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Category Archives for "Mindset & Psychology"

Systems, Processes And Creativity

Daily Blog - May 20th 2021

Using systems, processes and a streamlined workflow doesn't sound very creative, right? For me, those are my number one creativity enhancers.

Systems, Processes And Creativity

I create checklists and processes for everything!

I do it because I want to focus all of my available "brain RAM" and mental energy on the things that matter. The creative stuff. The music, the art, the sound, the vision and "why" behind it, following my gut feeling, acting on spontaneous ideas, connecting with other people. Things only a human can do.

I want to create, not manage and troubleshoot. 

So I get the tedious, repeating stuff out of the way, by automating it (with clever software), delegating (outsourcing) it, or creating checklists and processes for myself and people I work with, so that, at the very least, we don't have to think about it while we're doing it.

You can create processes for everything from songwriting, to recording, mixing, mastering, setting up sessions, creating templates, managing and archiving files, sharing projects with others, publishing content and music releases, social media campaigns, Spotify pitching, label pitching and all the small tasks that are part of those big items.

The key is to build systems and processes that you can follow every time (or quickly outsource), leaving room in them for the creative parts that need to be unique and personalized and that actually require your brain power. That way you don't forget anything, you prevent mistakes and you can focus exclusively on those creative aspects. 

The following list offers examples of tasks that take a lot of time and can easily be built into a system, checklists or even automated processes that will make your life as a creator so much easier:


  • Setting up a new session
  • color coding your tracks
  • routing
  • scheduling rehearsals/recording time
  • sharing files
  • archiving and backing up sessions
  • bouncing rough mixes
  • exporting multitracks
  • etc. 

And you can go much further than that. Even the recording and mixing itself can be broken down into steps. Think "gain staging", "basic fader balance", "panning", "choose the right mic", "find the right mic position", "check the signal flow", "record drum samples as tuning reference", "check tuning in between takes", the list goes on and on. And some of these can again be their own processes that include a certain number of steps you follow every time. Or should follow, until you forget a step.

The same is true for songwriting or arranging. Everything includes processes and tasks that have nothing to do with the creative side of it.

So, I understand if making music and systems like that seem contrary to you. And I understand it doesn't sound like a lot of fun. Until you try it. You'll never want to go back, once you've discovered the power of it.

What can you automate, delegate or create a process and checklist for that you can follow? What can you get out of your brain and onto a piece of paper, spreadsheet or into a software program, so you can create more and better art?

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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Distort Everything

Distort Everything
Daily Blog - May 19th 2021

I received this amazing sticker from Scott Evans (antisleep.com) and it's right in front of me everyday. My daily reminder to have fun with the audio I'm working on and to constantly try and find ways to destroy sounds in a musical way.

My Love-Hate Relationship With Stem Mastering

Distort Everything. Seriously. It tends to make things better.

A little bit of harmonic distortion, a little drive, a subtle push, some extra density and overtones. It rarely hurts. It usually makes things better. It means you need less compression. And it makes things interesting, exciting and unique.

You gotta be very careful (and tasteful), especially during recording. But you can literally distort everything if you try hard enough and find pleasing ways to do so. 

And of course, you can always completely mess things up and create the most obnoxious, nasty tones ever if that's what you like (I often do!). No rules.

Have fun. Distort everything. I live by it. Thanks Scott.

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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My Love-Hate Relationship With Stem Mastering

Daily Blog - May 18th 2021

Sometimes I feel like stem mastering is the best thing ever and then other times I promise myself never to do a project like that again. Why is that? And what's wrong with stem mastering in the first place?

Attention: Before you read on, please remember that "stems" are not individual tracks, like kick, snare, lead vocal, bass, guitar etc...! These are called "tracks" or "multitracks". "Stems" are groups of instruments that belong together or go together well, like all drums,  all guitars, all vocals, all bass instruments, etc. A mix might have 120 "tracks", but maybe only 5-6 "stems" will be sent to the mastering engineer for stem mastering. People get this wrong all the time for some reason and we finally need to end this. You can do better than that, so stop using "stems" when you're actually talking about "tracks". Thank you. 😉
My Love-Hate Relationship With Stem Mastering

I guess it mostly depends on whether the client actually wants and needs mastering or not. 

