To use or not to use that is the question. I'm talking about using VST's in today's world of music production and recording. There seems to be so MANY options out here and more being created everyday that its never ending. I myself, have almost every wave bundle, the SSL Bundle, Tony Maserati bundle, Izotope bundles and more. All these were accumulated over time obviously, but the question becomes do you really need of all this?? Is this what it takes to actually create a quality recording?? How much is too much??? Well during my last session I asked myself all of these questions because I honestly don't use no where near all of my plug-ins at any given time. Sure there are some uses for a lot of them depending on the type of track and depending on what type of feel you are trying to achieve, but overall I have to say that having every VST out is not truely necessary.
First and foremost I have to say that VST's are a great thing. The guys and companies that make these products put a lot of work into creating the most authentic, responsive and inexpensive software for us ,(the producer community), to use. With out these VST's and soft synth plug ins, we would still have to have reverb plates, and studio's full of equipment just to achieve what we can achieve today on a computer. So I go back to what I originally asked, do we need all of this?? Well this can be considered a personal choice but I'll answer like this. If you are a producer who is strictly running a computer based studio, meaning no real instruments, drum machines, or outboard gear, then I would say you probably would need a lot of whats out here just based on that alone to be able to compete sonically with others who may have a hybrid studio. Now if you are a producer that has a mixture of real instruments, outboards gear and software, you don't have to have as much as the producer I mentioned before who only is computer based. You would not believe how many studios I have went to where there is still a TON of outboard gear hooked up. These guys do have VST's as well but they rely more on their experience to get a good sound with as least software plug-ins , effects as possible. There is no right or wrong when it comes to this. Its all dependent on how you are set up. I am a clarinet and saxophone player so do I like to record real parts yes I do. I also have some good East-Erst woodwind plug-ins as well. Its all about options for some. I'm becoming more of a minimalist , so I'm trying my est to make great recordings with as least as possible, but thats just me. This is totally subjective and depends on the person and or studio.
Next I wondered is this what it takes to create a good recording?? I know quite a few engineers that are pretty heavy handed when it comes to effects. I could say that this depends on the engineer but in this case I'm not so sure. I honestly believe that there are a few more important factors involved to create a good recording. Of course the vocalist or artists involved plays a big part in how the recording turns out. If you have a very talented artist who has great vocals, you might not need the same things as you would on a artist who is not as polished vocally. Room acoustics, and the quality of the microphone also are important factors for me in determining how the final product will turn out. The better the room and mic, the better the recording has potential to be. Last but not least, you preamp and its processors are also a big factor in what will determine how you use your VST's when its time to mix. I feel that everything I mentioned are more important than the VST's you will use to mix the final product. Now NONE of this matters if you don't have experience or knowledge of course, but that can be learned. It just seems sometimes we tend to focus on what plug-ins we have as opposed to other elements first which are there to help in creating a good product. So although I do feel some VST's are very necessary to create a quality recording, its not the only thing that is necessary.
Last after going through folder and folders of VST effects and plug-in I asked myself is there a such thing as too much or too many??? To answer that question, no there is not. I do think there could be too many VST's used on a particular project, but thats just my opinion from how I am used to mixing, but no there is no such thing as having to many in the arsenal. If you can afford it, get as many as you would like, I do feel it's probably a waste for anyone to just accumulate and not learn them first before buying more, but again thats my opinion. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think on this topic!!
Since day 1 my blog has mostly consisted of posts about music business topics such as signing up with sound exchange, the importance of signing up with a PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), filling out cue sheets correctly or how to remain creative as a producer or artist. Well this post is a little different. I feel that in this age of information its up to us musicians as a community to keep each other updated on everything musically, from the new youtube subscription service that will be starting soon to reviewing products that we buy and use in our studios. With that being said ,I'm going to write a brief review on the JBL LSR-308 Studio Monitors.
