I was recently watching a video where record producer Warren Huart was talking about how when it comes to music production: Creativity is King. And I couldn’t agree with him more. It is important for us to stop focusing so much on the gear and to start focusing more on the song.
Now I’m not going to lie. There is a lot of gear that I have my eye on. But I don’t let the limitations of my gear get in the way of recording and mixing songs. In many ways, it may actually be beneficial to have gear limitations, as it forces creativity.
“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” – William Plomer
When it comes to producing music, a lot of innovative and pioneered techniques came from creative accidents and limitations. Go and listen to some of the music recorded in the ’60s and ’70s. They had many technological limitations back then, yet they were creatively able to get everything recorded and mixed down to one mono or stereo track. This resulted in a lot of creatively recorded and mixed songs that still hold up to this day.
There have been songs that I have mixed or produced where I didn’t particularly like the sound of certain elements. These songs weren’t recorded in the best rooms or with the best gear, but instead of focusing on that, I focused on building everything around those limitations. I embraced the aesthetics and character of the room and created an advantage out of a disadvantage.
Creativity and great ideas will always trump equipment. There are so many artists that I listen to their old demos and EPs and I still get goose bumps. Now, do these recordings sound rough? Yes! But instead of running away from a rough/gritty sound, they embraced it. They also prioritized and focused on capturing an emotion, a vibe, and (most importantly) a great performance. This is important as those three elements are paramount, as they are the core components of recording a great song.
I believe that a great song will still shine even in a less than stellar recording. A bad song, however, will still sound bad regardless of where it’s been recorded or how much was spent on recording it. You can have the best gear in the world, but no amount of processing will save a poorly arranged song.
So if you are recording something and it isn’t sounding quite the way you want it to, try getting creative. Try embracing your limitations and try finding a new and different way to record the same thing with the same gear. Perhaps you can try changing the room that you are recording in. Perhaps you can try a different microphone or a different microphone position. No matter what you decide to do just make sure you do something. The worst thing you can possibly do for your progress and growth is waiting for everything to fall into place.
You are going to learn a lot more through experience and failure than you will through waiting for the right piece of gear to “save” your recordings. Just make sure that you are focused on the process and know that your recordings will get better over time. Because at the end of the day the emotion, vibe, and performance are what matter most. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Stay creative, stay encouraged, stay inspired, and stay motivated.