Bad habits creep up on us, often when we aren't looking and if we are not careful they get into our workflows and make less effective at best and unable to work at all at worse. In this 2 part series, we take a look at ten bad habits we can have in music and post-production and recommend techniques and strategies to counter each of these bad habits.
If you haven't read part 1 yet then we recommend you read that first and then come back to part 2.
6. Not Planning Your Studio Sessions
Pre-production in the music world is a massively underused and underestimated process. Music records have been made and broken off of the back of good and bad production sessions. Some might argue that pre-production decides whether a production is going to succeed or not before it has even started. In the same way that tracking content properly at source is always preferable to ‘fixing it later’, planning the content of that very recording is of even more importance and consequence. So how do we as practitioners prepare for the perfect session? Here are some tips that will help you produce efficient and comprehensive productions from start to finish. As that old saying goes, if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.
- References - A simple place to begin the production process with a client is to sit down and discuss their influences and sources of inspiration.
- Gear List - An integral part of pre-production, your gear list helps define the parameters for your recording sessions. Since the idea of pre-production is to plan for the intended production, knowing the nuances of the instruments you are going to be recording is very valuable information.
- Templates - This is a technical tip that helps the producer more than anyone else. Practitioners often consider templates a great way to churn out content that uses standardised workflows such as podcasts, TV episodes, mastering, etc. A great alternative approach to templates is to build them based on the artist rather than the type of media format being delivered.
- Sequential planning - An important preparatory step often overlooked is the practical sequencing of tracking on a production. For example, nine times out of ten in commercial music, the vocals are the most important element of the music. If this is the case in your production, then everything needs to work around the vocals.
- Gauging Knowledge - A very important and hugely underrated element of pre-production is finding out where your client stands in regards to technical and musical knowledge.
- Timeframes - It is important for a client not to get the wrong impression in regards to how long it takes to record or produce something.
- Mutual Targets - Keep in mind that the best relationships, inside and outside of music are built upon mutual trust. Keeping the interests of the client in sight at all times is hugely important.
7. Owning The Gear Makes You A Good Producer
Modern technology has made it possible for anyone with a modestly powered computer and even free software to be able to produce their tracks at home. Some pretty big hits started life like this, so I want to be clear that I'm not talking about this definition of being a producer but can that same person then work with other talented people to nurture creativity into a great recording? Not always, because being able to produce your own track does not necessarily make you a producer - which is someone who helps other artists to realise their creative visions. Being a capable (and dare I say successful) producer requires many skills that go way beyond merely being able to write, record and mix your own tracks, they included...
- Nurturing talent
- Analysis and development of material
- Project management
- Handling budgets
- Dealing with AR and record labels
- Obtaining talent to work on projects
- Securing recording locations
- Musical arrangement
- Songwriting with others
Join professional bodies, both local trade ones and industry specific ones like RIAA or the MPG. They can offer you support in the tough times and it may give you more credibility when people are looking for the right place or person to record their project. A word of caution, don’t expect to join these bodies as a rubber stamp of credibility, it takes time to build a reputation and if you’re not going to take belonging seriously, then save their time and yours and don’t bother.
Although we are talking about being a music producer here this can and does, apply to any role within the music and post-production industry. Having the tools doesn’t make the talent. Rather the talent can use the tools to be creative.
We cover these issues and more in our article Owning A Top DAW And Plugins Doesn't Make You A Music Producer.
8. Not Sharing Your Creativity
Collaboration is an essential component in modern day audio production. Collaboration gives our work constructive feedback, fresh ideas, solutions and perspective that altogether help us to produce better-sounding work compared to what we could achieve by ourselves.
Audio production collaboration is everywhere. It's never been so easy to co-write a song with someone on the other side of the world or to hire session musicians to record instruments in a mix.
- Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration - This does away with the old-fashioned audio production collaboration workflow that involved exporting stems out of Pro Tools followed by sharing audio files on third-party cloud services for collaborators to receive. Watch our Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration Tested video above to see how quick and easy it is to collaborate Pro Tools projects with other Pro Tools users.
