What’s your audio production related new year’s resolution?
Is it to get better at compressing? To use less reverb in a mix or finally learn some new microphone techniques?
Audio production is a massive subject, and looking at every aspect of it can easily make your eyes water. However, it’s easy to learn a massive subject when you break it down into its corresponding parts.
Learn Something New Every Month
Instead of setting some vague and unattainable new year’s resolution that you know deep down inside that you won’t achieve, try creating simple tasks. Assign each month of this year for something new to learn. Break the year down into the twelve must-know things you want to learn in audio.
If you’re stuck for ideas, try following this simple list:
January – Create a Comfortable Work Space
Nothing gets done in a cluttered and messy work space. Whether you’re working in your bedroom studio or a fancy project studio, make sure it’s clean. A cleaner work space channels focused work, and makes you more productive.
February – Sell Unused Gear
I clean up my closet every once in a while and throw up stuff I haven’t worn in a while. Clothes that I know I haven’t worn for over a year I give away to Good Will. They just take up space in my closet so someone else obviously has more use for it than me.
Do the same with your gear. I’m not saying you should give it away to Good Will. Rather, sell the gear you know you haven’t used for a while. If it’s been unused for a year, it’ll probably stay that way. Sell it someone else, and buy yourself something you know you’ll really use.
March – Learn a New Microphone Technique
There are a bunch of really great microphone techniques out there. If you’re a single mic kinda guy, maybe you should look into learning some stereo tricks. Or, if you’re unfamiliar with drum recording, familiarize yourself with the different overhead techniques available.
April – Get Out There
Don’t stay in your studio. Try to get some experience with live sound. Sound reinforcement is a whole different ballgame where you only get one chance at making things sound good. Check out the Open Mic Guide for a crash course in simple live sound.
May – Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Guitarists usually have a comfort zone when they play solos. It’s usually a familiar scale or an area of the neck they’re comfortable with. Similarly, audio engineers have a comfortable area of the frequency spectrum. Certain areas of the EQ spectrum are more familiar than others, and many steer clear of certain frequency ranges.
June – Use More Modes
No, I don’t mean Dorian and Mixolydian scales. I mean reverb modes. I used to be stuck using the same plate reverb on everything. Granted, I was doing live sound and it worked most of the time, but this year it’s time for you to branch out. Get to know all the reverb modes, and experiment with the ones you’re unfamiliar with.
July – Know Your Meters
If you’re mixing, you can’t overload the master fader. And if you’re mastering, you should give your mix some dynamic range. Knowing how to use metering tools if a great way to know if your mix is too quiet or too squashed.
August – Better Vocal Recordings
A great vocal sound is what makes the melody stand out and the song shine. If your vocal recording skills are suffering your whole mix is suffering. Take the time to learn how to record better vocals; a great vocal is the sugar on top of an already good recording.
September – Get to Know Your Modulators
Reverb and delay aren’t the only processors that create depth. Chorus, flangers and phasers are some of the many modulation effects that you can use to create a different type of depth in your recordings.
October – Learn ALL the Buttons on the Compressor
It’s time to finally sit down and stop using those presets! Learn what the ratio on the compressor does, and set the correct attack and release times for what you’re working with. It can make a big difference from one instrument to another.
For a complete crash-course in everything you need to know, check out Understanding Compression. The training course teaches you the ins and outs of the compressor, complete with practical examples.
November – Plan the Perfect Mix
A good strategy is essential to executing the perfect game. It’s just the same with mixing. Once you’ve got all your tracks in order, planning your mix makes the mixing process easier and more enjoyable.
- Streamlining the Production Process – The Routing Makeover
- Mixing Strategies – Planning the Perfect Mix
December – Master Yourself
I know you’re afraid of mastering. It’s OK, we’ve all been there. Now get over it and read up on how you can master your own tracks. Ian over at Production Advice has great resources on mastering your music loud. Additionally, Audiotuts+ has plenty of great tutorials on how to master your tracks.
A Better Engineer in 2012
Here’s to you and your ambition. Take the time to tackle all these different subjects, one at a time. Don’t go overboard trying to learn everything at once. Set aside one goal each month, or one subject you want to master. Like that movie What About Bob, it’s all about baby steps.
Image by: Whitfield-In-World