Today I mastered a project where this was absolutely the case. The band had done a mix, was happy with it and sent me stems that gave me extra flexibility to correct and enhance things. But they didn't want or expect to get completely different sounding songs back. Awesome! That's the type of stem mastering project I love! A relatively quick and intuitive workflow where I can be objective and follow my initial reaction to the mix (one of the main reasons to hire a mastering engineer). Plus, it's a MASSIVE transformation for the client, because I can correct and improve things without damaging other things. Great!

Sometimes, though, what people want and need is mixing. Looking for a "cheaper solution" for their problems they then ask for stem mastering. Danger zone.

This approach is problematic for various reasons.

  1. (Stem-)mastering is not mixing. A mastering engineer has to respect, serve and celebrate the mix. not change it. It's a different mindset and there are different goals to be achieved in mastering. Creative mixing decisions, like choosing effects, shaping the tones of individual tracks, riding faders or finding a balance that works for the song have to be made during mixing. At this stage it's about things like translation, quality control, minor corrections, a final polish, perception, focus, energy, overall frequency balance and dynamic control, loudness and technical requirements. 
  2. Managing expectations becomes hard, very hard with an approach like this. When someone sends me 10 stems, it does not mean I have to change or do something to all of them. But they might expect me to. I have to assume what they've done in the mix was on purpose, while they might be very insecure about it and don't really like it that much. They say they need stem mastering, but they actually expect a mix.
  3. It's hard to resist the urge to "improve" every stem. Even if the client understands the difference and actually likes the mix, it might be me who's causing problems. Because I feel like I could do so much with the stems to make the mix a lot better, but it's just not my job in those projects. It can be hard to remember that I have to stay in mastering land and not start mixing. I have to respect the mix and not abuse my power. It's not my songs, not my creative expression, not my record, my "mixing taste" doesn't matter and I'm not the producer or mixer.  

So, what's the conclusion? I don't know. I'm probably hoping you read this and ask yourself: "Do I need mastering or mixing?" before you think about hiring someone to do stem mastering for you. Stem mastering is an upgraded mastering service, not a downgraded mixing job.

If you understand that and feel like the extra flexibility would be great to achieve your desired end result, go for it! Stem mastering can be truly awesome and absolutely worth it - or ruin your mix and make your mastering engineer want to jump out the window during the process. 😄

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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Demoitis Is Real

Daily Blog - May 13th 2021

Have you ever gotten so attached to your demo, rough mix or raw tones that any change in the mix seems to ruin everything? I've been there.

Demoitis Is Real

Demoitis is completely natural but has hurt many records

It's hard to let go of something you've been working on for a very long time. The more time, effort and money went into something, the more we tend to fight for it. Even when there's a better idea.

Part of the problem is, after spending months on a record it's impossible to be objective. 

Especially if you really liked your original tones right away and then got used to them over time, you won't be very open to someone else's suggestions and ideas. But there will always be blind spots that you've missed and only a fresh pair of ears can find them and fix the problem. Trusting anyone in that situation is hard but necessary.

Also, even if your tones are really awesome, they might not be ideal in the context of the mix.

Let's say you really love your guitar tones and you see no reason to fix them. But your mixing engineer might decide to carve out a little space for the vocals, or roll off a little top end, so they blend well with the cymbals, or tame the low end a bit to prevent the mix from becoming muddy and help the body of the snare cut through better. 

What do you do now? Fight for your original tones, even if that hurts the mix? Give in and let go of the tones you crafted so carefully? Doesn't sound like a fun decision to make, right?

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Individual tones aside, does the overall mix really benefit from the changes?
  • If so, what's more important for the feeling, vibe and emotional impact of the song? The individual, awesome tone or everything working together perfectly in the mix?
  • Is the original character really gone, or are my tones actually still unique and awesome after the tweak? After all, a good mixing engineer should always respect your creative decisions.
  • What will hurt more: Knowing that it's not exactly what I've recorded or knowing that I've sacrificed the perfect mix and sabotaged my release, because I got too attached to my rough mix?


We're intentional with our tones and should fight for our ideas and creative decisions. But demoitis is real. 

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

The Record Is What Matters, Isn’t It?