- Audiomovers LISTENTO - This enables users to stream low latency audio from DAWs to web browsers via a plug-in. Let's say you have a client who is unable to come to your studio to listen to and approve a final mix... you can use LISTENTO to stream the mix directly from your DAW master track through to your client's computer web browser.
- Source Elements Source-Connect - This is designed as an ISDN replacement with a feature-set for remote audio recording and monitoring, enabling you to undertake overdub, voice-over and ADR recording, anywhere in the world, over a standard internet connection, integrated into your professional DAW.
- The Audio Hunt - This is an online collaboration platform that has hundreds of studio owners who make their gear available for producers and mixers to run their tracks and/or mixes through. Analog studio gear has always had, and will always have its place in audio production... this is what The Audio Hunt celebrates through its enthusiastic user base.
All these are tools to help you collaborate and/or share with other creatives to help you make your project better than it would be if it was just you that worked on it. The key here is collaboration and sharing whether you use these tools or any other methods to work together and share your work to present it to a wider audience.
We cover these tools and more in our article 6 Cool Services That Make Online Audio Production Collaboration Easy.
9. Using Confusing Or Non Existent Naming Conventions
If had a pound for every time I saw a track labelled Audio 5 or a clip labelled Audio 15_19-273 then I would be a very wealthy person by now. You really should rename the tracks before you start a recording session as Pro Tools derives its default file names from the track name. Otherwise, you end up with a clip list full of Audio 1_01-152 etc.
As soon as you have finished a take make sure you rename the file. To do this, double-click the clip with the Grabber Tool either on the track or in the Clip List and the standard Name window will come up. Always leave it set to name the clip and disk file so that the file in the Audio Files folder gets renamed as well. This will help you when you want to borrow files from another session.
You can learn more about Using Track Names and Colours in our Fundamentals series.
Also, check out a great community tip article from Tom Nagy A Naming Convention To Keep Track Of Mix Files.
10. Not Backing up
Backing up is boring, it takes too long and after all, drives are so reliable now that it will never happen to me. Yes, backing up your work is boring but you ignore it at your peril. Drives will fail, mistakes will happen where you detail the wrong thing, so it is essential that you have a sensible backup strategy.
We hope that you have all heard the mantra… “You aren’t backed up unless you have your data in 3 locations, one of which is off-site”. This is also called the 3-2-1 backup rule implies that you should:
3. Have at least 3 copies of your data
2. Keep these backups on 2 different media
1. Store 1 backup offsite
Why 2 backups on different media? We really shouldn’t get complacent about hard drive failures. When I do, I always remind myself of a description I was given once, of how a rotational hard drive works. When retrieving a piece of data they equated it to flying a jumbo jet at zero altitude and finding a needle in a haystack. Now that is for just one piece of data, your drive is doing this feat many many times a second and we complain when sometimes it doesn’t do it every time!!
Why have an offsite backup? If you have a break-in then is it likely that the thief will go for the computer and the hard drives next to it. Alternatively what if you had a fire in your studio, so consider the best way to have a backup somewhere else.
We cover these issues and others in our article Getting To Grips With Pro Tools - Part 8 - Backup Basics. We also cover the 3-2-1 rule in more detail in our article Back-Up Basics: The 3-2-1 Backup Rule.
Other Useful Articles
We have many more articles that cover these and related issues like Business, Psychology, Marketing, Planning, Pre-Production and Being a Producer, with loads of help and advice. Here are just two from our sizable resource of helpful articles we wanted to highlight to bring this article to a close...
7 Ways To Build A Great Studio Business - It’s never been harder to make money from producing music. There are a lot of studios and talented producers struggling to make ends meet. In this article are 7 tips for not only getting customers but keeping them too and these principles apply for studios both large and small.
5 Tips For Getting A Great Job In Audio Production And Keep It - Some of our readers are looking to get a job in audio production, either in music or post. We know that a lot of college tutors and parents found this story helpful and gives young people tips on how to get a great job, stay hired and get promoted.