The Benefit of Creative Deadlines

This is the month of the RPM Challenge, and I have once again decided to embrace the gauntlet, if not quite ready to smell the glove. The challenge is to write and record an entire album in the 29 days of February – if nothing else, you should have an album at the end of it. Even if it’s not particularly polished, you will have learned at least a little, and probably a lot…(as was the case with my album from last year, which you can download for free here). Here are a few observations that may be of benefit to musicians participating in this year’s event…
(from DAW)

Think Of The End Result Before You Begin

As you are operating under a deadline, you will probably have to modify your usual modus operandum and embrace a more streamlined process. In fact, this environment is quite similar to that of a professional musician creating soundtracks for TV or film; you are given a brief, and you have to deliver a finished product within a strict deadline.

This is something that most bands or artists are not inclined to do naturally, but is actually a very important discipline no matter what manner of music you are creating. Even if you’re a hardcore rocker, studio time is expensive and it’s good to get it right as quickly as possible.

Bearing this in mind, it’s important to have an idea of how your finished mix will sound even as you are deciding what instruments should be in it.

Acting on a whim can be great for creativity, but often leads to a muddy mix. If possible, try to set up your instrumentation without any (or very few) effects in place. If it sounds good without any effects, then you’re on the right track, and you can add effects in later to beef it up a notch.

If you select your instruments with one ear on the frequency range you want them to occupy, you can minimise overlap and keep the overall mix clear. For example, if your first three instruments all operate mainly below 1.5kHz, then your next one should really be filling the air above that…

Some Tips On Using Reverb

  • Reverb is very popular and people tend to use it on everything; however, it’s best to keep it away from your lower frequency instruments, such as bass and kick drums.
  • Reverb at low frequencies can create a sonic mush; use it sparingly, to emphasise particular instruments and to set their position in the stereo field.
  • If you want a vocal to appear up front in a mix, it may be better to use a short mono reverb, with the reverb panned to the same position as the source.
  • A stereo verb can create a sense of width, which may be appropriate for backing vocals or guitars; just remember that you will lose definition of the instruments’ placement in the mix.
  • If you want to give a guitar a bit more impact, you could try using a bit of pre-delay. This is the gap between the wet and dry signals, and can be used to create interesting sonic spaces.


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