Daily Blog - May 12th 2021

I got a great comment on a video in my online course, The Self-Recording Band Academy, the other day. One of my students was pointing out that swapping roles/instruments within a band or even hiring outside musicians for the record was a very touchy subject for most musicians. 

Yes, I agree and I have definitely witnessed some passionate discussions on that before. 🙂

The Record Is What Matters, Isn’t It?

In fact, I often started those discussions when I was still producing bands, because I would always suggest whatever was the best for the record.

So it definitely is a  touchy subject. But should it be? This really got me thinking. At the end of the day, if you want to make the best record you can possibly make, the end result is all that matters.

And unless it’s really just for fun, the record and the band as a whole are always more important than the ego or the individual. So in the studio, whenever the band has some goal other than just having fun, every serious producer and engineer will suggest using the players who can do the best job for each instrument/part. Within the band or even outside musicians.

It’s super common and just part of making a professional sounding record. As producers we would do the band a disservice if we didn’t suggest whatever gets them the best result.

So as a DIY band, you are the producer and the same applies. 

And everyone in the band benefits from that, because it moves the band as a whole forward, leads to the most exciting record and nobody will ever ask or care about who played what in the studio. They either like it or not.

The reality is that all the way from local bands to professional major label artists, what you see live on stage is rarely what happened in the studio. And that’s totally fine! Because everyone in the band might be good enough to perform live, but only one person can be the absolute best in the studio for a certain instrument. And that’s the person who should play the part. Everything else is a compromise if your goal is to give your audience the best possible listening experience and the most exciting record.

If none of that matters and it’s really just for fun, do whatever you want, of course. 🙂 But if the band and the record are really important to you, think about this for a second. You might be sabotaging yourself.

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

Night Owl Or Morning Lark?

Daily Blog - May 11th 2021

Most musicians I know consider themselves night owls. Claiming to be most creative and productive late at night. They also believe that they produce their best work at night. And they basically don't function at all in the morning, right after getting up early.

It's a cliché, but it's really what most musicians tell me. Up until 3-4 years ago I thought of myself like that, as well.

Today I want to challenge you to actually test it and find out for real

I'm not saying the whole "night owl" vs "morning lark" idea is correct. I'm not an expert on that subject, but I have my doubts that all three of those claims above are true for most people. 

They're probably not.

What’s A “Warm” Sounding Recording?

Going to bed early every day and waking up between 5am and 6am every morning was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

And almost everybody I know who tried it, as well as SO many famous and successful artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and creatives in general would agree.

I'm still creative in the evening or late at night

But I'm not really productive anymore at that time. And I rarely do my best work very late in the day or evening.

So after testing it and experimenting I've found that I get the best overall performance and results if I

  • do the most challenging, deep work in the morning, pretty soon after getting up
  • need rest, exercise and quiet time throughout the day to do my best work and stay objective. So I alternate intense, uninterrupted work blocks with rest, walk breaks and exercise and as soon as I notice a drop in focus, confidence or quality of output I call it a day and spend time with the family. 
  • have the best ideas at night, when the kids are in bed or on lazy sunday afternoons. Often being tired seems to help with creativity, as well. As weird as that may sound. When I can't really focus anymore and my mind starts to wander, that's when it often happens.


What is it for you? Have you really tested it? Try getting up early for a couple of weeks and see how that works for you. Or the exact opposite if that's what you've done already. Experiment with different times for writing, producing, recording,  practicing, etc.

It's super interesting how important that stuff is and what a game changer it can be.

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

Learn From The Best Instead Of Your “Competition”?

Daily Blog - May 7th 2021

This post is not an opinion or piece of advice. It's about a question that came to my mind and I want to share it:

What should we be listening to for inspiration? 

And a question for you: What are you listening to for inspiration? 


In Tim Ferris' book "Tools Of Titans" (HIGHLY recommended), legendary music producer Rick Rubin says:

“Going to museums and looking at great art can help you write better songs. Reading great novels; seeing a great movie; reading poetry… the only way to use the inspiration of other artists is if you submerge yourself in the greatest works of all time. If you listen to the greatest songs ever made, that would be a better way to work through finding your own voice today than listening to what’s on the radio now and thinking ‘I want to compete with this.’”
Drum Room Mics And Low End – The Fine Line Between “Huge” and “Muddy”

The more you're listening to what's current, the more you'll eventually sound like it.