First and foremost, anything that I will write in this post is my opinion, I always suggest that anyone who is searching for any new studio product to take the time to research whats out here themselves before you buy, I'm just giving you another option thats out here that you might like. Now lets get down to my thoughts on these monitors. About a few months ago I decided to upgrade a few things in my studio. One of the more important pieces of equipment I felt I needed was some new monitors, At that time I had the Yamaha HS80M's(which I've used for years with good results), but eventually everything needs upgrading or revamped so it was that time for me to go shopping. There are a LOT of products out these days, but on this particular day I went into guitar center, and made eye contact with these new JBL LSR-308's and became interested. The sleek black look, the solid build, sturdy cone made me ask the rep to come over and "crank these up for me". He came over hit the switches, played a EDM track through them, and instantly I was impressed so I listened a little longer to a few more tracks through them then I bought a pair ,right there on the spot. I seen the KRK's, Samson's, new Yamaha's etc but it doesnt take me long to make a decision once I like something so I was sold.
Now what do I look for in a monitor? Well I producer a variety of genres musically so of course I would like monitors with good bass response, good mids and clarity in the highs, but not enough where its too harsh, just the basic elements. My studio is pretty solid, my room is treated , I have monitor stands and the positioning of them are what you would normally want them to be. For the quality, sound and price these monitors are GREAT. They have more bass than my Yamaha's and they translate accurately from the studio into a home system or car audio system. The woofer itself is solid, it doesn't feel cheap or flimsy. The mids and highs come in well over the bass. I was also impressed with the center image of these monitors. While mixing you get a good sense of balance and stereo image. You are clearly able to put sounds in the back of the mix, bring vocals forward or do whatever you need to do and not worry about how it will translate outside of the studio setting. One thing most producers worry about is the bass, well I haven't purchased a subwoofer yet even though I wondered at first how well would the bass sound. I can honestly say that my mixes haven't suffered musically from not having a one (although its always recommended to have one, especially as a hip hop or EDM music producer). My kicks and 808's cut through with ease and my basslines sound smooth but you can still hear and feel that "thump".
I'll say overall as a first time JBL buyer that I'm more than satisfied and I definitely endorse these monitors. The price (a little over $400 for a pair)are more than worth it. I have my monitors hooked up to a Focusrite 2i4 interface and they work perfectly. So if you are in the market for some new monitors give these a try, you will not be disappointed and as for JBL they have earned themselves a new customer in myself.
How long does it take to complete a track??? Well, I actually just was asked this question a few days ago by one of my friends who also makes beats/produces. When I told him that it takes me about a minimum of 5 to 6 hours to complete a track he kinda laughed and said "Kayotic it takes you that long"?? After we talked more about it, and how important is it I figured that I would write a blog post about this topic.
This is a question that as a producer you always hear gets tossed around. Of course to me there is no defined answer to how long it should take a producer to complete a track. As long as you are comfortable & progressing in your production is all that counts, but just to explain more about "Why it takes me 6 hours or so" to complete a track I'll go more into it. When I answered the question I broke it down like this. At this point in my production I want my tracks to sound as best as possible. I use to make tracks in 15 or 30 minutes, and I'm not knocking any producer who still works that fast, but I have a hard time believing that you are completing anything that quick. The key word in that last statement was "complete". I don't doubt that a lot of producers are coming up with ideas, skeletons or loops in that amount of time. I still can come up with ideas that fast too, but I focus more now on sound selection, transitions, drums, mixing and arrangement. So when I say that it takes me 6 hours on one track that means everything above I just mentioned goes into the process. If I am working on a full song, meaning lyrics are involved, it can take a few days. If I was working on a industry level meaning working in writing camps for placements on a constant basis , I figure you would probably have to work within at least a 20 hour time span in completing a full song for a artist. So these are the things that I consider when working on a track, I complete it to the fullest, which also means the beat will be tracked out and available to play at full length if someone asks to hear it. I use to work fast, constantly switching ideas, creating "skeletons" but not completing the track. Now I'd rather create less tracks but have more finished product to show.
Again I stress that you should work at your own pace as long as you are progressing. If thats fast thats fine, if its a little slower thats fine as well. Just don't feel like you should be creating beats faster because a producer you might know works quickly. Its best to work at your won pace and create the best possible music you can. Twenty hits is better than 50 filer/uncompleted tracks any given day. Keep that in mind if you are ever asked "why does it take you so long" or someone says "you are too slow". Build that catalog, keep learning and don't be discouraged!
