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Category Archives for "Workflow"

Are You Overthinking It?

Daily Blog - May 25th 2021

There's a million ways to do any task in audio. How do you decide what's correct? What matters? Step one: Don't overthink it. Trust your intuition and knowledge and then execute, so you're constantly moving forward.

Are You Overthinking It?

So you've watched a tutorial, or got a checklist from an engineer you're working with. Now you're insecure. Are you doing things the wrong way? Do you have to start over?

Maybe. Probably not. At least not everything. I send a checklist to every band I'm working with. It's are guideline that is supposed to help people prepare, consolidate and export their files in a way that allows me to do the best job possible for them. And it avoids common mistakes and problems. So it's helpful, I've created it for a reason and I want people to follow it. But it's just that: A guideline.

If you ignore the list, but you like what you're hearing and if what you're sending over makes sense to a stranger, then cool! No need to change it! Of course, some technical things have to be taken care of and you want avoid any mistakes along the process. But that doesn't mean you have to follow every step exactly as I describe it.

The same is true for YouTube tutorials, online courses or blog posts. There's truth in most of them, but they are not rules.

An example: 

My checklist says you should try and leave 6 dB of headroom on each individual track before exporting. This is just a safety measure. Because if you have a mono source, e.g. a lead vocal, on a stereo track and you bounce it down to the final mono track that you're gonna be sending over, you might be adding a couple of dB in the process without noticing. It happens automatically while exporting. To prevent unintentional clipping, I suggest adding a clean gain plugin at the end of your chain and turning the track down if it's pretty hot before you export.

If you don't do it and you check the track after export and it still doesn't clip - awesome! No need to turn it down then. It's just a suggestion to be safe. You can technically send every track at -0.1 dB and it's fine. I can always turn it down myself, as long as it doesn't clip unintentionally. 

So no need to worry about it like "Crap, my track is around -4 dB instead of -6 dB. Should I still turn it down 2 dB because the checklist says so?". If it doesn't clip, no.

Or maybe someone told you to prepare your sessions well, create templates, make a schedule, come up with a budget, do pre-prodcution, get feedback, etc. 

All of that is correct. Preparing properly and staying organized is important. But if you start to overthink it and you go down that rabbit hole of organizing everything to the last detail, things will take forever and you might never actually start recording.

Don't overthink it and figure out what actually matters and what doesn't.

And finally, let's say you've (hopefully) made creative production decisions but you think that your mixing engineer might prefer everything raw without your automation, fx, plugins, etc.

You now start to wonder: "If I keep it, will they ask me to remove it? If I remove everything, will my song fall apart? What can I keep? What should I keep?"

Again, the answer is: Don't overthink it. If it sounds good it is good. It's your song and there are no rules. Keep everything you really like and remove everything you don't. Ask, when in doubt, but remember that nobody can tell what's truly important for you and it's on you to make those decisions.

The moment you've decided to record and produce yourself, you became the producer. And that role comes with a lot of responsibility. If you don't want to make those decisions or don't feel confident enough, hire a producer. Or just keep practicing, keep moving forward, don't overthink it and accept that you're gonna fail a couple of times until you get good enough.

Be bold, be fearless, learn to trust your feeling and your ears. Keep it simple, use logic and reason (no pun intended) to determine whether a piece of advice is applicable or not. Then execute, move on, learn from mistakes and don't overthink it.

-Benedikt

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

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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

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. ūüôā

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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs really just for fun, do whatever you want, of course. ūüôā 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

The Simple Habit That Prevents Clicks And Pops In Your Recordings

Daily Blog - April 30th 2021

Sometimes it's the little things, the small problems that are easy to fix that can cause major issues when overlooked. This is one of them. And it happens all the time.

The Simple Habit That Prevents Clicks And Pops In Your Recordings

Make it a habit to put a short fade at the end and the beginning of every single audio event in your DAW.

That's basically it. Why should you do that? Because not doing it is the #1 reason for audible clicks and pops in your audio. Sometimes these can be fixed after the fact, but sometimes they become a real issue and you should prevent them for ever happening. For example, if you have a click in your audio and you send it through a reverb and delay, the click will not only appear in one spot (easy to fix), it will now have a decay and it will be repeated with the delay. That's a problem and I get files like that all the time.

