Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers, and in this video you’ll learn how to create more music without quitting your day job. But before we dive in, I also put together a free 7-day music-making challenge that will help you develop the skills you need to double your musical output. So if you’re ready to make more music today, click the link in the description below or up there in the video to get started right now.
Now if you’re like most of us, music is probably not the only thing that you have going on in your life, right? Maybe you have a full-time job, or kids, or family, or other obligations, so in this video I want to cover three simple tips that you can apply right now to help you make more music without sacrificing any of the other important obligations you have in your life.
Tip number one is you don’t need to know it all. Now as music makers, we’re obsessed with details, right? We want to learn about every tip, and trick, and technique, and plug-in that we can use to make our music sound just a little bit better. But it’s important to realize that if you only have a couple of hours a week to work on music, you need to get really serious about focusing on the things that are going to make the biggest impact for you – not wasting time focusing on things that are only going to make a one-percent or two-percent difference, but focusing on those big wins, right?
So there’s this concept called Pareto’s law, Pareto’s principle. And essentially it says that in any given situation, eighty percent of the results are determined by twenty percent of the actions, or the input, right? So that means within the music making process, only twenty percent of what you’re doing is causing eighty percent of the results. It’s getting you eighty percent of the way there in terms of a finished record that sounds really good, right? So you need to be focusing on that twenty percent and really finding those things, those few things that are really going to get you eighty percent of the way there, and making sure you got those down before you jump into more advanced tips and tricks and techniques that are really only going to get you marginal improvements compared to the big wins that you’ll get by focusing on those two or three things.
So within the mixing process in particular, I think there are a couple things that fall in this twenty percent camp, the stuff that really makes an impact. Number one is balance – so making sure that you’re really spending the time to find the right fader positions, as boring as it sounds, for the individual tracks in your mix before you spend a whole bunch of time EQ’ing or multiband compressing, or any of that other stuff. Just move the faders. You’d be surprised what a big impact this can actually have on your music. And people don’t spend enough time here, so making sure that you’ve got balance right before you move on.
And the other two things I think that fall in this camp are EQ and compression. These are foundational tools. They’re incredibly important, and they really do contribute to the sound of a great record. So if you don’t really have a handle – I mean really confidently understand things like EQ, and compression in particular because I think that compression is a little bit harder for people to wrap their head around, I think you really need to go back to those basics and make sure that you understand – okay, what are all the different controls and the parameters on a compressor for example, and how do they work, and really getting a solid handle on that stuff before you spend a whole bunch of time focusing on advanced tips and tricks and all the other stuff that seems really sexy and exciting but I promise you is not going to make as big of an impact, not even close, to focusing on the stuff that really matters.
So making sure that you’re focusing your attention where it really counts, recognizing that you don’t need to know everything, but that just really conquering and mastering a few small things can get you eighty percent or more to the sound of a finished record, to a music that you can really feel proud of. It’s liberating to know that, and once you really understand that I promise you your progress is going to improve dramatically. You’re going to make much larger strides towards creating music that you can really feel proud of.
Tip number two is limitations can be empowering. Now a lot of us creative types feel like limitations are limiting, right? We sit down and we want to have the freedom to build anything and create any type of music we want and no boundaries, right? And that’s part of the reason that music making is really exciting. But setting limitations, setting some boundaries for yourself, can actually help you make more music. It can help you progress quicker, more effectively. It can help you finish things, get things done right. And so if you get good at setting limitations around your creativity, as backwards as it sounds, you’ll actually become more creative in many circumstances. You’ll be in a better position to create more music. So what kind of limitations am I talking about?
Number one the biggest thing is deadlines, right? So not saying like “hey I’m just going to sit down and make music whenever I want and you know, something comes out of it that’s great,” but setting some kind of goal for yourself and actually setting a time limit and being like “this is how much time I have and at the end of this time, I’m going to have a record finished. Even if it sounds horrible, that’s when I’m going to finish and I’m not going to go past that point.”