Music theory, something that quite a few of us producers don't know or don't even care to learn. There are hundreds , maybe even thousands of blogs on this topic, so why would I write about it? Well just like everyone else I want to give my opinion on it. Let me start off by saying I was blessed to learn how to play saxophone, clarinet & french horn when I was 8. That is also when I learned how to read sheet music as well, so I do somewhat have a music theory background. Now that I've said that I will also say that for a good number of years I didn't use these skills so I kinda "lost" some of what I knew. This last year though I've been back heavy into theory and almost instantly remembered things that I learned as a kid. Words like forte, mezzo-forte, allegretto, melodic minor will mean nothing to you if you've never taken music theory, and at one point when I was only producing hip-hop/rap tracks those words didn't mean anything to me even though deep down I knew what they meant.
Ok before I started to re-teach myself some music theory my tracks were pretty good, solid. I made a lot of tracks with artists (Indie Artists), and I never seemed to feel "limited" when I was creating. I will admit I would of course open up my DAW, load some sounds, and hit some keys on my midi controller until something started to sound good. I almost felt like I was hitting keys blindly until I came up with something. Never the less thats what I did for a good number of years, and like I said my beats from what I've been told are pretty good, not including the mixing, arrangement etc.
Now in this last year that I've been back into theory, my tracks definitely sound "different". Do they sound better, well thats a matter of opinion. You can tell that they are more musical, and some of my producer friends thought that I've been taking piano lessons and thats hardly the case. They say musically there is nothing wrong with breaking the rules but you really cant break them if you don't know what they are. Learning some music theory gives you those rules. As I mentioned earlier, once I started to re-learn theory I picked it up fast because of my prior knowledge as a child. What did I exactly teach myself? I mainly focused on learning major and minor scales, different time signatures and transposition. One thing I can honestly say is if you know a little theory or at least some scales, you can come up with ideas quicker than you can hitting random keys in my opinion. I can now sit at the midi keyboard and at least "know" what keys go together and what scale I am playing in before I start.
That is a great thing of course. There is a problem now though as well. Since I've learned what I know now, I sometimes over produce or make things too musical, especially for my hip-hop tracks. I never was too musical before, but now I turn a simple hot track into a unnecessary symphony, leaving not much room to lay vocals down. That is the one thing I will say be careful about if you go down that road of learning music theory and applying it.
In all I will say this, nothing is wrong with learning some music theory. I do think it can open you up, and open your creativity up a lot. I know for hip-hop and some other genres being that musical may not be a requirement., but if you know it you can use it as a weapon when necessary and that is a GREAT thing. One good site to learn the basics is here www.musictheory.net. They have good info so check them out if you are willing to learn.
Since I've started this blog I've posted about a lot of different topics ranging from ASCAP TO Home Studio Ideas. Lately my last few posts have been more based around staying motivated, procrastination, or overall "motivation" type topics. This is not by accident, because I've learned the hard way that if you reinforce the same ideas over, they will eventually stick in a persons mind.
Passion is defined as " a strong feeling, enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something". Musically as a artist, producer, songwriter etc, we have a passion for doing what we do. It doesn't matter if music is your profession, hobby or soon to be profession, your passion for it is what makes you continue to so it. My passion for music and music production is what led me to start this blog, which was never in the plans, but this is a extension of my love for music overall. Does or can a passion for something ever die? I'm sure it can just like anything else in life. A lot of times for us musicians, trying to maintain a everyday life, working a 9-5, maybe having children, a family can all impact your passion for creating music, but I consider these things to be natural life circumstances that can happen to anyone. The one thing I hope as a musician that you would never let impact your passion or desire to create music is because a person or people said you are not good enough, you suck, quit while you are ahead or anything like that.