So, from now on, every time you cut an audio event in your DAW, make sure to put a very short "fade in" at the beginning and a very short "fade out" at the end of every event.

And when you're putting two events together, make sure to create a crossfade between them. Every single time.

Btw: An "event" is the box with the waveform in it. Sometimes it's called an audio clip, I'm sure you know what I mean. It's the content of the audio tracks you're looking at. The thing you're editing, cutting, etc.

It takes seconds, can be done with shortcuts/key commands and there's not excuse not to. Just look up how to do it in your DAW, make it a habit and do it even when there seems to be no audio where you've made the cut. Just do it and never think about it again.

This simple habit would have saved many of my clients hours of phone calls, emails, troubleshooting, recalling sessions, shooting in the dark and fixing problems.

-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

1 Faders As EQ

Daily Blog - April 29th 2021

While I believe you should be able to get great tones from using just one mic on any mono source (guitar cabs, snare drums, etc.), there is an approach that I absolutely love which involves two mics. Next time you record a guitar cab, for example, try picking two mics that sound drastically different. Pick one very dark and one very bright mic. A ribbon and a dynamic mic, for example. Then increase the difference even further by putting the bright mic in a very bright spot (close to the center of the speaker cone) and the dark might in a very dark spot (close to the edge/outside of the cone). 

Faders As EQ

Why would you do that and what about the "faders as EQ" thing?

Make sure you align the capsules, so you won't run into phase issues, record the two mics to separate channels and you'll end up with a "dark" and a "bright" fader that you can balance against each other.

Now the beauty of this is that you can completely change the tone of your guitar recording without ever touching an EQ. Just by moving the faders. This means that the harmonic balance and general character of your tone stay the same, which isn't the case when using EQ, because EQ leaves parts of the signal untouched but changes the volume of others. The relationship between fundamentals and overtones changes and certain chords or notes will get louder or quieter. With this "extreme fader" technique you don't get these unwanted side-effects of EQing guitars as much. 

And now, throughout the song, you can easily and quickly create "scene" changes without having to automate an EQ, all while keeping the basic harmonic character the same. 

You can also adjust for different parts that need a different tonal balance. For example you might want to turn up the "high" fader during a palm mute part or low chords that need some extra definition, pick attack and clarity. But then after that you might have a part with high chords or a quick single note lick that needs a rounder, warmer tone to not sound harsh. No problem, just change the balance, turn the "high" fader down and the "dark" fader up and... aaaah, so smooth.

This also works for snare drums, for example. You could have one dynamic mic and one condenser mic very close to each other with the capsules aligned to not mess with the phase. Now you have a fader for the aggressive midrange "crack" and ring (dynamic) and one for a more open top end, the stick attack details and also body and low end of the drum (condenser). Depending on the part you can slightly change the balance and bring out ghost notes and details with the condenser, or turn up the ring/crack and make the snare cut more with the dynamic. 

Have fun experimenting!

-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

The Old And The New

Daily Blog - April 28th 2021

Some of the most beautiful houses are a tasteful combination of old materials and modern elements. Classic, timeless construction methods combined with new technology. We can find this in other areas, as well. All new and "modern" is not always better and old or "classic" is often beautiful but can almost aways be improved at least a bit or benefit from a fresh approach.

The Old And The New

Have you tried combining the old and the new in your recordings?

If you're a bedroom producer creating songs on a laptop with all programmed drums and virtual guitar amps, how can you bring in some unique vibe to mix it up a little? Can you at least make some elements go through air and capture them with a mic again? Any weird speaker that you could try sending stuff through and see if it sounds cool? Or maybe reamp through a real guitar pedal before you hit your amp sim? Or hire a remote session musician to do record a real instrument with a human touch that you can add to your programmed arrangement?

If you're doing things mostly analog and "real", can you use modern technology to your advantage and add unique production elements? Post-production FX to create tension or more impact? Maybe try reamping and use a crazy plugin chain on a DI before you send it out through your amp and cab. Or create larger than life, insane sounding spaces/reverbs in the computer and blend them with your real room mics.

Combining the old and the new brings endless possibilities. There's no excuse to sound generic, dated, or boring. 

-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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