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February 7, 2012

The Hard Truth: There Is No Magic Bullet

magic bulletI have to be straight with you guys. If you are hoping to take your recordings and mixes to the next level, don’t look for that one “magic bullet” of a technique, tip, or piece of gear to take you there. It’s just not going to happen.

The Cumulative Effect

good choice bad choice signsReally good recordings and mixes are the result of a series of smart decisions that add up in a big way. It’s a cumulative effect that almost sneaks up on you. A little mic placement change here, a little high pass filter there, a bit of bus compression over there, and eventually you can get one stellar mix.

Was it the result of one or two of those decisions? No. In context you could probably have skipped a few of those moves and the mix would still be pretty good. In fact, not any one of your recording or mixing decisions (especially the gear you use) will be what gets you the final mix you want. Rather it’s the many seemingly minuscule moves you make along the way that create something bigger than the sum of their parts.

Not What People Like To Hear

Most people don’t want to hear any of this. They would rather continue to believe that they are one piece of gear away from delivering pro mixes. Whether it’s new converters, preamps, analog summing boxes, plugins, or a new DAW, they falsely put all their hope into one or two things.

rotten appleThis was made even more apparent to me in our most recent 5 Minutes To A Better Mix series. I graciously delivered 31 mixing video tips in 31 days, and despite the overwhelming majority of people showing excitement and gratitude for the new ideas, there were still a few rotten apples in the bunch.

“These tips are too simple,” or “Give me something more substantive,” or even “I could have explained this in 5 seconds!” were just some of the negative feedback I got. It’s really a shame that these people don’t get it. If you want better mixes, then do the stuff I’m teaching. It all adds up. And not just my ideas. There are a bunch of great teachers out there. But none of our advice or gear recommendations will help unless you see each tip as a piece of a larger puzzle, not the magic bullet.

Be A Doer, Not A Dreamer

So let me leave you with this advice. If you truly want to make incredible music in your studio, then be a doer, not a dreamer. What I mean is, be about what it is you say your’e about and actually make recordings and complete mixes. Always be creating music and recording anything you can get your hands on. Try tips and tricks all the time and implement what you learn.

mixing consoleIt sounds obvious, but many of you aren’t doing this. You spend hours reading posts or watching tutorials (or product reviews) and dreaming up ways to make better music or trying to pin down the absolute best microphone for your genre of music (like that even exists) only to keep it all in your head. Please do yourself a favor, realize that no magic recording bullet exists, take what you are learning and get to making great music. You can only improve!

Graham Cochrane from The Recording Revolution