I have come across a lot of negativity lately when it comes to how we as people criticize each others music/art. There is nothing wrong with giving advice, or giving tips to a artist or producer that you might thing needs it, but it seems like some of us are trying to "hate" on others music as opposed to giving constructive criticism that will help them. If as a artist, producer or songwriter you have been told you material is wack, weak, garbage or whatever, keep working at it to get better. Now I must say that if you are a artist that advocates, violence or anything like that , yes its still your art and your music, but I personally don't advocate getting better at spreading those messages but that's just me, but even still from a overall musical and lyrical standpoint find ways to get better and write about different things. If anything don't let your passion for something you love to do get taken by those who choose to point fingers and laugh at you instead of helping. If this is your passion continue to grind, don't stop because of outside opinions. I didn't write this post because I'm a "successful" producer standing on the mountain top telling you to be like me, thats no where near the case. I wrote this because I'm human and I'm affected by the same things that you who are probably reading this are affected by. We are all part of the music community so the least we could do is help each other when possible.
Have you ever wondered why you sometimes don't meet deadlines, don't write as many songs as you intend to or don't make as many beats as you plan to?I know a lot of times we go through droughts where our ideas are not coming to us as quick as would like, but in most cases its procrastination that slows us down. Being a procrastinator is a learned behavior that is hard to break, it becomes natural and its something that I had to deal with myself in my own life.
From my personal experiences trying to do too many things will lead you into procrastinating and not finishing anything, that was my problem. I would have ideas to write songs, make beats, mix & write posts for my blog. Of course I would get to do some of these things, but I would plan to finish up at a later date and would put things off instead of pushing through and doing what I can when I had a chance too. Before I knew it, several weeks or even a month would go by and I would not have finished everything that I planned to, so I would have a lot of skeleton beats, unfinished songs, etc.
I found that for me, it was better that I focus on one thing at time, complete that task & move to the next. I know as a producer, musician or artist we have the responsibility to complete a lot of tasks, especially being independent, but if your desire and hunger is still there to create music, if you can continue to be creative and you have the time to do so the only other reason that you would not be doing as much as you want to is because you are procrastinating. Real experience can only come through action. You can do all the planning, prepping, and organizing you want, but sometimes you have to just do it. Stay motivated and continue to push yourself, don't over think things and get to work. Once you can do these things you will definitely see better results in your productivity.
When this new year rolled around I said to myself that there is one thing that I definitely wanted to improve at when it comes to my music production, and that is finishing what I start. Sometimes you get a lot of ideas at once, or inspiration hits you out of the blue so you have to start on a track or song in order to get it out. That's understandable but it shouldn't become habit to not finish what you start to create.
Some years back when I use to produce with a production team called the SSC (SouthSide Confederates, we would get together every week to have beats making sessions. It was 4 of us and we were all using Reason & Sonar at the time. So we would first open up a pre-set template, then all take turns laying down different parts of the track. I usually laid down the drums and keys, and the other producers would add there elements. We would lay everything down within a 16 bar loop, with the idea of sequencing, arranging and removing parts later. Since we primarily got together on weekends as a group, our goal was to "lay down" as many ideas as we could while together. The burden of sequencing and arranging primarily fell on the producer who's studio it was because he was there all of the time, but he was fine with that. We got a lot of tracks completed up until we went our separate ways but there were also tons of unfinished tracks.
What I learned is that even though we were laying a lot of ideas down, we were also creating a lot of "skeletons" and leaving potential tracks/songs undone. I even carried this habit with me up until recently which is when I re-programmed myself to start completing more tracks instead of going for quantity. When you are trying to showcase your library of music, those skeletons don't count, you only can vouch for the full completed tracks or songs you actually have finished. It doesn't matter if you are inspired or not, I believe each time you push yourself to finish a track it will help you in the long run become a better creator. If you get into a habit of finishing what you start, on days that you might not be that inspired, you will still be able to complete your tracks. A library of 15 completed tracks beats a library of 50 skeletons or unfinished tracks any day. Its not about the quantity its about the quality. It actually took me some time to break the "16 bar loop" production style that I was used to. Now my tracks sound more "produced" and have more change ups, bridges, etc, because I am taking my time to complete them as opposed to just always laying down ideas all the time. Finishing what you start is a way of life, so its no different when it comes to your music career so get used to it.