven Rack and more guitar VIs than you can shake a stick at - so getting the sound would be easy.
Then I remembered the lawn, came to my senses and decided to call one of the best guitarists I know to play the session; he lives in LA and plays for artists such as Pharrell Williams, Snoop Dog and Kelly Clarkson. Within hours I had some killer guitar parts, and the client was delighted with the work, describing it as 'stellar!' In the words of Mike Thornton... 'Job done!'
I hope the two stories illustrate the point. Getting the right person to do the job is essential to get the best results.
In fact, the weak link in both cases would have been me.
The recording revolution of the last 30 years has done a lot of good things to empower musicians to record their ideas. Who could have imagined the tools we would have to enable us to do almost anything. The downside is that it makes us think we can do anything or in many cases everything.
It tricks us all into thinking we can all be great singers, guitarists, bass players, keyboard players and drummers. It makes us think we can all engineer, produce and master. To a degree it's true, but at the same time we can't be great at everything, we can't even be good at some things.
The Peter Principle is at play for many people who now self-record and produce, in other words, people 'rise to the level of their incompetence.'
You Can't Do Everything
We think if only I read enough books, Google enough articles, watch enough videos then I can be great. A site like ours does help people learn how to use gear and get the best from it, but I hope we've never suggested you can get GREAT at EVERYTHING if you watch enough videos and read enough articles. We hope that you are equipped to use the equipment and not hindered by a lack of knowledge and skill.
BUT, some of us believe in the idea that if you 'try hard enough, you can do anything.' Even if that cliche is true to some degree, it doesn't say you can do everything.
With all this amazing gear and the resources to help us figure it out, we can forget where our skill and talent starts and ends. As one person once joked with me 'Google taught us that omniscience is overrated.' I'd go one step further and suggest that when it comes to modern recording omnipotence is overstated.
There are some things I can do in the recording process well and some not as well as others. One of the downsides of getting old is realising you have limitations. There are some things I shouldn't do, like self-master a mix. It's possible to self-master, as it is possible to cut your own hair, but not advised. That's when I call a mastering engineer. Not because I know less about the gear than them, I could always learn that, but because they bring two things I lack; experience and objectivity.
If you are reading this thinking, I'm trying to make you feel crap and suggesting you will never amount to ANYTHING, that is not the case. What I am saying is that you'll never amount to EVERYTHING!
What I want to say is play to your strengths, commit to the things you are good at and for the rest find the great talent to do amazing things for you. It seems in recent years music collaboration has been hijacked as a technology term, I believe in collaboration, but in the old-fashioned way of working with great talent to get a better result.
You may be reading this and thinking that I'm lucky to know a world-class session guitar player. But your talent pool doesn't have to be at that level, simply better than you and the best person you know to do the job. Every town and city is brimming with talent, a good place to start can be the local church. Some of the most talented people I've worked with have never been 'famous', but that doesn't make them any less talented.
The Weakest Link
As this article says, like me, on occasion, YOU may be the thing standing between a bad recording and a great one. Knowing what we excel and stink at is smart.
Why try and do it all yourself and end up with average recordings when you can collaborate with others and get great ones?