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About this blog

The video documenting of creating my albums along with my thoughts on the creation process in general.

Entries in this blog

symphonious7

When I was first creating music as a teen, I would do whatever I felt when I mixed, I had no fear, no method, just feel.  None of these mixes were as they should be, but many of them were very vibey.  Then I met a producer who mentored me 5 years and taught me all kinds of things about mixing.  None were very easy to implement, but his ideas of sonic correctness, creating space, making room, what eq does, what makes a good mix, what makes a bad mix etc.  These ideas went whirling through my head, I decided "he makes good productions, he knows what he's talking about" and began implementing such ideas when I mixed.  I'm not saying these ideas were bad, but they took over, and I lost something.
 

My mixes just got worse, and worse, and worse, I began to fear mixing, feel it was never ending, and never release my songs, I am still kind of at this phase, but I'm nearing the end of it.  Recently, I've begun asking God to show me what it is I'm missing in my mixes, and whether or not you believe in the source this is how He has been changing my thought patterns and I'm hearing improvement.  I feel like rather than the rigid philosophies that my producer taught me, the philosophies I get through faith are more life engaging and freeing.  So here are some things I believe I have learned.  They are true for me, and apply to me, decide for yourself if they may be true for you.  

 

1.  Do not FEAR your controls and do not believe in "perfection".  There is no perfection, there are vibes and you are pulling them out of the frequencies you have to work with.  If you strive for perfection you will nitpick and pull yourself out of a creative and inspired mindset and into a scientific and rigid one.  Fool around, play with the controls, have fun, see what can be done.  You can't screw up what isn't right yet, just be sure to remember anything you may want to get back to before you tinker with it.  

 

2.  PAINT.  Every sound has a shape, a thickness, a weight, a color, a coolness a warmth, a tone, use these to paint a picture.  Rather than focusing on one single instrument at a time and thinking "How can I bring that out" or "I want to hear more of the umph of this sound" or trying to emulate things you imagined in your brain, try to listen as a whole and paint a picture.  Once you get it in the ball park volume wise, what kind of picture do you have?  Is it flat?  Hollow?  Not giving you a feeling?  Boomy?  What do your ears want to hear, and I don't mean idealistically.  It's not what your brain wanted to hear when you wrote the song, or imagines on the radio, what does your brain want to hear from the real sounds coming out of your speakers.  

 

examples:  There's no rhythm, I'm not feeling the beat.  It all sounds apart from each other, there's no congruency.  My voice is piercing.  

 

3.  MIX FROM THE HEART.  If you are trying to emulate something you've heard or a band you want to "beat" or your motivation is to be the most "slammin" or "poppin" or whatever it is, you are probably not being very realistic and not getting very good mixes.  Center yourself, be honest, quench pride, now listen, and pull out something that is compelling.  This is your chance to make yourself feel something from your creation, come to that with reverence, awe that you are allowed to do something so expressive and wonderful and now see what can be done!  See what can be done!

 

4.  LEAVE NOTHING OUT.  Keep a watchful eye over your whole creation, don't let anything go left amiss, it's easy to think guitar and bass or voice and piano are all there is and then Mr. Hi Hat or Ms. Snare are destroying your whole world.  Be conscious of your entire creation from the commanding guitar solo to the sprinkles of a shaker.  You can liken this to the love you would put into fine cooking or building a home, love your entire mix.  And if you don't love a part?  Get it out, and replace it with something you do love.  

 

5.  KNOW WHEN TO QUIT.  Your brain is a divinely created machine, but it is still a machine and one that isn't even functioning at high capacity!  (various reasons, wrong thinking, state of the environment, health etc)   Sometimes the desire to finish is so strong that we keep going even when we know we aren't having fun, aren't feeling it, we're tight.  It's always good to stop then, even if it's 5 or 10 minutes, just be peaceful, let your brain stop straining, get back to the essence of your song, all of mixing should be a joy, if it's a chore, stop.  

