Up Your Music Production Game In 2018

Here we are in 2018! As another year has come and gone, we’re all looking back over the things we did and didn’t manage to achieve in 2017. The truth is, regardless of whether it was a success or not, there’s always room for improvement in 2018!

Here are my 5 tips towards making 2018 your best year in audio.

#1: Embrace Present Technology At Your Disposal!

Amp Sims/Digital Guitar Processors

A lot of the “old-school” guitarists out there seem to have strong opinions when it comes to the idea of replacing their traditional “tube amp and giant 4x12 cab” setups for anything with the word “digital” in the title. (Almost as if it were just another word for “inferior”...)

While that may have been the case for the last 20 years or so, we have finally reached a point in audio technology where the emulations are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

In fact, given all the amazing workflow advantages adopting a “digital tone” workflow has to offer, I’d argue that in 2018, this approach offers a distinct advantage!

Why Use Digital Amp/Cab Simulation?

Click & Compare: Prepping a real amp/cab setup for recording isn’t exactly a quick and easy ordeal. It takes a huge amount of time, effort and patience to set up multiple mics, compare several placements (on different speakers) and eventually - hopefully - stumble across a “sweet-spot” combination that makes it all worthwhile.

With amp/cab sims on the other hand, you’re able to compare completely different signal chains instantaneously with a single click of a mouse button.

Just imagine how much time this kind of tonal flexibility can save you in the long run!

Work on your tone as you mix: It’s difficult to judge a tone when dialing it in alongside an unmixed track. Amp sims allow you to adapt your tones as the mix evolves, making them more mix-ready from the start.

Take advantage of your options: High-gain guitar tone isn’t very dynamic, and as a result, it tends to look like a solid block of chaotic, spikey waveform in a DAW editing window.

DI guitar waveforms on the other hand are clear and highly-transient, allowing you to easily pinpoint the initial pick attack of each note/chord for easy timing-correction and further editing.

Eliminate variables (and save money on repairs!): Maintaining analog tube gear for peak studio performance is a huge pain. Trust me, I’m talking from personal experience here!

- Things can and will most likely go wrong at the most inconvenient of times. When they do you’re often forced to either compromise on tone, or simply pay through the roof for a quick repair solution.

- Digital emulation software takes the guessing out of the equation. It’s always going sound the same, and you won’t have to worry about changing tubes, blowing transformers, or replacing crappy speakers ever again!

#2: Stop Copying Others - Stand Out From The Crowd.

Stop worrying about what others are doing in 2018, and use your creativity to do something new, interesting and unique. If you’re always trying to copy current popular trends, you’ll just be another face in the crowd each time your music is eventually released.

The same principle goes for mixing and music production. Copying exact presets and searching for “famous mixing secrets” might seem like a good idea to begin with, but they won’t make you a great mixer or help you build a distinct and memorable sound of your own.

The world doesn’t need another Joey Sturgis or CLA copy, they already have the real thing!

#3: Seek Out Feedback – Even If It Hurts!

Criticism. We all tend to avoid it like the plague, but it’s not all bad. There’s a huge difference between a random negative comment you may receive on the internet, and a well-informed piece of constructive criticism coming from somebody who’s opinion you trust.

At the end of the day, how do you know if your material/productions/mixing-skills are any good when starting out unless you’ve had feedback from other like-minded people?

Go out of your way to ask people for honest feedback and to take note to the patterns in the responses you receive. For example, if everybody you talk to seem to think your mixes sound thin, chances are, you need to look at your low-end.

It’s simple: You can either choose to get offended by constructive-criticism, or let it fuel your desire to learn and improve. Over-confidence and pride will prevent you from growing, but replacing them with a knowledge-hungry, humble attitude will go a long way in this business.

Nail the Mix members gain access to various exclusive Facebook groups, including “The Rocktagon”, where members can post their mixes to receive honest constructive-criticism from hundreds of experienced peers and industry pros!

#4 - Stop Delaying The Inevitable!

Get your content out there, you’ll improve over time. When it comes to mixing, the pursuit of perfection is a false economy.

First off, there’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to art. It’s all subjective!

Achieving even the slightest resemblance of “perfection” in any field takes years of practice and learning from mistakes! Yes, you heard me correctly. You need to have experienced failure to grow!

This being the case, why would you rob yourself of years of improvement by never finishing anything out of the fear of making mistakes? It’s inevitable that you’ll get a few things wrong at some point or another in your career, so why not just get them over and done with early on?

Stop obsessing over perfection in 2018. Simply do the best job you can on any given project and always strive to do a better job next time around. Releasing regular content and getting feedback will help you build self-confidence and drive your business forward. Spending far too long on each project until you’ve lost all objectivity - causing delayed deadlines and frustration for your clients - won’t.

#5 - Do More In 2018

Sit down and evaluate everything you achieved in 2017. Figure out which areas you’re lacking in (number of clients, social media presence, image/marketing, etc.) and take steps towards improving them.

Write down your goals and put them somewhere you will see them daily. A big whiteboard with big red writing on it will work wonders on combating your procrastination!

Create obtainable goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure and disappointment from the get go with unrealistic expectations. Think big, but within your limits and resources!

Ready? Set? Go!

If you are looking for some new inspiration or creative feedback for your current project, head over to the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum on Facebook. Here you will find a large community of engineers and producers sharing their own mixing triumphs and sometimes…failures.  

We’ll see you there!

PS. Want some cool ideas on new audio skills to learn or goals to set in 2018? Check out URM Academy’s “5 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR THE STUDIO” blog from last year!