And if you want to make something truly great, it might be better to sound different and unique instead. Taking inspiration from timeless classics that people still consider the best of all time, finding your own voice through that and finally creating your own "current", but timeless style.

This is part of how I interpret Rick Rubin's quote and it immediately resonated with me. It makes total sense and it's actually something that I've always done as a producer and mixer, as well.

On the other hand, there are people who do the exact opposite. Jesse Cannon is an example that comes to mind. 

I highly respect this guy. The amount of work he puts out, the variety of projects he's involved with, his ability to figure things out and do proper research before talking about anything is truly impressive.

His expertise and knowledge ranges from music production, mastering, podcasting, marketing, working for major labels, artist development, writing, researching and exploring creativity, all the way to politics and social issues.

(By the way: Jesse Cannon has been a guest on Your Band Sucks At Business, an amazing podcast by my friend and The Self-Recording Band Podcast co-host Malcom Owen-Flood)

I heard Jesse say a couple of times that he doesn't listen to "old" music at all. He only listens to what's current in any genre! He wants to know what resonates with people right now and why. He wants to know what works and is constantly looking for new, exciting releases to listen to and study.

This is a radical approach, of course, but it works for him and I can also totally see why. 

So, where do you stand on this? I guess I do a bit of both. But I think it's an interesting question and when we ask it to ourselves, maybe we realize that we should probably do more of one or the other.

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

Explore The Extremes

Daily Blog - May 5th 2021

Exploring the extremes and going too far is necessary. Consistently testing the limits and trying to overcome them is what leads to progress.

The Best Microphone

And when we do creative work this is what leads to exciting art. Pushing boundaries, making bold decisions and being willing to fail is crucial.

Will people like our latest crazy idea? Who knows. And we shouldn't care. If we have a feeling that it might work and resonate with our audience and if we like it ourselves, we just have to try and find out.

Playing it safe will not get anyone excited. Or at least not for long. Taking advice is important, of course. But if we always play by the "rules", stick to best practices and fear the extremes, people will forget about our art quickly. There are no hard rules.

Creating something remarkable and hitting the sweet spot requires going too far. You can always dial it back a bit later, if necessary. But you will never know if you don't try.

  • "Will my client like this crazy distorted effect or is this way too much?"
  • "Should I really add that much low end to this kick drum?"
  • "The guitars are probably WAY too loud here, but it sounds so freaking amazing and I love the energy!"
  • "Boosting that much midrange on the bass is nuts, but the growl is exactly what this part needs!"
  • "It's weird because I've already boosted 15dB of top end with that first EQ, but I feel like it could use some more. Let's see how far I can take this!"

I have thoughts like these every single day when I'm mixing records. I'm constantly afraid of going too far and failing. But I ignore these thoughts, trust my gut feeling, do whatever I think is cool and move on. Always forward. After all, there's only one way to find out and only one way to make sure we end up with something that the artist and their audience are beyond stoked on. And if I do fail, so what? At least I've tried and now I know. I happily take the criticism, don't let my ego get in the way, adjust and move on again.

When was the last time you stopped before actually reaching the limit because you thought you're not supposed to do this? What will you try next time you write, record or mix? Can you ignore the doubts and just go for it?

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

One sound fits all?

Daily Blog - May 4th 2021

When recording an album, are you really doing what's best for each song? Maybe one setup for the record doesn't cut it.

The Best Microphone

When I was starting out I often set up the drums, guitars, etc. for the record once and then just recorded everything with that setup.

Seems reasonable, right? At least if you're a band with a certain sound and vibe that doesn't change much from song to song.

But the truth is that if two songs are written in different keys, you might need to adjust. Same with faster and slower songs. And what about space, width, etc.? Does every part feel exactly right with the same exact setup? Are you doing every song justice?

Why do we often prioritize making the record sound super consistent, even if that means making a whole bunch of compromises along the way?

It will actually sound surprisingly consistent anyway, because you made it, everything gets filtered through your ears and brain and your taste is your taste. No matter what.

Next time you record a record, try different snare drums, different tunings, different guitar cabs or instruments to make each song (or each part) feel exactly right. The consistency will still be there and can also be achieved otherwise later in the process. Focus on the song first. Then the record.

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

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