 

6.  LISTEN HONESTLY.   Sometimes I find myself mixing as I think about other things, mixing but focusing on the sounds and not the feeling, and the whole time I'm telling myself "this is sounding pretty good, it's going alright, I'm making progress"  but in reality I'm aimlessly making changes, mixing but not LISTENING.  You've got to let your song take you on a journey, that means learning to space out, not having expectations, not dwelling on the last moment, not anticipating the next, but LISTENING.  This is also a huge part of hearing the voice of God but that's for another blog and possibly another forum ;)  But yes these principles apply to life but they apply to mixing as well.  Being in the moment, having a still heart, closing your eyes and being taken off on a journey, this is how you will know if you are really getting what you want.   I think sometimes it's easier to just pretend the journey is going how we want and not listen for fear of disappointment, but if you have faith you can correct the problems and achieve your goal, it's the only way to truly know what's wrong.  You have to be unafraid to close your eyes and objectively listen and see if you are happy with the journey you've created, if not, don't fear the correcting process, it's how you grow as a mixer.  You tinker, honestly, and are unafraid to acknowledge the flaws.  And DON'T be afraid to re record, sometimes you can't make a sound work because the sound ITSELF doesn't work.  

 

7.  KNOW WHEN TO QUIT FOREVER.  A mix can always be changed and made better, but usually by the time you have something you can really live with (if you're being honest with yourself and it gives you good feels every time you hear it) the audience would rather just have it than have you tinkering away forever.  At some point you have to consider it good enough to put out there, and this is usually when you are already happy but your brain keeps wanting to go "weeeeell... I mean maybe I could get that just a liiiiiiittttllleee more" or when you start to think it's ready but say "well it doesn't sound like this band..." or you get fearful people will compare it to *blank*.  At that point?  Just put it out, if there's something wrong with it the people may tell you, but who cares, we get better at mixing by sharing mixes, you won't bust out of nowhere with perfect sounding songs, you will grow and grow and grow forever and ever.


Amen.  

 

Most churchy mixing post ever hahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahhahaahahahahaha Deal with it.  

 

I might make more of these as more come, let me know what you think my friends.  

symphonious7

blog-0944200001399321460.jpgI've always considered myself a musical scientist. I would be so bold as to say you should as well. While I don't know much about the craft of audio mixing and engineering, I've always had a natural ability to compose and I believe it is this mentality that I am a scientist of music that helps me to do this. Let me explain what I mean.

The average musician from my experiences tends to be highly emotionally involved in their creations. They become attached to the work, attached to sounds they want to work in their songs, attached to the cool riff they came up with on guitar, attached to that synth sound that worked before it was mixed in with all the other instruments. Music is a form of expression and because of this musicians tend to be very subjective when it is being created. This is a piece of our soul we're trying to get out, so dedication to objectivity is a struggle.

But what does a scientist do? They perform experiments in a lab. They mix chemicals together and see what happens. Objectivity is key in science, and if a scientist has an agenda and tampers with his results to give off the appearance of this theory being confirmed, he will be found out one way or another and labeled a pseudo-scientist. Musicians would do well to look at this process of experimentation and objectivity and apply it to their musical endeavors, as hard as that can be, and as strange as it may sound.

This is where inspiration needs to meet with reality, not to be replaced by reality, but to be blended with it in a harmonious way. I know from my own personal experience that when I feel inspired, when that wave of emotion hits, what I'm writing seems magical to me. The ideas flow yes, but they are seen through rose colored shades, because I'm feeling a strong emotion. For the rest of my life when I hear what I wrote at that time, I may be brought back into that emotional place, the same way that smells and scenery do when I had a great experience with friends.

This only lasts however when I'm alone. As soon as I am in the company of someone else and I show them the idea? That feeling is gone, and as I'm playing the song I had such a fondness for, I suddenly realize there are many things wrong with it! Why did this happen? Because I held too tightly to that wave of inspiration, that feeling I had, and I became convinced it was in the song, when in reality I just associated it with the song. And that's where a scientific approach becomes helpful.

Your studio, your room you write in, the place you create, that's your lab. Your inspiration is your work material, it's what you've got in your test tubes if you will. Your goal now should be to experiment with that material and TEST YOUR RESULTS. Holding onto the hope that you are getting the result you want is not going to make it happen. Staying grounded and realistic, while not in itself going to obtain the result, will at least allow you to know what you have actually created, rather than what you wish you had.

So how do you apply this practically, metaphors aside? I know of two concrete ways. First you need to make the conscious decision to keep your emotions about your work and your examination of the work separate, it is a choice. Practice thinking like a critic. After you get what you feel is a good rough draft or even a finished song, put yourself in the shoes of a critic (maybe not the harshest critic though, you don't want to fall into the other trap of not giving yourself credit where it is due). Imagine you are someone who is in a grumpy mood, someone who doesn't expect this song to be entertaining, and see if you see any problems with the song. Secondly you need to compare your work to similar projects that you know are getting the results you want, compare your lyric, your composition, or mix to an established artist who does a similar style. Does it stand up? Could you follow that act? If not, you may need to re-examine your work.