So really setting clear deadlines, and there’s an idea called Parkinson’s Law that basically says work expands to however much time you give it. So if you give yourself three months to make a record, you’re going to take three months to make a record. But if you say I want to do this in three weeks, you’re going to do it in three weeks. You’re going to find a way to make it work, even if it seems impossible at the time.
So one of my favorite exercises, I love to do this, is the twenty-four-hour song challenge. And I’ve done this with one of my favorite artists, Dylan Owen, where we actually went out to a studio, or his studio, and said, you know, we’re going to make a record in twenty-four hours, and at the end of the twenty-four hours, we have a finished record, right? Even if it sucks, we’re going to stay up all night and make a record, right? And that was an incredibly awesome challenge. It just, it gave us that boundary that actually helped enable us to be more creative in that situation. So timed deadlines is one way that you can limit yourself.
Another way is actually putting limitations on the creative process itself. So saying I’m going to make a record with only sampled instruments. Now I’m not going to, if I’m a guitarist I’m not going to play any instruments. I’m going to sample everything. Or I’m going to make an EDM record when I’m a rock music producer, right? Setting these limitations can actually challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone and get more creative and ultimately come away with something that’s really interesting, and just something that can help you grow and challenge your skills and abilities and ultimately help you improve over time. So not being afraid of limitations, actually looking at limitations – specifically time limitations – when it comes to creating more music in less time, can be incredibly powerful. And I promise you if you embrace this idea of setting limitations for yourself, you’re going to create a whole lot more music.
Tip number three is to practice the art of making commitments. Now making commitments is one of the most important skills that you need to master if you want to be a great music maker. In today’s music making process, we have a disease. And it’s caused by this lack of commitment, this idea of pushing things down the line as far as we can and making decisions later instead of making firm commitments today. There are a million different ways that we do this, right? Instead of making a firm commitment and choosing a vocal take while we’re comp’ing, we just keep them all and we say oh we’ll just figure it out in the mix. Or instead of, you know, recording one mic on a guitar, and really taking the time to find the right placement and commit to a sound, we record things with half a dozen mics so we can fix it in the mix and just have more flexibility later. And instead of making a committed mix and bouncing things down to a stereo audio file, we send stems to mastering so that they can kind of mix for us, right?
There are a million different ways that we push off commitment in the music making process, and it’s worse today than it’s ever been before. But this is holding you back. It’s holding you back from making more music. It’s holding you back from finishing things and moving on. And ultimately you have so much more to gain from finishing a project and taking on a new challenge than you do from toiling away for weeks or months on end working on the same thing. You’re not really getting anything done, you’re not moving forward. And ultimately at a certain point you have to draw a line in the sand and say this is what this is. This is what I’ve created. And I need to commit to this, finish it, and move on. I promise you if you can do this, if you can commit and really exercise commitment, because it’s like a muscle, if you commit on a regular basis, you make micro commitments in the music making process, every day if you challenge yourself to make more commitments, to make firm decisions – it’s a muscle – and your commitment muscle will grow over time, and it will become easier to make more commitments and make firmer commitments over time.
And this is one of the big keys to making more music. Because if you can commit, if you can say “I’m making this decision now,” then you’re going to create so much more. You’re going to finish things so much faster. You’re going to have so much music you don’t know what to do with, right? So practice the art of making commitments. Maybe this means printing your guitar effects in the recording phase, right? Instead of just adding them later in the mix. Getting the sound that you’re happy with, and then printing it. Or when you’re tuning your vocals, once you’re happy with the sound, printing it down to audio so you can’t go back. I know it’s kind of scary, but I promise you if you can make these firm decisions and make this a practice and a habit in your music making process, you’re going to create a whole lot more music in a lot less time.
Now if you’re ready to dive deeper, again I also put together that free 7-day music-making challenge, which will equip you with the skills you need to double your musical output. So if you’re ready to make more music today, click the link in the description below or up there in the video to download this free music making challenge right now.
Before you go, leave a comment below this video and let me know – what’s your biggest musical goal this year? Is it to finally finish your album? To release a single for the first time? Let me know, leave a comment below. I read all of them and reply to as many as I can.
Thanks so much for watching, and you can check out more music making tips like these right here on my YouTube channel or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.