July 07, 2023
If you’re producing music you intend to do well in “the industry” – like radio hits or songs that get lots of licensing opportunities, there’s one thing you’re going to come across early and often – the notion of sounding “current.”
The opposite of sounding “current”, of course, is sounding “dated”, and many otherwise great musicians and producers struggle to get attention because they sound dated.
We’ve put these two words – “dated” and “current” in quotes because although they’re both used a lot, they’re very hard to define. In fact, the moment you think you’ve got a handle on describing them, it’s gone. In reality, keeping your productions sounding fresh is as much about learning, growing, changing, and trying new things as it is about mastering timeless techniques.
If you’ve been producing a long time – 20 years or more – the trap of sounding dated is a bigger risk. After all, you cut your teeth in a different era. But even if you’re new, it’s easy to get caught in being unoriginal as you emulate techniques from the greats. Either way, staying fresh is crucial if you intend for your music to “go places”.
What sounds current is hard to define, and it’s always changing, so we’ll avoid getting too specific – in case you’re reading this in 3 years and what we’ve said is now old. Instead, here are a few tips for staying current that should stand the test of time.
It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s quite common for people to lock into old tastes (it’s called “taste lock”) and stop listening to new things. As a musician or producer, your job is to keep discovering. As you get older, this can become less automatic, simply because life gets busy, but you must continue to discover new sounds that inspire you.
Every generation thinks their music was better than the current stuff. But if you do the math, we can’t have been devolving music that long – else music would be a series of guttural grunts and sighs by now. The truth is, we all think the music from our teen years was better for a variety of psychological reasons. Nostalgia for the good old days, and the fact that we were still forming our brains when we were in our teens and early twenties. And importantly – because the terrible music from bygone eras gets forgotten. Kvetching about how the kids these days do terrible music will make you stick stubbornly to old techniques and sounds, and you won’t sound current.
Efficiency dictates a consistent approach for every production. But that usually yields consistent results. To find new sounds, try using entirely new methods. Some producers rearrange their studio or work in a whole different facility for each new project.
It can be hard to try new techniques and be original at first, so try not being original for a tune or two. Emulate a current style, learning all about how it’s accomplished, for the sole purpose of giving yourself a new tool for your arsenal.
The internet is saturated with production courses and YouTube tutorials – and for the most part they’re run by young folk. If you’ve been making records for 30 years, it may be hard to swallow listening to someone who thinks their 5 years of experience is something – but it’s the very fact that they haven’t been around very long that will help more seasoned artists learn what’s new. If you’re a newbie yourself, learning from all sorts of people – the old masters as well as the young hot shots – will help you find your own unique path.
Financially, it’s smart not to get too caught up in the latest thing and thousands of plugins. But if you’ve been at it a long time, your studio itself could be keeping you from sounding up-to-date. Make it a point to try some new-fangled thingies sometimes.
It’s simple and not easy but growing as a person – like really changing – will lead you to a whole new way of looking at things. Believe it or not, this may be the best way you can keep things fresh in the studio. Don’t be the same person you were on the last record.
We said we wouldn’t get too specific, since trends change. But here are a few things that have always seemed to help productions achieve freshness and timelessness simultaneously:
Staying current with productions gives some producers fits. Others thrive on the change. At the end of the day, if something is great to you, it’s worth doing, whether or not other people find it dated. But, if you’re trying to keep things fresh, try a few of the things here and anything else you come up with to keep from doing the same thing over and over.
September 15, 2023
August 18, 2023
It’s not like the guitar is ever boring. But sometimes you just want to branch out and see what else you can accomplish. This is true if you’re in a noise band or hyper-experimental act, but it’s also true if you’re in a straight-ahead rock band looking to add a few crazy moments to your show or record. So, let’s look at a few advanced effects you can try for that experimental vibe.
July 31, 2023
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