In the realm of composition I find this the most true, and also time saving. Rather than assuming the musical pieces you expect to work will indeed work and then spending lots of time trying to make them work, be a scientist. Experiment, throw an idea in and see how it reacts to the other parts of the song. If it's not working? Come up with a different idea. In the writing process if things aren't flowing? Go for a walk, don't try to make them flow, get away, come back with a fresh perspective. Objectivity is going to take you from a personal songwriter writing for yourself, into a communicator who actually gets your emotions across to others.

So the next time you sit down to create, think like a scientist. Experiment, stay objective, and test your results. It's difficult, and I myself forget this sometimes, but it's a good thing to keep in mind. At least, this Symph thinks so ;)

symphonious7

For the past 15 years of my life, creating music has been my identity. When I was in highschool I would wait in the parking lot after school and call people over to show them the new track I'd recorded the night before when I should have been studying. The reactions I'd get would be highly encouraging. Girls would look like they'd just fallen in love, guys would either seem jealous or like they wanted every song I'd ever made in their possession right then and there. And that's why I knew that this music stuff was gonna be easy. I was gonna get out of highschool, put a band together, make an album with nothing but number one hits and be rich and famous forever. But shockingly, this is not what happened. (I was as surprised as you)

What instead happened was I began working with a producer who promised me the moon, which I made him renegotiate to being a recording contract since I didn't know what I'd possibly do with the moon plus I'm pretty sure the rest of humanity needs that thing to stay where it is. After negotiating our deal the next 5 years of my life was work work work, but not on my music, on other people's music, always with the promise "this is going to get you money and teach you what you need for when we make your album". Which I believed and tried hard not to complain about.

It was around this time that (early 20's) I was introduced to the love of my life, a cold bitch named alcohol and her sister marijuana. From the moment I first experienced either (both in the same night) I was hooked. I couldn't believe people thought these things were bad, they made me see things for what they really were! Turned me into a ladies man, and most importantly, they helped me make my music! My ideas were so much better when I was buzzed in one way or another! So I began keeping both in constant supply.

Something strange started happening though. As time passed I began to care less about the music, while still convinced I was creating it better, I just didn't feel compelled to like I did in highschool, I began showing up late to my recording sessions with my producer, and resenting him for never getting around to my own project. Years passed, the drug use remained manageable but was growing in importance to me, and then one day my producer told me it was time to work on my album! Finally! I was so excited. He just needed 13 grand, which my parents provided in faith since they believe in me more than I or anyone else ever will.

A year passed, we finished the record, he successfully sucked most of the creativity out of it but I wasn't gonna complain too much, we made it in a real studio with studio musicians, and I trusted that he knew better than I what was going to sell. After the album was finished he let me know one minor detail he hadn't before, I was gonna need another 15 grand to hire a music attorney to shop this album. We didn't have it, all my parents' savings went to the album creation beforehand. I was devastated.

This took my manageable drug habit, and turned it into a full blown obsession. Long story short, I smoked and drank my life away until I got in trouble with the law and my parents discovered the secret I'd been hiding for so long (but just BARELY getting away with it) and I was sent to rehab. Now I'm not saying after rehab I was fixed, but for the sake of time let's just say I went through a relapsing period of off and on use and then one day it just happened. I looked at my life, and thought "Where's the guy who was going to be a star? Where's the musician who could impress anyone and everyone? Do I want to be a drug addict, or a musician?"

I decided to take sobriety seriously, I threw myself into youtube, got back into recording all the time, got my excitement back. But by this time, I was approaching 30. And that's when the struggle I still deal with today began. It's a daily fight to the death between my belief that I can take these talents and DO something with them, and this anxiety I feel over having pissed away a decade of my life and the age that puts me at. So what does that have to do with this blog?

This is the first time in my life that I am sober, and trying to make an album that reaches people. Radio, A&R, fans, I've hired a producer to help me fix the mixing errors I can't fix on my own. And on youtube I am now documenting the entire creation process from start to finish. On this blog I will share the videos from that channel, and also just give extra insight into the album, it's concepts, how the songs came to be, what they mean to me, and go into greater detail than I do in the videos themselves. And the best part? Not every post will be this long.

This feels like my last stand, I'm here to teach and be taught. Share and be heard, but listen as well. The music you will see me creating is not going to be what you typically hear on the radio or even from indie artists. Be it good, be it bad, be it somewhere in between, Symph Music has always been it's own thing. A cross breed of influences that are difficult to trace and define. So I hope you'll join me in this expedition, and I thank you for reading.

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